The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons are eerily similar.
All three have new leaders (Phil Jackson, David Blatt, Stan Van Gundy) attempting a rebuild. They all have superstars to please (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Greg Monroe) and major moves that seem all but sure to happen before next season tips off.
The NBA rumor mill is a fickle thing that leads fans on a wild goose chase each year, and while there are still plenty of rumblings out there, the similar trajectories for all three franchises should not go unnoticed.
Let's take a look at the latest updates for each, as they also happen to be the hottest on the mill at the moment.
Phil Jackson's Plan Continues
Kudos goes to Jackson for taking the president job in the Big Apple back in March and single-handedly turning the Knicks around seemingly overnight.
Anthony is back in the fold, which is a huge part of the equation. But more importantly, he has cleared out plenty of cap space by dealing players such as Tyson Chandler in exchange for great system fits such as Jose Calderon.
He has also managed to somewhat shape the future of the franchise with rookies Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, two players who can play on a limited basis in the interim but who possess ceilings of which no one can measure.
Jackson even showed Lamar Odom the door in a cap-saving maneuver, and it has been hinted that he would not mind doing the same with Amare'e Stoudemire, but he's far from done. According to ESPN's Ian Begley, a few guards are on the chopping block, too: "Working to clear the logjam in the backcourt, the Knicks are discussing their potential trade options with guards J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Shane Larkin, a league source said Sunday."
With Tim Hardaway Jr. seemingly untouchable (and rightfully so), Shumpert has some value as a defensive piece and Larkin of the developmental variety. The real head-scratcher is Smith, the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year, who jumped off a cliff last season as the numbers clearly show:
Regardless, getting rid of Smith and the $12.4 million he's owed over the next two seasons, per Spotrac, is nothing but a good thing.
This is especially true after Smith admitted on ESPN's First Take that his head wasn't really in it last season, per Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.: "No, absolutely not. The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there, not looking as focused as a person should be in the situation we were in. I wouldn’t blame him at all."
Jackson is not in an enviable situation, to say the least. That said, he's clearly making the most of it and is far from done shaping the roster to his liking.
Potential Kevin Love Trade Progressing
It seems a matter of time before Kevin Love winds up in Cleveland with James. In tandem with point guard Kyrie Irving, they will form the new Big Three.
Love is a fantasy basketball superstar who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and a career-high 4.4 assists per game last season, although he has become a bit polarizing as of late now that it is common knowledge his game on the defensive end of the court very much leaves something to be desired.
The Cavaliers seem hesitant to pull out all the stops and offer Minnesota No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, and rightfully so given his immense ceiling. But James is in win-now mode and has all the leverage over the franchise now that he is only on a two-year deal with an option to opt out.
So while Wiggins may or may not be in play, the Cavaliers seem adamant that eventually Love will come to town, as captured by ESPN's Marc Stein:
Interestingly enough, center Gorgui Dieng's name has come up and may be a player the Timberwolves have to surrender in a potential deal, per Fox Sports' Sam Amico.
It's weird that Minnesota would have to give up a prized young talent as well as Love. The Louisville product averaged 8.9 points and 8.4 rebounds after the All-Star break last year and is just 24 years old.
Regardless, Minnesota still seems content to let this drama roll along as slowly as possible in order to shake down teams for the best possible deal. It's a genius strategy, if not an admirable one.
Stan Van Gundy Wants to Move a Forward
Monroe, that is.
No, it is Monroe who seems to be on the outs with SVG, as the 24-year-old forward is a restricted free agent who has rather eye-popping numbers through three seasons as a pro:
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the front office has been discussing a sign-and-trade arrangement, and SVG himself has made it clear to Smith he will stick around:
Detroit Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy reached out to forward Josh Smith to tell him that reports of the franchise engaging in substantive trade talks with Sacramento centered on Smith have been inaccurate...
Smith could return to a frontcourt that includes forward Greg Monroe, who is a restricted free agent this summer. The Pistons have been willing to engage teams in sign-and-trade scenarios for Monroe, but those talks have gained little traction, sources said.
It's a strange situation, but the best guess is that SVG has certain desires for his system and also sees the benefits of shipping away a talented player like Monroe in order to better build for the future. The problem is that the sign-and-trade seems to be gaining little traction.
Unfortunately for Monroe, who obviously wants to cash in on a major offer sheet, he's simply out of style at the moment. He's not a stretch 4 who can shoot from range, and he's certainly not some shot-blocking terror on the low block, as the above numbers show.
The Smith-Monroe drama isn't going anywhere. Things are in a flux as SVG attempts to rebuild a roster that limped to a 29–53 record last year. Don't expect the talk around either to die down until the deadline.
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