With max deals flying left and right with reckless abandon, the NBA rumor mill is in full swing.
Nothing is sacred during this time. Every team fancies itself a contender, and every front office would not mind dumping 95 percent of its assets and roster for next season in order to lure a LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love to town.
It's a rather sad state of affairs, but thus is the nature of a sport that can be, at least at times, so dominated by a few individual superstars (the San Antonio Spurs would like to say hello here based on a recent triumph, but their No. 1 overall pick in 1997 only further corroborates the notion).
Alas, the state of affairs makes for one heck of an entertaining time. Or nerve-racking. Dealer's choice. With so many things a blur at this stage of the game, let's pause to analyze the latest.
Gordon Hayward and the Max Deal
It's a cringe-inducing thought at first when one hears that Gordon Hayward, he of Butler fame, gets a max deal.
But the writing has been on the wall for some time and was confirmed on Wednesday by Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "The Observer learned first late Monday that Hayward will sign an offer sheet with the Hornets Thursday, once the NBA moratorium ends. Hayward is expected to sign a maximum deal, which would guarantee him $63 million over four years."
Of course, we also know that the brass in Utah are not keen on allowing the 24-year-old swingman to get away. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski quickly followed the revelation with news of his own:
Jazz prepared for possibility of max sheet for Hayward and remain unwavering about revelation it's coming: They plan to match and keep him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 9, 2014
It's interesting that Charlotte was the one to strike out first for Hayward, as it becomes a clear sign the team is not exactly comfortable with starters such as Gerald Henderson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
But for the Jazz, matching makes too much sense. Knee-deep in a rebuild, giving up one of their best players makes little sense, especially when Hayward has done nothing short of improve in his four years as a pro:
Count on the Jazz to throw the necessary cash his way. The front office will still have plenty of cap space to play with, while his re-up will secure a young core that includes the likes of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Dante Exum and more.
Kevin Love to Cleveland?
Much of the chatter around free agency in general has been about the chance that the Cleveland Cavaliers can lure James back "home."
But the front office in Cleveland is not necessarily littered with fools, as James left for a reason, and some who shall remain nameless sort of took it personally and slammed the door on his way out.
Instead, there appears to be an outside chance the Cavaliers are keeping an eye on another major superstar, at least according to Cleveland radio host Tony Rizzo:
In some fantasy world, there are Cavaliers fans out there hoping for a James-Love-Kyrie Irving tandem that runs roughshod over the league, but that is far from what will likely come to fruition.
James may very well return to Cleveland, but the hiccup in any scenario at this point is Minnesota. As Sam Amico and Zac Jackson of Fox Sports note, the Timberwolves are not making things easy on anyone attempting to acquire Love:
The Cavs expressed to Paul that, after their discussions with the Timberwolves, doing a deal "would not be easy," according to one source. That source also expressed that the Cavs were reluctant to include No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins in any potential deal.
Sorry, but no Wiggins, no deal. Minnesota, at least presumably, will up the ante in terms of bidding right up until the trade deadline next season to get the maximum value for a superstar who is both disgruntled and unwilling to extend his contract, which has one year left.
Throw Wiggins in the mix now, and things get interesting. That's a potential top-10 player in return for a disgruntled one, which has to be more enticing for Minnesota.
Until that happens, any deal set on the table by Cleveland will remain there indefinitely.
Phil Jackson Has a Master Plan
And it might just include a guy named LeBron.
But first, let's give a round of applause to the mastermind himself. In a short time, Phil Jackson has shipped off dead weight and managed to grab a pair of high-upside rookies in Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
Was that merely Stage 1 of his plan to rebuild?
Perhaps. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Anthony wants to play with James in New York, something that apparently is causing a hiccup on the market:
“He really wants LeBron to come to New York,’’ the source said. “That’s his dream right now. Phil is trying to get it done.’’
That would, of course, require some elite financial savvy. Berman notes that Jackson is showing his by attempting to move more players with horrific contracts:
The Knicks have talked to the 76ers regarding taking on undesirable expiring contracts, something Philadelphia may be amenable to as long as a pawn is added. The Sixers have considered taking on Stoudemire’s $23.4 million but want Shumpert in addition. Philadelphia has $30 million in cap space, but has talked to the Rockets about inheriting Jeremy Lin, and they can’t do both.
Jackson's wild world of moves with ridiculous handicaps to work with suggests ever so slightly that Anthony's preference is to remain in New York. But nobody can blame him for wanting to team up with James, if possible.
It's never smart to put anything past Jackson, but even this reeks of a stretch, right? As always, we won't find out until the biggest domino drops, which is James' decision.