NBA Trade Deadline 2018: BS Meter on the Latest Rumors

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2018

NBA Trade Deadline 2018: BS Meter on the Latest Rumors

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    Good luck finding a stretch of the NBA season where trade rumors are born, die and recur faster than the one immediately preceding the trade deadline.

    We're in it now, people. The maelstrom is all around us, and it'll only surge and whirl faster as we get closer to the magic hour: Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. ET.

    It's impossible to keep your wits about you in conditions like this, but we'll do what we can to address the viability of the latest rumors. And if calling some reports B.S. (or at least directly challenging the logic behind them) feels a little harsh, too bad. This isn't a time for decorum.

    We're at war with conjecture and agent-leaked subterfuge. No one can be trusted. We are all compromised.

    Come with me if you want to live...in a semi-sensible refuge as the trade rumors close in from all sides.

Lakers Shifting Focus to 2019

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    The Los Angeles Lakers are still banking on their own exceptionalism, trusting in the repeatedly disproven idea that free agents will come to them because they're special.

    But they're at least reading the market correctly and waiting until next year.

    ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported L.A. might not conduct a fire sale at this season's deadline, and instead wait to clear more space for the free-agent class of 2019:

    "Pushing back a year on big-game hunting in free agency could serve two purposes: It could alleviate the urgency to unload contracts at Thursday's trade deadline and around the June NBA draft that could require the Lakers to attach future draft assets as incentives, and it could allow the Lakers' talented young core—including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart—to further develop and become more attractive for veteran stars to join."

    This is smart.

    The class of 2018 is thin, and starry names probably aren't convinced the Lakers' current core is good enough to win next season—even with a big addition or two.

    Better to avoid dumping young guys with value—Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, chiefly—in a buyer's market. Better still to push the stretch provision on Luol Deng's deal another year down the road as well.

    The only thing that feels off about this report is the judiciousness it ascribes to the Lakers. Because if exceptionalism isn't this organization's defining trait, it's impatience.

    Verdict: Tentatively, hopefully, zero B.S.

Smoke Without Fire on the D.J. Front

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    According to ESPN's Zach Lowe: "The Clippers are still open for business. The Rockets, Bucks and Blazers have all poked around Jordan, but nothing has gotten anywhere near serious."

    The Blake Griffin trade flipped things around for the Los Angeles Clippers. Because although it didn't completely clear the decks of bad long-term money, it got rid of L.A.'s single most onerous financial commitment. That means re-signing Jordan is a stronger possibility, and it also means the Clippers are right to be choosy about return packages for their center.

    If they don't view him as a sure goner, he's worth more in a trade.

    There's also the chance that this summer's thin market allows the Clips to retain Jordan for less than the max, or for a shorter term than many expect. Few teams have the cap space to fit Jordan in on a huge new deal, and the ones with the most room—principally the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers and Lakers—may not view a 30-year-old center as a good vessel for major investment.

    Everything changes if Jordan signals he's willing to opt into the final year of his deal in 2018-19, as NBA.com's David Aldridge noted. But D.J.'s decision to hire power agent Jeff Schwartz would seem to suggest a grander contract negotiation looms this summer.

    There's still logic in L.A. moving on from Jordan, but there's less of it now than there was a few weeks ago. The Clippers should be picky, and it sounds like that's what's happening. Jordan's departure, seemingly a certainty earlier this year, looks less likely.

    Verdict: Sensibly, no B.S.

Wizards Making a Move in the Middle

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    The Washington Wizards are engaged in trade talks centered on big man Marcin Gortat, according to a report from ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.

    Well, sure.

    They certainly can't move Ian Mahinmi's deal right now—not with two more years and $31.4 million still owed after this season. So if it's a center swap the Wizards want, Gortat, whose contract expires after next season, would seem to be the more moveable option.

    There's also age and decline to consider.

    Gortat, who turns 34 this month, has slipped in a key area. Among players who've used at least 100 possessions as the roll man this year, he ranks dead last in points per possession. Last season, only five players with as many roll touches as Gortat averaged more points per possession.

    Some of that may have to do with John Wall's lack of burst this year (even before he went down with knee surgery), but it's also pretty easy to speculate that a center hitting his mid-30s has just lost a step.

    Washington has played well since losing Wall, and the ball has notably moved more freely. Looking to move on from a less-mobile center nearing the end of his deal makes sense.

    Verdict: No B.S.

Magic Gauging Aaron Gordon Interest

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    Though they're far from shopping restricted free-agent-to-be Aaron Gordon, the Orlando Magic are at least picking up the phone when suitors call about him, according to Michael Scotto of the Athletic.

    Those conversations had better be brief.

    Gordon took a legitimate leap this year in many of the areas you'd hope for in a projected cornerstone. His three-point percentage has spiked from 28.8 percent last year to 34.6 percent in 2017-18—on much higher volume and despite a shot profile that featured more off-the-dribble attempts (which are harder) than ever before.

    Only 17.2 percent of his above-the-break threes have been unassisted in 2016-17. This year, he's created 23 percent of those looks on his own.

    His handle is tighter, his pull-up stroke far more fluid. Defensively, Gordon still has the tools to guard four positions—or even five if conventional centers continue their march toward extinction.

    And he's only 22 years old.

    This is not someone you trade for anything less than a totally overwhelming package of unprotected firsts and young talent, particularly when you still have the leverage of Gordon's restricted free agency this summer. Orlando is holding all the cards.

    The path forward here is keeping Gordon, building an environment around him that is more conducive to growth and success, and then watching him flourish.

    Orlando, hang up the phone.

    Verdict: For Orlando's sake, this needs to be close to 100% B.S.

LeBron James Is Staying Put

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    Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania reported teams around the league are doing their "due diligence" on the issue of LeBron James' no-trade clause.

    Apparently because they think there's a chance he'd waive it? And that the Cavs would take proactivity to a previously unimaginable degree and begin the post-LeBron restart while they still have LeBron?

    Are we really at that point?

    The answer seems to be a resounding "no," Charania explains: "James remains solely focused on competing for a championship in Cleveland this season and evaluating his future after the season ends."

    It's hard to know where to start with this one. Even if James were so fed up with the Cavs that he'd waive his no-trade clause, it's impossible to imagine what kind of package it'd take to get him. And if you start considering which suitors would even entertain a James rental, plausibility almost disappears. If you're the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics or Golden State Warriors, you're not trading for James.

    You can't.

    It'd take immense amounts of money going back to Cleveland, and it'd likely be for a rental. No contender is tearing down its current roster to shoehorn James into the rotation and rebuild a different title-chaser around him. That's ridiculous.

    And if you're not in the hunt for a championship, why are you interested in two months of James? Especially if it costs you every other good thing on your roster?

    Verdict: It's B.S. that we're even talking about this.

          

    Stats courtesy of Basketball ReferenceCleaning the Glass or NBA.com unless otherwise specified. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.

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