BS Meter on Latest 2019 NBA Trade Deadline Rumors
So much for this being the year that the NBA has a quiet trade deadline.
Oh, make no bones about it, the actual fireworks might be over. The league may not have another blockbuster deal left in it. The market is drowning in buyers and light on sellers and available marquee names.
And yet, the rumor mill is chugging right along, without the faintest hint of slowing down. Most of what's produced by the speculation factory won't come to fruition, but the point of the NBA's chatterbox isn't to predict the future.
The rumor mill is in the business of volume—and business is booming.
Anthony Davis deserves a good chunk of the credit. The prospect of a Memphis Grizzlies teardown gave new life to the carousel of hearsay, but his trade request has flipped the Association on its head.
As ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, Davis' agent, Rich Paul, has informed the New Orleans Pelicans his client does not plan to sign an extension with them this summer and would prefer "to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship." And that's just the gist of what's going on.
There are so many levels to this Davis situation, and we'll tackle them in stride—along all the other most recent scuttlebutt dominating the lead-up to the Feb. 7 deadline.
Anthony Davis Prefers to Join Lakers
After requesting a trade on Anthony Davis' behalf, Rich Paul told the New York Times' Marc Stein that he did not provide the Pelicans with a list of preferred destinations—probably because he didn't need to give them one.
Not only does Davis' 2020 free agency (player option) give him inherent leverage, but his interest in joining the Lakers is implied by the timing of his request. Teams can only trade for one player who's on a designated rookie extension, and the Boston Celtics already acquired Kyrie Irving. Asking for out now displaces them from the discussion unless New Orleans waits to strike a deal over the offseason. (More on this later.)
For anyone who still doesn't think Davis and his camp are all about Los Angeles, well, you're hanging by the thread of a thread. League sources told Wojnarowski that they "expect the agent and star to soon deliver word throughout the league that Davis' preferred destination is the Lakers and he'll become a rental player until 2020 with a trade anywhere else."
This doesn't mean the Lakers are getting Davis now, over the summer or at all. They might. Or they might not. It doesn't matter.
The larger point is that Davis was always positioning himself to join the Lakers. Everyone could see through the initial posturing.
Rich Paul saying Davis didn't have a preferred destination and just wanted to win only to identify the Lakers as his preferred destination is like Marvel making Tom Holland's Spider-Man disappear in "The Snap" and then promoting a Spider-Man sequel that takes place after Infinity War/Endgame.
Verdict: Zero-zilch-zip B.S. here.
New Orleans Doesn't Feel Pressure to Deal AD
Though Anthony Davis' trade request arrived earlier than the Pelicans might have expected, they're not rushing to send him elsewhere, according to Wojnarowski. This is not hard to buy.
Davis can scare off some suitors by more blatantly stating his desire to wear purple and gold, but his leverage only gets him so far. The Lakers' best offer isn't going anywhere. It will still be there over the summer.
Paul George's return to Oklahoma City is their cautionary tale. If they play hardball as he's entering the last year of his contract, New Orleans can ship him to another team. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have not developed quickly enough for the Pelicans to consider any of them can't-miss prospects, and the Lakers' 2019 first-rounder won't be as valuable if they get 25-plus games with Davis and LeBron James.
It makes sense for New Orleans to drag this out. Boston will reset the market this summer with some combination of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, this year's Sacramento Kings pick, Memphis' 2019 or 2020 selection and other stuff.
Sure, Davis could continue expressing his love for the Lakers. That won't stop the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge is "undeterred" in his pursuit of the All-NBA big man and doesn't need a long-term commitment to enter the sweepstakes, per Woj. Even Boston's second-best offer—i.e. Tatum-less package—is arguably better than whatever the Lakers peddle.
Letting this situation spill into the offseason also allows the Pelicans to monitor the results of the draft lottery. If the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks win the Zion Williamson raffle, New Orleans could be treated to a package built around him.
Beyond that, teams always come out of the woodwork when superstars are on the block, even if they're being sold as rentals. The Toronto Raptors will be more inclined to fork over the moon if they know Kawhi Leonard is coming back. The Philadelphia 76ers may be more likely to build something around Ben Simmons depending on how they finish this season. Ditto for the Denver Nuggets with Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
Verdict: New Orleans isn't BSing anyone with its patience.
Bucks, Knicks, Lakers, Raptors Headline AD Sweepstakes
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers "plan to make an aggressive push" for Anthony Davis this season, even though it messes with their spending power in free agency, per Wojnarowski. This doesn't need a deeper dive.
Los Angeles sat out the Paul George sweepstakes, and he re-signed with Oklahoma City. Team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka aren't going to make the same mistake again.
Verdict: This is the antithesis of B.S.
Milwaukee is among the handful of teams expected to make a serious play for Davis prior to the trade deadline, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. And as Gery Woelfel of Woelfel's Press Box reported, everyone on the roster other than Giannis Antetokounmpo is up for grabs.
Absolutely buy into the Bucks making a call to the Pelicans. Twenty-eight other teams are doing the same. But Milwaukee doesn't begin to register as a realistic landing spot.
It remains to be seen whether the Pelicans will prioritize high-end picks and prospects or established impact players as centerpieces in any deal. For the Bucks' purposes, it doesn't matter. They won't meet the threshold of either requirement.
They cannot deal a first-round pick before 2023, and with the protections on their other commitments, it'll be more like 2024. Sterling Brown, Thon Maker, Donte DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson are nice throw-ins, but they're not anchoring a superstar return.
The Bucks are better off if the Pelicans want players who can help them win now, but just barely. Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon (restricted) and Khris Middleton (player option) don't fit the bill when they're all on expiring contracts.
Verdict: Smells like B.S.
New York Knicks
Consider this from Stein: "Even though it is likely that the Knicks' strongest offer for Anthony Davis would come in May once their draft position is known, one source with knowledge of the team's thinking confirms that the Knicks are intent on making themselves a factor in the Davis sweepstakes."
New York is one of the few that might have the juice to coax New Orleans into making a deal now. Packaging this year's pick with Kevin Knox and a loosely protected 2021 first-rounder has the makings of a nice haul. The Pelicans would be hedging against the Knicks' ability to keep Davis, and anyone who's watched them operate over the past few decades knows that's hardly a bad bet.
Filler needs to be included to make that deal work, and things get complicated if New Orleans pushes for a win-now piece New York doesn't have in its possession. Kristaps Porzingis is only valuable to the Pelicans if they know he's healthy and going to stay as a restricted free agent or coming over as part of a sign-and-trade.
Basically, as we've already gone over, waiting out the market is the best play. The Knicks have a better chance of sending the Pelicans Zion Williamson if Davis doesn't suit up for them this season, and once more, it behooves New Orleans to let Boston make a pitch.
Still, New York is at the fore of teams most likely to mortgage it all for Davis, both now and later—especially if, as a source told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, they have "a strong chance" of poaching Kevin Durant in free agency.
Verdict: Totally, unequivocally, irrevocably not B.S.
Toronto plans to wedge itself into the Davis conversation, per O'Connor—which is equal parts sensible, terrifying and not at all a sure thing.
Building something around OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright, a future pick and filler (Jonas Valanciunas) is among the most tantalizing midseason bids the Pelicans could solicit. It still isn't enough to force them into action without fielding a permissible offer from the Celtics.
That works for the Raptors. They can assemble a comparable, if not better, package over the summer, when then they'll know for a fact what Kawhi Leonard is doing. Wright's restricted free agency rules him out, but the Raptors have Fred VanVleet and could include 2020 and 2022 first-rounders.
Would Toronto play its best hand before hashing out Leonard's future? Maybe. Davis is under contract for another year, and team president Masai Ujiri is as gutsy as they come. But it becomes exponentially harder to keep Davis after losing Leonard and emptying the cupboard. The Raptors know this, and for the time being, their offers might reflect the relative ambiguity of their situation.
Verdict: Believable, justifiable, but kind of BSish.
Lonzo Ball Doesn't Want to End Up in New Orleans
Leave it to LaVar Lonzo Ball's camp to try making the Anthony Davis sweepstakes about Lonzo Ball.
Should the Lakers and Pelicans ever break bread, sources told The Athletic's Shams Charania that Ball's reps have made it known they want Lonzo "to be moved to a third team that doesn't have an established point guard."
Loosely translated: LaVar Ball is really high on Elfrid Payton. Or Ball's camp has not seen Jrue Holiday play a minute of basketball over the past two seasons.
Or, more likely, it means that Lonzo and Co. have no desire to live in New Orleans.
Count me among those intrigued by the opportunity to see Ball play beside Holiday while having more control over the offense than he does in Los Angeles. But if he's against moving to The Big Easy, the Pelicans should force the Lakers to cobble together a respectable offer without him or scour the market for third-team facilitators.
Could the Phoenix Suns get involved, dangling some combination of Richaun Holmes, Josh Jackson and picks? Can the Orlando Magic talk themselves into dealing Jonathan Isaac and this year's first-rounder? Would the Dallas Mavericks pair Dennis Smith Jr. with Dorian Finney-Smith and/or Maxi Kleber? Does an offer built around Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard and a pick put the Detroit Pistons in play?
Is any of this enough? Too much? The least bit plausible?
The logistics that go into keeping Ball out of New Orleans are up for debate. The idea that he wants no part of the Pelicans is not.
Verdict: No B.S. detected.
Other Pelicans Available?
Anthony Davis' eventual exit changes the calculus for the Pelicans' future. They've yet to indicate how, but at some point they'll have to weigh a full-scale rebuild against trying to remain relevant without him.
"Over the weekend, I had heard from two separate teams that [Nikola] Mirotic, [Julius] Randle and [E'Twaun] Moore had all been made available for picks. New Orleans is known for perhaps playing some misdirection, so teams didn't know what to think of this. One team made of it, their guess and/or impression was, New Orleans was trying to get picks that it then flips for a big, big piece in a save-the-season trade."
From the outside, the Pelicans should sell off everyone, tank the rest of this season, unload Davis over the summer and continue positioning themselves for top-shelf lottery odds until they land that next transcendent cornerstone. But teams do not rebuild in a vacuum.
Finding the next Davis could take a decade or longer, if it ever even happens. And should that once-in-a-generation talent come along, the Pelicans aren't guaranteed to get him. Pared-down lottery odds level the playing field for squads with bottom-three records and significantly boost the chances of other teams jumping into the top three.
Starting over may not be what the Pelicans have in mind. Then again, that isn't what the availability of Mirotic, Moore and Randle would portend.
Both Mirotic and Randle (player option) are heading toward free agency. Paying both would be redundant, and New Orleans doesn't have Randle's Bird rights. Moore is a solid rotation piece, but he's no building block.
Regardless of what happens with Davis, New Orleans should be shopping all three. It's called due diligence. This season spiraled that far out of control before Davis' trade request, and the Pelicans might be able to flip one, two or all of them for picks and prospects they can treat as keepers or tools to acquire a player they wouldn't otherwise get face time with in free agency.
Verdict: This is a B.S.-free zone.
Klay Vibing the Lakers If They Get AD?
Klay Thompson might have eyes for the Lakers...if they get Anthony Davis...and if the Golden State Warriors don't show him the love in free agency.
"The best-case scenario for the Lakers is that they add Anthony Davis and then Golden State doesn't offer Klay Thompson a max contract," Wojnarowski said on SportsCenter. "They try to get Klay to take a little bit less than the max. And if that happens, I'm told Klay's attention will be on the Lakers if they have Anthony Davis."
This is sort of spicy, but mostly irrelevant.
Visions of Thompson accepting a discount to save Golden State's billionaire owners tens of millions in luxury-tax payments were put to bed before the regular season. As of October, the Warriors were not expecting him to take less, according to Lowe.
Nor should they. Thompson has conceded enough on the court, at times working as the Warriors' fourth option. He's also coming off what became a below-market rookie extension following the cap spike. His 2018-19 salary will jump by nearly $14 million in 2019-20 on a 30 percent max. (He'll need to make an All-NBA team to qualify for the 35 percent max.)
Golden State shouldn't be faulted for when Thompson signed his previous deal (2014), but going on 29, this could be his last chance to ink a long-term pact. Maybe he signs a shorter contract that puts him back in free agency before the tail end of his prime. Or perhaps he ends up shaving a little off the top in exchange for a fifth year.
Whatever Thompson plans to do, the Warriors must roll with it. They cannot afford to lose him—not with Kevin Durant's future up in the air. They should save the hemming and hawing for Draymond Green's free agency in 2020, when he'll be 30 and their roster will look much different.
Verdict: No B.S. on Klay wanting the max, but call B.S. on anyone who doesn't think Golden State will give it to him.
Kyrie Souring on the Celtics?
Not even four months after declaring his intention to re-sign with the Celtics, Kyrie Irving may be having second thoughts.
According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, there is "growing belief of uncertainty" that the star point guard will stick in Boston. Meanwhile, on the heels of his offering an apology to LeBron James for how things went down in Cleveland, a "source close to the Celtics" told Bucher that "Irving is genuinely interested in reuniting with his former Cavaliers teammate."
Bolting for Los Angeles—or any other team—after pledging his allegiance to Boston wouldn't be a great look. But Irving has set the stage for some waffling this summer with questionable, at best, attempts to galvanize his teammates.
Immediately, this doesn't impact the Celtics. They're not trading him. They do, however, need to have a larger conversation about what might happen with him if the Pelicans don't wait to move Davis. Irving is that much of an enigma. He's the same player that (wisely) extricated himself from Cleveland's NBA Finals treadmill.
Boston should go ahead and hold onto Terry Rozier, a restricted free agent this summer, past the trade deadline—you know, just in case.
Verdict: Some B.S. present, but not as much as you might think.
Other Noteworthy Rumors
Atlanta Shopping Taurean Prince
Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Jeremy Lin continue to headline the Hawks' list of available players, but Taurean Prince is also on the table, according to Charania. This isn't a huge surprise.
Prince has struggled amid ankle injuries and a slightly smaller role and hasn't yet shown he can log heavy minutes at power forward. That Atlanta's current front-office regime didn't draft him doesn't help.
At the same time, moving players on rookie-scale deals is impossible without taking a bath. The Hawks, in all likelihood, aren't getting more than a low-end first-rounder for Prince, and he's more valuable to their future than a lukewarm flier.
Verdict: The B.S. is strong in this one.
Bradley Beal and Kemba Walker Staying Put
Despite attempts from multiple teams to get their hands on Bradley Beal and Kemba Walker, neither the Charlotte Hornets nor Washington Wizards, respectively, is willing to play ball, according to Charania. Don't expect that to change.
Charlotte is pot committed to Walker. The time to move him was last season or over the summer, not more than halfway through his contract year. The Hornets will have a better shot at netting more value for his services when he's on his next deal.
Washington doesn't have the same problem with Beal. He has two years and $55.8 million left on his pact and should command a premium on the trade market. But the Wizards have played themselves back into the Eastern Conference's playoff picture, John Wall's contract makes any rebuild look harrowing, and owner Ted Leonsis has no desire to tank.
Otto Porter might still make it onto the chopping block, per Charania. It also wouldn't be shocking to see the Wizards function like buyers at the deadline. Seriously.
Verdict: Nothing to B.S. about here.
Thon Maker Wants Out of Milwaukee
Thon Maker's agent, Mike George, has discussed trade scenarios with the Bucks that would land the 21-year-old on a team prepared to give him a larger role, according to Wojnarowski. It's not hard to see why.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer has all but removed Maker from the rotation. He has tallied five DNPs over the past 11 games while logging more than 10 minutes just once. Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson are all in front him, as are Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-center combinations.
With restricted free agency on the horizon (2020), a change of scenery could do Maker some good. Whether the Bucks grant his request is another matter.
General manager Jon Horst was a member of the front office that selected Maker 10th overall in 2016, and "there remains strong organizational belief" in his future, per Woj. Milwaukee isn't just going to give him away.
Verdict: No B.S. to report.