NBA Rumors: BS Meter on Jahlil Okafor, Luol Deng and Other Hot Topics

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 8, 2017

NBA Rumors: BS Meter on Jahlil Okafor, Luol Deng and Other Hot Topics

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    Have you heard of this thing called the 24-hour NBA news cycle?

    It's an offshoot of the larger 24-hour "news of any kind" cycle, and as you may have guessed, it never stops. Constant reporting, which feeds our insatiable hunger for content, conflates meaningful information with filler. If the stream, Twitter feed or TV outlet is always on and always telling you the latest, it can be difficult to discern what really matters.

    A globe-altering catastrophe gets the same treatment as a celebrity divorce.

    Or, in NBA terms, specious speculation gets equal time with genuinely informative reporting.

    This is an enormous problem for us as a society, but you're not here to consider the ramifications of incessant information bombardment. You're here to sift through the biggest NBA rumors and reports to separate the worthwhile and plausible from the nonsense.

    This is a public service, basically. You're welcome in advance.   

Jahlil Okafor to the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks?

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    Both the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are in the early stages of their respective rebuilds, so adding disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor make sense. They're in position to gamble on purported lost causes, and we've seen other teams in similar spots give up present assets to effectively get lottery picks in creative ways.

    The Brooklyn Nets didn't draft D'Angelo Russell, but by trading for him, they've essentially added a high-lottery talent still on his rookie deal. The Bulls or Hawks would be wise to do the same, particularly since Okafor's market price is far lower than Russell's was.

    According to NBA.com's David Aldridge, the Bulls and Hawks are the most likely landing spots for Okafor, but neither is excited about the idea of surrendering a draft pick for him. The 76ers might have hurt themselves by not picking up Okafor's option for next year, as his trade value is perhaps lower because of his impending free agency.

    We have what amounts to two reports here, though: Okafor to the Bulls and Okafor to the Hawks. That means we must separately judge the B.S. levels.

    Fortunately, that's easy. The Hawks took on a bunch of bad money (hi, Miles Plumlee!) to unload Dwight Howard. They clearly aren't interested in potential character risks or locker room distractions. Okafor doesn't have anything close to Howard's track record as a malcontent, but you'd have to think the Hawks would shy away from a player about whom we've been crafting redemption angles for almost two years.

    A few altercations outside nightclubs and bars in late 2015 and a speeding ticket for going 108 miles per hour easily can be chalked up to youth. But Atlanta isn't giving up an asset for someone with that history.

    The Bulls, though, have yet to cut Bobby Portis, who punched teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face during practice. Clearly, they're more lenient when it comes to fisticuffs. Plus, Okafor went to high school in Chicago and could get all the shots he wants in an offense lacking better options. This one makes sense.

    Hawks Meter Reading: Mostly Bull

    Bulls Meter Reading: No Bull, Ironically  

Knicks Freeing Up a Spot for Joakim Noah

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    According to ESPN.com's Ian Begley, the New York Knicks are trying to make a roster move to accommodate the return of Joakim Noah, whose 20-game suspension ends Monday.

    "If New York doesn't find a deal it likes involving (Mindaugas) Kuzminskas, Ramon Sessions would seem to be a likely candidate to be waived," Begley reported. "Sessions, whose contract is fully guaranteed for the veteran's minimum, hasn't played since he was replaced by (Jarrett) Jack in the fourth game of the season."

    There's no reason to doubt Begley's reporting here, but it's a bummer that the Knicks find themselves here. Noah, who still has three years left on the four-year, $72 million deal he signed last summer, is not the type of player a team should be making room for. At 32, injuries have rendered him a shell of the guy who finished fourth in MVP voting in 2014. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in 46 games last season.

    New York has outperformed expectations with Kristaps Porzingis making a leap and Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn supporting him at center. Willy Hernangomez, a promising rookie last year who hasn't seen much playing time in 2017-18, would be an objectively better option than Noah at this stage.

    But Noah's contract means he will get a shot.

    Just imagine what New York could get into during free agency next year if not for the money Noah's owed.

    Instead, the Knicks may have to cut loose a decent asset in Kuzminskas because they can't possibly part ways with Jack, who was out of the league a year ago. That's rich on its own.

    B.S. Meter Reading: Sadly, No Bull 

The Unknowable Fist of Arthur

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    It probably isn't a good sign that LeBron James' use of the Arthur memewhich, for those of us who don't traffic in that language, conveys frustration or anger, often semi-jokinglycould be in reference to any number of annoyances.

    Maybe it pertains to the Cleveland Cavaliers' 4-6 start, league-worst defense or simmering tension between starters and reserves.

    Maybe it's about Kyrie Irving leading the Boston Celtics to a 9-2 record and the NBA's best defense.

    Maybe it's about Eric Bledsoe not winding up with the Cavs. This one's the most intriguing because James made the post hours before ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Bledsoe was headed to the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Maybe LeBron just likes Arthur, sucks at cropping photos and doesn't get memes.

    If we simply ask "Is James upset?," the answer is pretty clear. His team is underperforming even by their own relaxed regular-season standards, their former point guard is killing it and reinforcements aren't inbound.

    Yes, James is ticked.

    Judging the level of B.S. in this particular instance depends on how we're framing the issue, though. Can we confidently assign a rating to any one of the above possibilities? Probably not. There's just too much going on. 

    B.S. Meter Reading: Inscruta-Bull 

Greg Monroe Is Gone

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    No, not from the Bucks. That's a fact. Deal's done.

    The guess here, based on some sound reasoning from Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post, is that Greg Monroe won't be in Phoenix for long:

    "Monroe, meanwhile, went to Milwaukee specifically because he wanted to play for a playoff team, which he finally did for the first time last season in his seventh year in the NBA. If he'd be willing to give up some money to hit the open market early, he would be an incredibly attractive free agent—specifically to teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, who desperately need bench help, and the Boston Celtics, who could use another big."

    That's buyout talk, and it makes all the sense in the world.

    Monroe quietly enjoyed the best two-way season of his career last year, but the Phoenix Suns don't have any need for productivity. They got the draft assets they wanted in the Bledsoe deal, and now their focus should turn to more savings. Buying out the rest of Monroe's final year is the best way to do that if they can't swing a trade for a pick without taking back any money, which ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Suns would prefer.

    One way or the other, Monroe is a lock to be a short-timer in Phoenix.

    B.S. Meter Reading: Zero Bull, Loose Moose

The Liberation of Luol Deng

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    "It definitely hurts," Luol Deng told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN on Monday. "But the only answer for me now is to prove myself away from L.A. I'm not asked to play, I'm not in the rotation, so I can't prove myself here."

    I'm going to spoil the final meter reading and just tell you now: This is straight-up B.S. of the highest order. Not because there's anything duplicative in Deng's comments or questionable about Shelburne's report that the Lakers are trying to move Deng, but because this whole situation is crummy and unfair.

    The Lakers lavished big bucks on Deng and Timofey Mozgov last offseason in what can only be described as a desperate attempt at salvation by an outgoing regime. Those signings made no sense whatsoever. What would a rebuilding team want with a pair of vets...at prices nobody else was willing to pay, no less?

    Deng took the money because anybody would have. We can't fault him for that.

    But now he's being asked to sit out because the Lakers' priorities have changed. They're the right ones now, at least. L.A. should be developing its youth, and it should be trying to move veteran money like Deng's to free space for bigger free-agent pursuits down the line. It's naive to view the NBA in anything but the cold light of "it's a business," but it sure feels like the Lakers owe Deng an exit.

    They won't take on more bad money to move him, and they're surely hesitant to just pay him to go away. But they have to do something. At least let the guy play a little power forward so he can show suitors what he can (or can't) do. He was great in that role two years ago with the Miami Heat; maybe last year was an aberration and he still has something to offer a contender.

    Can we get some "Free Luol" shirts printed up somewhere?

    B.S. Meter Reading: See Above

         

    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise specified.

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