Sorting out NBA Rumors a Week Before the Trade Deadline
Put on your reading glasses, because you need to be carefully scrutinizing each and every piece of breaking NBA news between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Smokescreens abound this time of year, as general managers love leaking information that might provide them with more leverage for their potential deals. So too do misleading rumors that stem from sources who might have good intentions but aren't fully aware of what's going on.
Don't worry, though.
We're here to help you parse through the biggest rumors and figure out what's really happening.
Lou Williams on the Move?
The Los Angeles Lakers have little incentive to keep Lou Williams.
As dominant a scorer as the combo guard has been throughout the 2016-17 campaign—per NBA Math, only 19 players have added more points on offense—his age doesn't make him a strong fit for this rebuild. Williams is already 30 years old, which doesn't mesh with the growth curves of the many up-and-comers wearing the Purple and Gold.
Painful as it may be to let go of a rare Tinseltown bright spot, it's the right move. So long as Williams nets a draft pick or another potential stud, the Los Angeles brass shouldn't hesitate to move him to a contender in need of bench scoring.
And apparently, that's exactly what they plan to do.
"On Tuesday, a general manager confirmed that the Lakers have, in fact, shopped Williams and seem likely to move him prior to the deadline," Alex Kennedy reported for HoopsHype.com. "As previously mentioned, the Lakers have a lot riding on this year's lottery, so moving Williams increases the likelihood that they keep their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks, gives the younger backcourt players more minutes and brings in assets (such as another young player or a pick)."
There's no need for skepticism here. The move makes sense, and the rumor will only prove false if no contender is willing to offer a return more substantial than a second-round selection.
The Washington Wizards Are Buyers?
But what exactly are the Washington Wizards going to offer?
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat should be viewed as untouchable commodities. Dealing any one of those four starters would cause an immediate backward shift while the team is surging toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
That leaves the Wizards with limited assets in any deal. They can ship off any of their future first-round picks to another organization, but pairing those selections with a player is more problematic. Perhaps someone will buy into Tomas Satoransky or Kelly Oubre Jr. Maybe they'll fall in love with a nondescript role player filling a minor rotation spot.
Washington simply doesn't have the pieces necessary to make a move of significant import. At most, it'll be looking to find a stabilizing piece for a bench that continues to play putrid basketball—the Wizards' non-starters rank No. 25 and No. 23 in offensive and defensive rating, respectively.
Could there be a reaction to the Love injury and Ibaka's arrival in Toronto? Sure. But if it takes place at all, the move won't make nearly as many waves as the news items to which it's responding.
Jahlil Okafor Still on the Block?
"I'm just trying to focus on playing basketball," Jahlil Okafor explained after a Wednesday shootaround, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman. "It's really difficult with all the rumors, not knowing if I'll be here tomorrow. But I know I'm playing tonight and that's what I'm focusing on."
The Philadelphia 76ers held Okafor out of the lineup and prevented him from traveling with the team for a game against the Charlotte Hornets, allegedly trying to drum up his trade value. But that didn't work, so he's back with the Sixers and preparing for a contest against the Boston Celtics.
"The shelving of Okafor was likely meant to flush out the best offers around the league, sources speculate," Kevin O'Connor wrote for The Ringer. "It's not uncommon for teams to use leaks to stir interest. The Nuggets and Blazers weren't pursuing Okafor. The Bulls likely aren't either. No one is buying what Bryan Colangelo is selling: a one-dimensional center who can't defend, rebound, or pass on a roster loaded with big men."
If the Sixers are going to deal Okafor, their best bet will be the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers should be out after their Mason Plumlee-for-Jusuf Nurkic swap. The Chicago Bulls don't need more pieces in the frontcourt. And the Pelicans are still searching for their center, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowksi.
But finding the right deal remains tough.
Okafor has been atrocious during his NBA career, even though he was the No. 3 pick just under two years ago. Squaring away the investment in his future with the actual production makes it inordinately difficult for Philadelphia to lower the asking price to a reasonable level.
Detroit Pistons Moving Their Centerpieces?
"Detroit has quietly explored the trade market for each of its franchise centerpieces, according to sources across the league, and come away disappointed with the potential return." Zach Lowe revealed for ESPN.com. "Any [Andre] Drummond deal at the deadline is an extreme long shot, but [Reggie] Jackson remains in play for Minnesota, Orlando, New Orleans, or some mystery destination."
Don't count on either happening.
It's indisputable that the Detroit Pistons have struggled immensely in 2016-17. They're still in possession of the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed, but that doesn't mean much when they've won fewer games than they've lost. Almost everyone has disappointed and underperformed relative to expectations, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a rare exception.
That's especially true of Jackson, who has been outplayed by Ish Smith while he continues to work his way back from the offseason knee injury. Ditto for Drummond, who's shown no growth whatsoever on the offensive end and remains a limited rebounding specialist.
But the Pistons shouldn't (and, likely, won't) give up on either.
The big man is still only 23 years old and has marketable tools to build around as he continues his development. The point guard is further along in his NBA tenure, but his injury gives him a legitimate excuse for any on-court malfeasance.
As Lowe wrote, "Caldwell-Pope chases opposing point guards because Jackson, alleged franchise player at that spot, hasn't been able to since recovering from a knee injury."
Denver Nuggets Still Dealing?
The Denver Nuggets already moved Nurkic and a draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Plumlee, but general manager Tim Connelly isn't done wheeling and dealing.
Danilo Gallinari may be the biggest name potentially on the move.
"The Raptors and Clippers are among the teams said to be monitoring Gallinari's availability, amid a growing belief that Denver is prepared to move him, given that the Nuggets anticipate that Gallinari will bypass the final season of his current contract (valued at $16.1 million) and join [Paul] Millsap on the open market, and they don't plan to spend big to retain the Italian," ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported.
Gallinari's father also revealed that the Houston Rockets may have some interest in the Italian forward, per Sportando.com.
But that's not all.
Sam Amick reported for USA Today that Wilson Chandler's role may be leading him to want out of the Mile High City. ESPN.com's Lowe wrote that the Nuggets were "quietly exploring" the idea of trading Emmanuel Mudiay. Jameer Nelson and Kenneth Faried are also reasonable targets for contending teams looking at potential rotation boosts.
Denver sits in a precarious position—strong enough to make the playoffs on the shoulders of Nikola Jokic's excellence but far from competing with the Western elites in a seven-games series under postseason pressure. The Plumlee deal made it clear it intends to compete now, but the youthful construction of the roster may still push it to consider shopping veterans and clearing up logjams.
Don't try to guess what the Nuggets might do at this point. Holding tight and offloading numerous pieces are equally likely possibilities.
Darren Collison Available?
Rather quietly, Darren Collison has enjoyed a solid season for the Sacramento Kings.
The speedy point guard is averaging 13.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, which might not seem too impressive in a vacuum. But when you include his minuscule turnover figures (1.6 per contest) and shooting percentages (48.0 percent from the field, 42.0 percent from downtown and 86.0 percent from the free-throw stripe), you suddenly get a much rosier picture.
Collison's rise has perfect timing for a floundering Kings squad, which hasn't been able to overcome injuries to Rudy Gay and Garrett Temple as it attempts to climb higher in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Perhaps that's why the team is suddenly willing to sell some of its primary pieces. Or, perhaps Sacramento thinks trading Collison and replacing him with Ty Lawson will allow it to upgrade its postseason pursuit with help elsewhere in the lineup.
"Sources say that the Sacramento Kings have made a number of players available in trade talks, but Collison in particular seems like he could be moved." Kennedy reported for HoopsHype.com. "The Kings are currently just two games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and they'd love to end their playoff drought this year. If they believe moving Collison can help them secure a postseason spot—or if they believe that re-signing Collison on a favorable contract will be tricky this offseason—they will trade him."
Don't view this as a smokescreen. Everything makes too much sense for it to carry anything other than validity.
And given the plethora of teams in search of more help at the point, there's a very real chance Collison could be wearing the sixth different jersey of his career by Feb. 23.
Phoenix Suns Searching for a Star?
Someway, somehow, the Phoenix Suns are going to be active at the deadline. How they'll be active, however, is an entirely different question.
"The GM told me that the Suns would love to package their assets to acquire a star," HoopsHype.com's Kennedy reported. "Keep in mind, this is a team that has all of their first-round picks, incoming first-rounders from the Miami Heat (in 2018 and 2021), and a roster full of young players such as Devin Booker (20 years old), Alex Len (23), TJ Warren (23), Brandon Knight (25), Marquese Chriss (19), Dragan Bender (19) and Tyler Ulis (20) among others that could be packaged in a trade."
And if that doesn't work?
"If the Suns aren't able to add a star (since that's always easier said than done), executives expect them to double down on their rebuild approach and try to accumulate more young pieces and draft picks," Kennedy explained. "They have veterans such as Eric Bledsoe (27), Jared Dudley (31), PJ Tucker (31), Tyson Chandler (34), Leandro Barbosa (34) and Ronnie Price (33). If Phoenix can net a young player or pick for some of those players, rival executives believe they will likely do so."
As of now, the latter is more likely.
Not only is Phoenix too far from contention in the Western Conference to make any season-altering moves, but stars are legitimately difficult to acquire. There isn't an unlimited supply, and very few are expected to move during this campaign's trade season.
Players such as Tucker and Dudley, however, would be useful commodities for plenty of competitive organizations. It just makes more sense for the Suns to deal them now, acquire more assets and then attempt to consolidate during the offseason.
This one is easy to put to rest.
"League sources sort of joked at the idea of either Chicago guard Jimmy Butler or Pacers forward Paul George being obtainable in trade at the deadline, saying 'You can always call, every team answers the phone during the All-Star break,'" Steve Kyler wrote for Basketball Insiders.
Sure, it's interesting to think about the Chicago Bulls giving up on their season and dealing Butler to another organization. Shooting woes and chemistry issues have prevented the Windy City from witnessing a truly dominant team—or even a sneaky threat in the Eastern Conference—but this is still a playoff squad. Giving up on the franchise centerpiece this soon would be nonsensical.
Ditto for George and the Indiana Pacers.
George hasn't played at the superstar level he's attained in previous go-rounds, but he's still making a huge impact on a Pacers squad that should play more than 82 games in 2016-17. Even if Myles Turner and Jeff Teague are drawing closer to replacing (or at least joining) him as primary foundational pieces, the 26-year-old forward isn't someone you trade on a whim.
Let's revisit these potential moves in the offseason. Until then, ignore any and all rumors about them.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.