The Larry O'Brien Trophy has barely landed in Cleveland and its already time for NBA fans to turn their attention to the upcoming 2016 NBA draft on June 23.
This year's class is characterized by mystery. Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are the presumptive top two picks, but after that it's bound to get crazy.
The scenarios that could play out in the first round are numerous for a variety of reasons. First, there's no consensus "next best player." There's a bevy of big men with similar skill sets, productive college players with questionable upside and athletic projects with high bust potential, but each team is going to value those players differently.
Then, to make this draft even more unpredictable, there are plenty of teams with multiple draft picks or teams who could be looking to make deals that are going to impact who they take in the draft.
Below is a look at some of the bigger names that are floating around the rumor mill who could possibly be dealt on draft night as well as a look at just how likely it is that each rumor comes to fruition.
Lakers Looking to Deal D'Angelo Russell?
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a rebuilding phase coming off a treacherous 17-65 season, but that rebuilding project could take a surprising turn on draft night.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com on an episode of SportsCenter (via CBS Sports' James Herbert), the Lakers could be looking to trade back into the top five after making Ingram the No. 2 pick in the draft:
I think we all assume that Ingram's going to be the guy at No. 2, but they've brought in Marquese Chriss, they've taken a long look at him. They've brought in Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, and while I still believe that it will be Ingram at No. 2, the Lakers have explored other options. And again I think the concern with Ingram is his lack of strength and how NBA-ready he's going to be because of that. I think more likely the Lakers are trying to pick up another pick in this draft in the top five and the guy that they have that they can shop is D'Angelo Russell, a guy who was their No. 2 pick in the draft last year but burned some bridges in the locker room.
The interesting aspect of that quote is that the motivation for moving Russell would be that he has "burned some bridges in the locker room." It's not a big leap to assume that a lot of that stems from an incident between teammate Nick Young in which a video of a private conversation between the two teammates was leaked.
While the tension is believable, it's hard to imagine that it would result in the Lakers giving up last year's No. 2 pick to get back in the top five of a draft that has few guarantees.
Even if the Lakers are forced to choose between Russell and Young, they don't have much reason to go with the latter when they are years from contending.
|D'Angelo Russell vs. Nick Young 2015-16 Season|
Russell's numbers weren't dominant by any means, but former head coach Byron Scott wasn't the ideal coach for the Lakers' young talent to grow under. With Luke Walton taking over, Russell should get a fresh start.
Looking at it from a sheer numbers perspective, it doesn't make sense that the Lakers would shop a 20-year-old asset because he doesn't have a great relationship with players who likely won't be on the roster by the time Los Angeles could conceivably turn things around.
New York Knicks Looking at Derrick Rose?
The New York Knicks don't have a pick in the first round of the 2016 draft, but that hasn't kept them from being a big name in the rumor mill. According to Ian Begley of ESPN.com, the Knicks have had "internal discussions" about acquiring Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls.
As Begley points out, the Knicks are a team with a desire to upgrade their backcourt, but are fairly short on trade assets. He notes Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and future first-round picks are the only chips that the Knicks have to include in a trade.
On a roster that features Jose Calderon as its starting point guard, the gamble that Rose can stay healthy is a welcomed one.
From the Bulls' perspective, this likely won't be the last time Rose's name is floated as a trade target for other teams.
Rose is set to become a free agent in 2016-17. It's well-documented that the 2010-11 MVP has struggled with injuries, and the emergence of Jimmy Butler leaves him as a second banana on a team that he used to run.
Financially, the Bulls could afford to have both Butler and Rose long term. The cap is projected to rise to $94 million when Rose hits free agency, but it might be time for both parties to part ways.
A Rose trade might not occur on draft night; again, the Knicks don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft. But what the Bulls do with their selection could provide a clue to how serious they are about dealing their point guard.
Point guards such as Wade Baldwin, Dejounte Murray, Demetrius Jackson and Tyler Ulis should all be on the board when the Bulls are on the clock at No. 14. If they take any one of them, it could be the beginning of the end to the Rose era in Chicago.
Eric Bledsoe on the Move?
The Phoenix Suns are one of the most interesting teams in the draft. They have picks No. 4, 13 and 28 in the first round of the draft with a chance to add to a roster that has an interesting mix of talent.
The problem for Phoenix in its current construction is that its pieces don't exactly fit. They have three guards who led the team in points per game but missed large chunks of the year in Devin Booker (76 games played), Brandon Knight (52) and Eric Bledsoe (31).
So far, that appears to limit the options for the Suns when they get on the clock with the No. 4 pick.
However, NBADraft.net reports that Bledsoe's agent, Rich Paul, is pushing to get his client out of Phoenix:
Again, this will be a case of a draft pick providing insight into the general manager's state of mind. Bledsoe put up great numbers when he was healthy last season with 20.4 points, 6.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game. But if he wants out of Phoenix, the chance that he doesn't come back playing at that same level would submarine his value.
In essence, the Suns are a team to watch when they get on the clock because they have a talented player who may want out, multiple first-round picks at their disposal and a potential star in the making in Booker.
Of all the aforementioned rumors, Bledsoe getting dealt seems like the most likely to happen. Bledsoe certainly put up great numbers, but if the Suns could find the right dance partner, they could conceivably turn him into yet another high draft pick or a proven commodity that could balance out their roster.
The Suns are one of the biggest wild cards in the draft. That's saying a lot in a draft that has all the makings of a wild one.