2017 NBA Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions Based on Late-Season Buzz

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks defends the ball against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls during the game on December 19, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York, 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 2015 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

A little over half of NBA teams have this upcoming postseason on their mind.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, 10 squads (four from the Eastern Conference, six from the West) have clinched a playoff berth. A handful of outsiders are looking in, and some are close. The Charlotte Hornets, a game back of the No. 8 seed, for example, have their noses pressed right up against the glass.

Those other teams? The only thing they're thinking about in May is ping-pong balls. It is a pair of these tankers—both purposeful and accidental (looking at you, New York Knicks)—that we will look at today.

"Writing on the wall": Does Carmelo Anthony want out?

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and team president Phil Jackson have been locked in a staring contest all season long.

The Zen Master has appeared to take shots at the 10-time All-Star through the media, making it clear that he doesn't see Anthony as part of New York's future.

There's one problem, though: Melo has a no-trade clause.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14 : Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks grabs the rebound against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2017 in New York, New York NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

One of only three players in basketball to wield such power (LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki are the others), Anthony has taken the high road, as noted by USA Today's Steve Popper. At times, he's even joked about Jackson and the Zen Master's beloved triangle offense.

But that could change after the regular season ends.

"I see the writing on the wall, the writing...yeah, I see it on the wall," Anthony told reporters on Monday, per Popper. "You don't know what writing is on the wall, though, but I see what writing is on the wall."

Anthony went on to say that in his end-of-season meeting with Jackson, he's "[p]retty sure the chips will be on the table…The chips will be on the table in that meeting."

Prediction: Trade rumors will continue to swirl, as usual, around Melo all summer. But nothing will come of them.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The 32-year-old scorer seems to value what New York provides for his family more than he does a pursuit of a title, as reported by Newsday's Al Iannazzone. So, despite NYK's 30-48 record, why would Melo suddenly make an about-face and uproot his wife and 10-year-old son?

What's the deal with the Orlando Magic's dry-erase board?

WASHINGTON, DC -  MARCH 5:  Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic handles the ball during a game against the Washington Wizards on March 5, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

On Monday, a whiteboard featuring apparent offseason plans for the Orlando Magic was mistakenly posted on Twitter. Patricio Garino's agent posted an image of his client signing a contract in front of the blueprint.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News captured the image:

The Magic front office, particularly general manager Rob Hennigan, downplayed the incident as meaningless, but its quick deletion from social media indicated that it at least had some merit.

Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders passed along a closer look (Note: Check out the parenthetical question next to Dario Saric's name; it says "AG?"):

One of the more controversial nuggets from the lists was a potential desire to flip high-flying forward Aaron Gordon for Saric, the Philadelphia 76ers' Rookie of the Year candidate. The 22-year-old Croatian, who was drafted by Orlando in 2014 before getting traded, strutted his stuff when asked about the Magic's apparent interest on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer:

Magic head coach Frank Vogel met with Gordon a day after the now-infamous picture grew Twitter legs, per Hennigan.

"Typically, with rumors and stuff like that, we don't really address them," Vogel said. "But this is a unique situation, and I talked to him a little bit this morning, and everybody's good. We're ready to move on."

Prediction: The Magic take hard look into dealing Gordon this summer.

John Raoux/Associated Press

According to David Baumann of the Oxford Club, Orlando dangled the former Arizona Wildcats big man in an offer for Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin last year:

That shows he's at least available. And while the 21-year-old Gordon is arguably Orlando's most attractive asset, the cupboard is relatively bare. Philly will certainly hold on to Saric, but there figures to be a strong market for Gordon, who, again, is only 21.  

 

Bonus: Is Jimmy Butler "as good as gone"?

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Note: This is a bonus prediction because the Chicago Bulls, unlike the Knicks and Magic, are within striking distance of the postseason.

On Thursday, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported that Jimmy Butler, the team's star guard, is "as good as gone."

Now, trade buzz surrounding Butler has become incessant in recent years. The Bulls have created a chaotic environment (despite swindling the Knicks in last summer's Derrick Rose trade) and don't treat Butler like the elite star he's become.

WASHINGTON, DC -  MARCH 17: Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on March 17, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using
Stephen Gosling/Getty Images

If Chicago wants to go all-in on a rebuild, the team could get a treasure chest of assets for Butler, who's due $17 million and $18 million over the next two years, respectively. That's a steal.

Butler, who could make a case for the best two-way 2-guard in the game, is set to be the No. 38 highest-paid player next year and No. 31 the year after, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Prediction: It's time.

The Boston Celtics seem like the most sensible destination for a Butler trade. But in any case, expect O'Connor's report to ring true. The guy has to be fed up by now. 

Related

    NBA Giving Out Bubble Awards

    League will hand out 'Player of the Seeding Games' and All-Seeding Games Team based on media voting

    NBA logo
    NBA

    NBA Giving Out Bubble Awards

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Predicting the Final Playoff Bracket Entering Season's Final Week

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Predicting the Final Playoff Bracket Entering Season's Final Week

    Zach Buckley
    via Bleacher Report

    NBA Trades You Never Thought Of 🧐

    Pairing top potential trade candidates with teams they aren't usually connected to

    NBA logo
    NBA

    NBA Trades You Never Thought Of 🧐

    Zach Buckley
    via Bleacher Report

    New NBA Mock Draft ✍️

    Lottery simulation and first-round predictions for every team

    NBA logo
    NBA

    New NBA Mock Draft ✍️

    Jonathan Wasserman
    via Bleacher Report