BS Meter on Latest NBA Draft, Free-Agency and Offseason Rumors

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 29, 2019

BS Meter on Latest NBA Draft, Free-Agency and Offseason Rumors

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The rumor mill is rolling as the NBA draft and free agency rapidly approach.

    Prospects are reportedly receiving promises about their selection spots. Free agents are identifying potential homes. In one case, a superstar who won't hit the open market for another two years already has people talking about his future plans.

    It's an incredible amount of activity for Association fanatics, but it can come off as information overload. If well-connected reporters can offer only educated guesses about what happens next, how are fans supposed to decipher what's legitimate and what's a smokescreen?

    Consider it your lucky day, folks, because our trusty B.S. meter is built to do precisely that.

    We'll put it to the test by examining the validity of the latest offseason whispers.

Celtics Make 1st-Round Promise to Matisse Thybulle?

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    A dogged defender with potentially severe offensive limitations, Matisse Thybulle is the type of high-floor, low-ceiling prospect who should appeal mostly to win-now clubs. He seems to have done just that, as his absence from the NBA Draft Combine sparked speculation about whether he's received a first-round promise.

    According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Boston Celtics were the ones who made that promise. With an obvious appreciation for lanky, defensive-minded wings and several selections in Thybulle's likely draft range (Nos. 20 and 22), Boston stands as a logical landing spot for the 2019 Naismith Men's Defensive Player of the Year.

    Thybulle also fits the recent draft mold of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who Kyler previously heard made the promise. Moreover, almost every playoff team could use a perimeter stopper like Thybulle, especially if they sense any untapped offensive potential.

    His defensive resume is remarkable. The 6'5" wing surpassed Hall of Famer Gary Payton as the Pac-12's career steals leader and blocked 82 shots this past season, seven fewer than 2018-19 NBA blocks leader Myles Turner tallied during his lone year of college ball (89).

    Thybulle's offensive profile tells a different story. He left the Huskies with a four-year scoring average in the single digits and an even 2.0 assists per game. He showed some flashes of three-point proficiency earlier in his career, but he shot a woeful 30.5 percent from deep as a senior.

    His first NBA employer either will look past that or be convinced it can fashion the right role for him. The Celtics could have an interest in being that team, but so might 10 other squads with a first-round selection.

    Verdict: No B.S. on a first-round assurance from someone, possible B.S. it came from Boston.

Bucks Need Finals Trip to Keep Giannis?

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Whoever coined the phrase "life comes at you fast" must have been an NBA fan.

    Less than two weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks appeared bound for the NBA Finals. Then a double-overtime loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals spiraled into three more defeats, and poof—a 60-win season went down the drain.

    Now, the Bucks are the latest small-market club to have their superstar's future questioned.

    According to ESPN's Malika Andrews, a source close to Giannis Antetokounmpo said an NBA Finals trip "could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future." Considering the 24-year-old MVP finalist just became eligible for a supermax extension next summer, this report already gives the 2019-20 campaign now-or-never stakes for Milwaukee.

    Except Antetokounmpo hardly sounded like he was in a hurry at his exit interview.

    "I think this is just the start of a long journey," he told reporters. "We're going to get better and we're going to come back next year, believing in who we are and believing in what we've built this year."

    Those comments are by no means the equivalent of putting pen to paper on a new deal. Milwaukee must do everything in its power to assemble the strongest roster possible around him. Even if he's not looking elsewhere, others are eyeing him. For instance, one source told Newsday's Steve Popper that the Los Angeles Lakers added former Bucks head coach Jason Kidd as an assistant to help recruit Antetokounmpo in 2021.

    Andrews' report could be Antetokounmpo's camp holding Milwaukee's feet to the fire ahead of an offseason in which several key contributors—including Khris Middleton (player option), Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon—will hit the open market. While there's no reason to believe Antetokounmpo wants to leave sooner or later, the mere mention of the possibility is a loud reminder that this is no time for penny-pinching.

    Verdict: B.S., for now at least.

Jimmy Butler Would Jump on Lakers' Max Offer?

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Jimmy Butler won't agree with this, but his case for a max contract is far from ironclad.

    He'll turn an older-than-it-sounds 30 this September, aged by injury issues and too many seasons as one of Tom Thibodeau's high-mileage favorites. From an offensive standpoint, Butler is more Robin than Batman. He went through messy splits from both the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Maybe all of the above and more might cause the Philadelphia 76ers to hesitate putting max money in front of him. That could open the door for a free-agent poacher such as the Los Angeles Lakers to pounce.

    "He likes L.A., LeBron James has been in touch with him and he would join the Lakers in a second if they offered him a max deal," Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times tweeted last week.

    So, is such an offer likely? We'd describe it more as conceivable.

    Butler's name is almost certainly not at the top of the Lakers' offseason wish list. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson are all likely preferred targets. But most of the free agents in that group are long shots (Irving might be the exception), and the New Orleans Pelicans could be as disinterested in the Lakers' AD offer now as they were at the trade deadline.

    Butler wouldn't be the worst backup plan if he's willing to wait out L.A.'s other pursuits. If he inks a max deal, he'll probably be overpaid for a portion of it, but the Lakers may have to swallow that to improve their present outlook with LeBron.

    Verdict: No obvious B.S. in Butler's interest, but he probably isn't the Lakers' first priority.

De'Andre Hunter, Darius Garland the Targets at No. 4?

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Barring any blockbuster trades, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett will likely be the first three picks in the 2019 draft in that order.

    The intrigue thus starts with the fourth selection, which the Lakers hold after a lucky night at the draft lottery. Will they seek someone with the most potential, or is NBA readiness more important with Father Time gaining ground on LeBron? Is L.A. even keeping this pick, or might it change hands in a megadeal for AD?

    Plenty of options are on the table, but Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler heard the Lakers are expected to choose between two prospects: Virginia swingman De'Andre Hunter and Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland.

    That's fascinating if true, since both come from different ends of the prospect spectrum.

    Hunter, who helped steer Virginia to the national title, is a classic plug-and-play support piece. He'll defend multiple positions from opening night, and he should stretch out opposing defenses (he shot 41.9 percent from deep in college). The cost of his safety, though, is upside. He'll turn 22 in December, isn't all that explosive and doesn't show signs of advanced shot creation.

    Garland is more mysterious, having played only four full college games before he suffered a season-ending meniscus tear in the fifth. He's a scoring threat in most situations and a sharpshooter both off the catch and on the move, but he's yet to show the volume or efficiency of a lead playmaker.

    Each could give the Lakers something they need. Of course, that's also true of Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish and Coby White, all of whom probably shouldn't be ruled out.

    Verdict: No B.S. that Hunter and Garland are in the race; B.S. that it's a two-prospect field.

Mutual Interest Between Brooklyn and Kyrie?

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    On the heels of their collective second-round flop, both Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics might be ready for a divorce. As soon as Uncle Drew declines his $21.3 million player option, he'll hit the open market and have no shortage of possible landing spots.

    Not only are the Brooklyn Nets in the sweepstakes, but they might be the clubhouse leader.

    "Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston," SNY's Anthony Puccio reported, citing sources. "Irving's camp has kept a close eye on the Nets as the season progressed and the team got better, with the playoffs only helping their case."

    Irving grew up as a Nets fan in New Jersey. It's no surprise they'd be on his radar given their cultural change, rise to relevance and potential for two max-contract slots. 

    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Puccio's report is the Nets supposedly not seeing Irving and D'Angelo Russell as an either/or proposition. While they'd prefer putting a different double-max combination together—like Irving with Kevin Durant—"sources say the Nets would be open to pairing Irving and Russell in the backcourt together," Puccio reported.

    Color us skeptical on the Irving-Russell idea. While the Nets have often fielded multiple ball-handlers in head coach Kenny Atkinson's system, Irving is potentially leaving behind a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen scenario in Boston. Immediately joining forces with a ball-dominant lead guard would be a curious choice.

    But the rest of the rumor checks out. Brooklyn's up-and-coming supporting cast checks most boxes for the ideal role players with Irving (shooters, stoppers and rim protectors), and his arrival would give the offense a turbocharged version of Russell. The transition should be smooth, and the ceiling could rise several stories.

    Verdict: No B.S. on Irving interest, major B.S. on Irving-Russell pairing.

                   

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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