Fact or Fiction: Making Sense of the Latest NBA Trade Rumors

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2022

Fact or Fiction: Making Sense of the Latest NBA Trade Rumors

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    ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 09: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors reacts during the first half of a game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on December 09, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Mid-December marks an increase in trade talk around the NBA, as the majority of summer's free-agency signings will now be eligible for relocation. We're also less than two months away from the trade deadline and roughly a third of the way through the regular season, meaning contenders' needs are becoming clearer by the day.

    Naturally, more trade rumors are beginning to pop up. Not all should be believed, however.

    It's time to play fact or fiction with the latest rumblings, reports and rumors from around the association, dissecting what we should actually believe and what should be ignored, at least for now.

'Several Teams' Interested in Trading for Knicks' Cam Reddish

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    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Cam Reddish #0 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket during the game against the Detroit Pistons on November 11, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Cam Reddish experiment has not gone well for the New York Knicks, although blame cannot be placed entirely on either side.

    After spending last season in and out of the rotation following a trade from the Atlanta Hawks, an opening night win where Reddish dropped 22 points looked like brighter days were ahead.

    While there have been some positive moments for the 23-year-old, Reddish once again finds himself out of Tom Thibodeau's rotation.

    If the Knicks aren't going to play Reddish, there's little reason to keep the fourth-year pro, especially since he'll become a restricted free agent this offseason. Opponents know this, which has generated some recent buzz around him.

    As SNY's Ian Begley wrote, "Regardless, several teams have expressed interest in trading for Reddish since the Knicks acquired him in January 2022. The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks are among the teams who reached out to New York in that span. It's worth noting that the Lakers and Knicks talked earlier this month about a potential trade that would have required a third team to complete."

    Potential has long been the biggest draw to Reddish ever since his days at Duke, and we've seen the Paul George-esque flashes in his game. Injuries and an inconsistent role have ultimately doomed Reddish's ability to reach said potential, however, and he'll likely need regular minutes on a rebuilding team to reach his ceiling.

    While it's entirely believable that veteran squads like the Lakers, Heat and Bucks would want a young, two-way wing to add to their rotation, Reddish doesn't project as a good fit for any of them. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic would be far better destinations.

    Fact or Fiction: Fact that Reddish is drawing interest, though going to a rebuilding franchise would be best.

Rival Executives 'Bracing for Fireworks' If Raptors Stay Around .500

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    TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 5: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the game against the Boston Celtics on December 5, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

    A sneaky preseason pick to finish with a top seed in the East, injuries and an ineffective half-court offense currently have the Raptors at ninth in the conference, swimming in .500 waters.

    There's too much talent on this roster to be a play-in team, although it hasn't proven to mesh yet. Toronto's most-used starting five of Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam has largely underperformed, with a net rating of minus-0.6 in 204 total possessions (34th percentile overall).

    As ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote, "Rival executives are watching Toronto closely, bracing for fireworks if the Raptors are hovering around .500 in two months. Will Masai Ujiri stick with a middle-of-the-road team? Does Fred VanVleet fit their vision? Can Barnes, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam fit long-term?"

    This is a team and front office that aren't afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the home-run swing for Kawhi Leonard in 2018.

    This doesn't mean Ujiri will blow up the roster now, however.

    The head of Toronto's front office has complete job security, signing a hefty contract extension last year that pays him $15 million per season. He has Siakam, Anunoby and Barnes under contract for multiple years and all of his future first-round picks moving forward.

    While we saw New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin make a potential job-saving trade for CJ McCollum last year, Ujiri is safe in Toronto no matter what he does, or doesn't, do.

    Making some small moves to improve the roster around his core should be expected, but as for fireworks? Unlikely.

    Fact or Fiction: Fiction. There's no need to make moves out of desperation just yet. Look for sparklers instead of fireworks.

John Collins-kyle Kuzma Swap Was 'Seriously Discussed'

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards in action against John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at Capital One Arena on March 4, 2022 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    With the Atlanta Hawks (13-13) and Washington Wizards (10-16) failing to live up to expectations thus far, we could see some movement from both, including a potential swap of starting power forwards.

    It's a move that was already discussed last summer, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium:

    "Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added."

    Kuzma is going to be a hot name at the deadline, given his strong season (21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 46.2 percent shooting, plus-11.2 swing rating) and the likelihood the 27-year-old will decline his $13 million player option and hit unrestricted free agency this offseason.

    Swapping Kuzma in a deal for Collins would give the Wizards more clarity on their future, given that the latter still has two years remaining on his contract after this season plus a $26.6 million player option in 2025-26. Collins is also the younger of the two (25) and has been the better three-point shooter, even if he's struggled this year in Atlanta.

    A fresh start for Collins in Washington may be best for him, and Kuzma would get the chance to play on a team with serious playoff hopes in the East if a deal does take place.

    It's hard to imagine Phoenix would be a long-term home for Kuzma given what he'll likely cost with a new contract this offseason. The Suns already have $137.7 million committed to next year's roster, even without factoring in a new deal for Kuzma or Cam Johnson.

    A deal involving Kuzma and Collins makes sense and is something both teams should continue to explore as we get closer to the deadline.

    Fact or Fiction: Fact. If the Wizards are worried about Kuzma leaving in free agency, Collins is a good replacement plan.

Lakers Will Only Trade Future 1st-Round Pick for an All-Star Level Player

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 23: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 23, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    Despite some improved play as of late, Russell Westbrook performing well in a sixth-man role and Anthony Davis returning to an All-NBA level, the Lakers are still just 10-15 and in 13th place in the Western Conference. Only the tanking San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets are worse in the West.

    Still, vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka doesn't appear in any hurry to upgrade the roster.

    "We know what their assets are, the '27 and the '29 unprotected first-round picks. They're not going to use those unless they can get back essentially an All-Star level player," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

    Not wanting to part with the only remaining assets of value is understandable, but this is a special circumstance. LeBron James is going to be 38 in a few weeks and is starting to look human again. His 54.1 true shooting percentage is the worst since his rookie season, a whopping 19 years ago.

    Holding out to try to land a player like Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard is foolish at this point. This team isn't that far away from looking like a playoff squad once again, especially if it can add some three-point shooting (currently last in the NBA at 31.8 percent) and wing defenders.

    Even some starters/role players like John Collins, Mike Conley Jr., Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, Jae Crowder or Evan Fournier would help. The Lakers can't afford to do nothing and waste one of the remaining prime seasons in James' career, especially with Davis playing at this level.

    Sending out a future first isn't ideal, but waiting around for an All-Star who may never become available is even worse.

    Fact or Ficton: Fiction. Pelinka may be putting on a tough front now, but this Lakers team can't afford to wait around for an All-Star to become available, especially since they likely won't be able to outbid other contenders, either.

Zach LaVine Not Available in Trade Talks by Bulls

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 21: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles up the court against the Boston Celtics during the second half at United Center on November 21, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Bulls will be one of the most interesting teams to watch at the 2023 trade deadline.

    An 11-14 record has them out of the play-in tournament in the East, and there's no guarantee we'll see Lonzo Ball return from knee surgery this season. Chicago is in a tough position, especially since their 2023 first is owed to the Orlando Magic with a top-four protection.

    Tanking could be the only way the Bulls keep their pick, one that could jumpstart this franchise and allow it to climb out of mediocrity.

    "Everyone is watching Chicago very closely," one NBA source told Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus. "They're so poorly constructed, they need to blow it up."

    If the Bulls become sellers, Zach LaVine will almost certainly be the player most teams call about.

    The 27-year-old is averaging 21.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.3 steals and is shooting 36.3 percent overall after making the past two All-Star games.

    "Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly could become available? He certainly isn't now," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported, mentioning the New York Knicks as a team that would have interest.

    No matter what the Bulls do, there's no reason to move LaVine.

    The star shooting guard signed a five-year, $215.2 million contract this past offseason and will receive a 15 percent bonus if he's traded, money that would need to be paid by Chicago. Even with a player option at the end of the deal, LaVine can't leave in free agency until at least 2026.

    Chicago would almost certainly shop older vets on shorter deals like DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević, Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond first, pitching LaVine on a reset next year that hopefully features a healthy Ball and a top 2023 draft pick. Opening up a bigger role and more shots for players like Patrick Williams, Dalen Terry and Ayo Dosunmu for the rest of this season could be beneficial to the team's long-term ceiling as well.

    Fact or Fiction: Fact. Regardless of Chicago's path, LaVine should continue to be unavailable in trade talks.

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