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NBA Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Team Plans as 2016 Draft Approaches

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2016

Kevin Durant continues to pop up in rumors ahead of the draft.
Kevin Durant continues to pop up in rumors ahead of the draft.Eric Gay/Associated Press

The NBA rumors market might be stronger than it has been in years—and it's nothing short of a positive. 

Rumors build the hype for free agency and the draft in a way nothing else short of the imagination can. Besides the four teams still in the postseason, fans already have minds running wild over how their team could improve via both avenues.

Those four teams in the playoffs don't hurt things, though. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is on his way to the market, and who knows what sort of rumblings will pop up around LeBron James if the Toronto Raptors wind up upsetting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While the playoff action wages onward, here's a look at the latest major nuggets to know.

Dragan Bender and the Celtics

The Boston Celtics won't land Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram in the draft barring a major surprise with how one of the first two picks unfolds—or general manager Danny Ainge moves some of his assets to jump a spot.

Alas, it's hard to imagine the Celtics will budge with a player such as Dragan Bender likely available at No. 3. According to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, Bender will give the organization plenty of time to consider him:

Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach

Hearing that Dragan Bender has told the Celtics he'd come to Boston for a workout sometime after his Israeli League season ends.

On paper, Bender would be a perfect fit with the Celtics. Ainge doesn't need to add much in the way of backcourt help with Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and even Terry Rozier.

Underneath the basket is a good place for Boston to go, though. Bender comes in at 7'1" and 216 pounds with great court vision and an ability to stretch the floor with his shot from deep.

It's not the perfect fix, and maybe Bender doesn't turn into a superstar like Simmons or Ingram could. But Boston already has a young playoff roster on board and well-defined needs.

Bender not only fits those—he clearly understands them.

Brooklyn Looking at Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett spent 19 games with Toronto this year.
Anthony Bennett spent 19 games with Toronto this year.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Remember Anthony Bennett?

The first pick in the 2013 NBA draft has spent his three-year career bouncing around with three different teams. The UNLV product suited up for the Raptors this year, but for all of 19 games before getting the boot after shooting less than 30 percent from the floor.

It's easy to forget Bennett is still only 23 years old. He'll need the right locale and environment to help turn his career around, which might be why ESPN.com's Ian Begley hears Bennett will work out with the Brooklyn Nets:

Ian Begley @IanBegley

Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett is expected to be among the group of veteran FAs working out at the Nets' minicamp this week, per sources.

Brooklyn is just as desperate for help as Bennett. 

The Nets don't have a first-round pick this year, which means free agency is the top way for the team to add talent. Good luck convincing free agents a team that won all of 21 games last year is going places, though.

From a roster outlook, Brooklyn needs major help at power forward with the Thaddeus Young-led portion of the depth chart going nowhere. If the coaches can figure out where Bennett has gone wrong over the years, there's certainly a spot for him in the rotation.

A Contender for Durant Emerges?

It's hard to imagine Durant ditching the Thunder after this epic postseason tear, in which his team now has a 3-1 advantage on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

Still, free agency in the Association tends to produce some unexpected developments, with Durant's trip looking like the perfect upcoming stunner.

How about this? Durant goes to the market and pulls a James, heading for South Beach, favorable tax laws and a partnership with Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and/or Hassan Whiteside.

It's a scenario folks now have to consider thanks to a nugget by ESPN's Dan Le Batard (via Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk):

The plan is and always has been: Go after Durant and free everything up – so much so that you insulted your superstar this offseason by telling Dwyane Wade no on multiple years, even though that’s what he wanted. Dwyane, who deserves more of your allegiances as business and a company and management than Chris Bosh does. Because the whole thing is get in a room with Durant after this season.

What I’m telling you, no matter how much you laugh at it, is that the Heat is getting in the room with Durant. Now, what happens from there, who knows? But you can sit here and laugh at it all you want, but the plan, the construct is – the priority, the No. 1 thing this offseason – is get in the room with Durant.

There's a big difference between getting in a room with Durant and actually bringing him on board. But the Heat aren't strangers to pulling off the unexpected, and letting Whiteside walk in free agency could be the boon the front office needs to make a deal with Durant work.

Other issues persist. Wade will have to take a pay cut. The cash-title chase scales aren't easy to read with any star player. Durant would actually have to want to come to town, too, which is getting harder and harder to imagine the longer the Thunder stay alive in the playoffs. Don't forget about the other unknown amount of teams ready to give up everything to get Durant, too.

Maybe the most important takeaway from this rumor is about the Heat, not Durant. Miami doesn't have a pick in the first round and will clearly want to use free agency to upgrade the roster, if not chase a superstar player. The possible ripple effect of Miami's actions—perhaps unleashing Whiteside on the market—define profound.

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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