2017 NBA Free Agency: B.S. Meter on Latest Rumors

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 5, 2017

2017 NBA Free Agency: B.S. Meter on Latest Rumors

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    It wasn't the smoothest process, but the biggest domino of 2017 NBA free agency dropped on the Fourth of July, as All-Star forward Gordon Hayward announced his decision to head east to join the Boston Celtics.

    Hayward's departure from the Utah Jazz already caused a minor surge in free-agent activity, a trend that should continue as market rates are established and agreements are reached. But before any more handshakes happen, we're left monitoring the rumor mill to determine who might be involved.

    Is Rudy Gay now the consolation prize for the former Hayward hopefuls?

    Where will veteran point guards Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo take their talents?

    How much is Otto Porter really worth to the Washington Wizards?

    The juiciest rumors on the biggest names available have all been given the smell test to decipher what's real and what's questionable. Each one examined here has been assessed with our trusty B.S. meter to see just how much bull is involved.

Ex-Lakers Rival, Next Lakers Point Guard?

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    For the third consecutive offseason, Rajon Rondo needs a home. The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, could use a veteran floor general to ease rookie point guard Lonzo Ball's transition to the NBA without tying up cap space beyond next season.

    See where this is headed?

    Rondo and the Lakers reportedly "have mutual interest," according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, who added, "A representative from Rondo's camp initiated the discussions on Friday night, as free agency opened."

    Both USA Today's Sam Amick and the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina also reported the Rondo-Lakers link, although the latter added there hasn't been a follow-up.

    This feels like a backup plan for both sides, but with the point guard market drying up, this might be the time for Plans B or C.

    Rondo might want long-term security after wearing four different jerseys over the past three seasons, but the Lakers are only giving out one-year pacts, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. L.A. general manager Rob Pelinka told Mike Trudell of the team website that the Lakers are targeting shooting and defense, neither of which are current strengths for the 31-year-old.

    Could this work? Probably as well as it would need to for a season. Despite having a rocky reputation, Rondo earned positive reviews from his Chicago Bulls teammates and coaches last season. And if his experience can give Ball an early boost, his on-court issues will be easier to stomach in another rebuilding year.

    Still, it seems like there should be better options for both, and this feels too early to settle.

    Meter Reading: Smattering of Bull

(Almost) Homecoming for D-Rose?

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Apparently, Derrick Rose made quite the impression on the Milwaukee Bucks during their final regular-season meeting. That night, the former MVP had a rare vintage performance, torching the Deer for 26 points on 13-of-16 shooting and six assists.

    Perhaps that was the motivation behind the meeting between the two sides Monday, as ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. The Chicago-born point guard previously mentioned Milwaukee as a possible landing spot, even if the New York Knicks remain atop his wish list.

    "Of course, this is like home," Rose said in March of potentially joining the Bucks, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. "Only an hour-thirty away. Easy for [family] to come."

    That said, Rose could be reluctant to commit to anything before New York inks a veteran point guard, especially with lottery pick Frank Ntilikina lobbying for his return. Rose is also scheduled to meet the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, per Wojnarowski.

    The Bucks should take an even harder pause here. Rose might be a more dynamic scorer than their current point guards, but he'd offer little help beyond that.

    The more time he'd spend on the ball, the less the Bucks could run things through budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. And forget about Rose, a sub-30 percent career three-point shooter, spotting up off the ball. Milwaukee also struggled more with defense than offense last season, and it would backtrack on that end by giving Rose minutes ahead of Malcolm Brogdon or Matthew Dellavedova.

    Rose is also coming off yet another knee surgery, and Milwaukee would need to shed contracts (and potentially assets) to acquire him, per Wojnarowski. Any partnership would be littered with red flags, though it seems like there's enough mutual interest to stop short of dismissing this completely.

    Meter Reading: Medium Bull

Same Arena, Different Locker Room?

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    The shortest distance between Jamal Crawford and the Los Angeles Lakers would have been a brief walk over from the Los Angeles Clippers' locker room inside the Staples Center. But actually getting the super-sub into purple and gold requires a much more complex itinerary.

    The first step of the journey is almost complete. The Clippers, Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets have agreed to a three-team trade that will put Crawford in Atlanta and Danilo Gallinari in L.A., per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The trade cannot be announced until after the moratorium period ends Thursday.

    But for Crawford, the trek from Atlanta back to L.A. is where things get dicey.

    He intends to seek a buyout from the Hawks, according to USA Today's Sam Amick, but the only way Atlanta would agree to that arrangement is if "he gives a lot back," per Amick. Perhaps not coincidentally, then, Turner Sports' David Aldridge has heard that even though Crawford's preference is a buyout, he's "open to staying there and playing next season."

    If that gets ironed out, Crawford would like to land with the Lakers, sources told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. But the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are also options, per Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group.

    Crawford has experienced the postseason seven times, but he has never advanced beyond the second round. It would not be easy to turn down the Warriors, who have the Association's best odds of earning a Finals berth. Then again, the Lakers could help him recoup some of the money he'd give back in the buyout and plug him into a more prominent role. Plus, he wouldn't have to uproot his family.

    All angles hold certain appeal, but since there are so many, it's tough to call any particular one likely.

    Meter Reading: Decent Amount of Bull

From Hayward to Gay?

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    ESPN's Chris Haynes started it with a premature—but accurate—leak, and it ended on the digital pages of the Players' Tribune.

    Just like that, Gordon Hayward was gone, potentially sending the Utah Jazz spiraling back into a rebuild.

    Only, the Jazz don't see it that way.

    "We have a good young core and we are going to compete," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey told Wojnarowski.

    Hayward's departure leaves a massive void at small forward. Utah's top choice to fill it was Otto Porter, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, but he's already off the board after coming to terms Tuesday with the Brooklyn Nets on a four-year, $106 million offer sheet, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.

    After missing out on Porter, what's next for the Jazz? A Rudy Gay pursuit, according to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy.

    Gay doesn't have Hayward's All-Star credentials, but he would bring an 18.4-points-per-game career scoring average to Salt Lake City. While he's not an ideal focal point, given the way the Jazz grind out possessions—no team played at a slower pace last year—they could use Gay's self-sufficient scoring. Fewer than 40 percent of his two-point field goals have been assisted in nine of his 11 NBA seasons.

    His price tag might be reasonable, too, with so many potential landing spots falling out of the picture. Utah could just be going against the other loser in the Hayward sweepstakes, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported the Miami Heat are believed to be interested in Gay.

    Even if a bidding war breaks out, it shouldn't get out of hand. Not when Gay is 30 years old, is coming off a torn Achilles and is mostly a one-category contributor. Expect a reasonable pursuit from both clubs, with Miami perhaps holding a slight advantage since Gay has a home there, per Jackson.

    Meter Reading: Modest Bull

Carmelo Bound for a Contender?

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    With the New York Knicks going nowhere fast and Carmelo Anthony not getting any younger, a divorce seems the best option for both. But as former Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson discovered, getting Anthony out of the Big Apple is no simple assignment.

    One major roadblock to a deal appears to have fallen, though. While Anthony is one of the NBA's few players in possession of a no-trade clause, he's reportedly "open to waiving" it to join the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets, according to Wojnarowski.

    This is a logical progression, given the appeal of playing alongside one of Anthony's closest friends. He popped up on Houston's radar the second Chris Paul landed there, according to ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. And as Anthony told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck in February 2016, he has entertained thoughts of teaming with LeBron James since before both entered the league.

    "That was the first conversation: How we are going to play together?" Anthony said. "He was like, 'Man, I want to play with you. How are we going to play together?'"

    Unfortunately, that question remains unanswered. While Anthony and his top-15 all-time career scoring average could push either the Rockets or Cavaliers offenses to nuclear levels, the Knicks need incentive to trade him. That's where this gets tricky. According to Wojnarowski, New York wants "significant assets" in return and is "trying to avoid long-term salary commitments to older players."

    Paying offense-only forward Ryan Anderson $61.3 million over the next three years sounds as appetizing as a dirty gym sock. The last time Kevin Love-for-Melo talks surfaced, James referred to them as "trash," per Jeff Eisenband of the Post Game. It's unknown whether New York considers Love a significant asset or if Cleveland would even consider a straight swap to be an upgrade.

    It's a fun idea in theory, but it's thorny in reality.

    Meter Reading: All. The. Bull.

Highest-Paid Wizard?

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    Thanks to the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards are on the clock.

    Once again, the Nets have inked a rising restricted free agent to a substantial offer sheet. This time around, it's former No. 3 pick Otto Porter scoring a four-year, $106 million max offer sheet, as Charania first reported.

    Brooklyn previously tried this route with Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe and Donatas Motiejunas, but their respective clubs all matched the Nets' offer sheets. However, the strategy is sound in that Brooklyn has little to lose by tying up cap space, and Porter is worth the gamble.

    Porter broke out in 2016-17, posting career marks nearly across the board—13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, a 51.6 field-goal percentage and 43.4 shooting from three-point range. He ranked inside the 97th percentile as a spot-up sniper, had the seventh-highest true shooting percentage of any double-digit scorer (62.8) and finished sixth among small forwards with a 3.56 real plus-minus, per ESPN.com.

    So, it's an easy match for the Wizards, right? According to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, yes. Prior to the start of free agency, Mike Wise of The Undefeated reported Washington planned to match any offer sheet Porter received, and Mannix reported that hasn't changed in the wake of Brooklyn's offer.

    Could anything give Washington pause? Well, this would make Porter, whose career scoring average sits in single digits, its highest-paid player. And as Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post noted, this could also make the Wizards dip into the luxury tax for the first time ever.

    Washington officially has until 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday to decide, according to Bontemps. But the Wizards made this call a while ago.

    Meter Reading: No Bull

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.