BS Meter on NBA's Biggest Preseason Rumors: CP3, Beal, Fultz and More
It may have seemed like just yesterday that Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors held the Larry O'Brien Trophy high, but here we are just a month from the start of the 2019-20 NBA season.
With the start of media day, training camp and preseason play comes a new list of rumors.
Will one of Bradley Beal or Chris Paul land alongside Jimmy Butler in Miami? Are Kevon Looney and Ben Simmons getting better from three? Is the Markelle Fultz hype for real?
We present each rumor with a final verdict in our latest B.S. Meter.
The Wiz Ain't Trading Bradley Beal?
No franchise's superstar is safe in the "player empowerment era," and Bradley Beal may be on the move next.
"Knowing that he has two more years under contract with us is valuable information. I take my cues on how he's interacting," Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He has shown time and time again how committed he is to D.C."
The Wizards don't have a history of winning to sell their star shooting guard on for the future. The club has failed to reach the conference finals in 40 years and won just 32 games in 2018-19 with Beal as its leader. While he had gaudy stats (25.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds), the Wizards did little to improve his odds in 2019-20.
The main additions? Isaiah Thomas, CJ Miles, Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura and Mo Wagner.
The Wizards have their own first-round picks going forward without the benefit of any others, and looming over everything is the remaining four years, $171.1 million owed to John Wall, who will likely not see the floor in 2019-20.
"We have until October 21st. I think it's up to him, whenever he wants to make a decision on that. I haven't been worrying about it all," Sheppard said in regard to the three-year, $111 million extension Beal became eligible for this offseason.
He has no reason to make that decision now. Next season he'll become eligible for a much richer extension; however, it may become too late at that point, and his trade value may drop precipitously with just one year remaining on his contract. He'll have leverage and his choice of destinations in that scenario.
Verdict: No BS, at least until the deadline
CP3 Won't Play a Minute in OKC?
Moving Chris Paul has long been a source of consternation and anticipation for fans of the Point God. But with his astronomical three years and over $124 million remaining on his contract, how will any team find the motivation, much less the salary, to make it work?
The problem goes even deeper. With nearly 40 percent of the league's players signing deals this summer, many aren't even eligible to be dealt until Dec. 15. However, one team fits the bill in need and finances: the Miami Heat. Better still, they've already shown interest in the 34-year-old.
"That said, there are deals that could be done with the Heat to ease the Thunder's position against the cap—deals that assuredly would start with Goran Dragic's expiring contract," Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote. "Chris Paul, his uneven time in Houston aside, is still elite. And, yes, he would make this season's Heat better (plus, he wants to be here). But the Heat are in a delicate spot where they have to weigh both the present and the future."
Pat Riley and Sam Presti find themselves in a game of chicken.
From the Heat's perspective, unloading expiring contracts (Dragic) while taking on Paul's remaining deal comes as a negative gain—and understandably so. From the Thunder's perspective, Paul is still a bona fide top-20 player. His 4.76 real plus-minus was still in the top five among point guards and 12th overall, and he averaged 8.2 dimes per game.
Of course, Paul could probably facilitate all of this by waiving his fourth-year player option, valued at over $44 million, but he would be unlikely to do so.
Verdict: No BS. Heat swap Kelly Olynyk and Dragic for Paul and Denver's 2020 first (top-10 protected)
Markelle Fultz Will Start for the Magic?
The 2017 No. 1 overall pick hit the trending button on Twitter this past Wednesday when the Magic announced his full availability in a team shootaround. Better still, the team said Markelle Fultz would be available for training camp without restriction.
"I was the No. 1 pick for a reason," he told reporters Wednesday.
"This [starting point guard spot] is for Markelle Fultz to lose. DJ [Augustin] is OK with being the backup or the starter. He's in position to do both. His true value is in his willingness to do both. … I spent some time with him [Fultz] this summer. He's healthy. He's ready to go. He's going to take the league by surprise. That's my MIP."
President Jeff Weltman is still being cautious with his low-risk, high-reward gamble. After all, Fultz has played all of 33 games in his two seasons, and he's dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome.
"We're going to remain patient," Weltman told reporters. "We're not going to put expectations or timelines on his development. He hasn't played basketball in a year. He's played 33 games total in his career. So it's going to unfold the way it unfolds."
Verdict: No BS; Fultz plays 50-plus games in a bumpy but promising season
Is This Jaylen Brown's Last Season in Boston?
Jaylen Brown's chances of extending before next offseason are "pretty slim," according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.
Paying Brown the maximum $170 million extension inked by classmates Jamal Murray and Ben Simmons doesn't make much sense. Brown remains at best a third option in the Celtics offense, and while he is best known for his penchant as dogged defender, he finished a paltry 28th in defensive real plus-minus among shooting guards in 2018-19.
Brown will have every opportunity to back up the Brink's truck in 2019-20. The Celtics' expectations appear lower than last season's with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone, and that should lead to more opportunities for Brown. Should he replicate his 15-game stretch in January that saw him average 20.0 points and 7.1 rebounds on 41.8 percent shooting from three per 36, he'd greatly increase his value.
Regardless, the Celtics can match any offer. Should Gordon Hayward return to form, he'll likely decline his player option, creating an even bigger need for Brown. If Hayward opts into his deal, the Celtics' possibilities will be limited, prompting what could be an inevitable re-signing.
The one danger comes in Brown outperforming expectations and earning the full max offer next summer in what appears to be a dry free-agent class.
Verdict: No BS; Brown bounces for a big payday
Kevon Looney, the 'Other' Splash Brother?
His performance, coupled with a lack of financial flexibility, led to his return to Golden State at three years, $15 million.
With those guaranteed dollars come heightened expectations. Because of Klay Thompson's season-long ACL injury and the departure of Kevin Durant, a new task has been assigned to the Warriors' starting center: shooting.
Looney told The Athletic's Anthony Slater:
"You're right, it's something they've said. But I think the makeup of our team this year is going to call for me to shoot more threes. I expanded the mid-range jump shot, just to open the game up, make it easier for Steph [Curry] so he has some outlets. But I've really been working on the three. Steve [Kerr] gave me the green light. Well, he gave me the green light before, but this one, it feels a little different. Like, even if you miss, I want you to keep shooting, because we need you to make that shot."
Looney has made just five three-pointers in his career on 26 attempts (19.2 percent). Should he take 164 this season (two per game), is it conceivable for the big man to make 50 three-pointers, 10 times that of his entire career?
Verdict: BS; we need to see it to believe it.
Where Will Joakim Noah Land?
It's a crime Joakim Noah doesn't have a team yet.
True, the 34-year-old is far closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he still finished 16th in defensive real-plus minus and came on strong late in the season.
Post-All-Star break, Noah finished with 18.9 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists on 53.8 percent shooting per 36. Even his averages of 11.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per his actual 21.3 minute per game were impressive.
So, why doesn't this man have a job yet?
He was close on multiple occasions this summer, as both L.A. squads gave him a look. The Lakers explored bringing Noah in after the untimely injury to DeMarcus Cousins before settling on Dwight Howard. The Clippers wanted to meet with Noah just this past week before it fell through.
With uncertainty behind Howard and JaVale McGee and the lack of depth behind Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, it seems only a matter of time.
Verdict: Noah's glorious mane makes its way to Staples Center
Ben Simmons, the Floor-Spacer?
This could change everything for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers point guard carries the open-court vision of John Stockton with the size (6'10") and physicality of a center. Only Russell Westbrook puts up similar stats at the position, while Simmons' eFG (56.3) carries him far beyond his Western Conference counterpart's 46.8 percent.
His lone weakness, albeit a costly one, has been his inability to shoot.
"For me, it starts here and here first completely, the willingness to shoot," Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters.
Across two seasons and 160 games, Simmons has attempted just 17 three-pointers and has yet to make one. In fact, 83.2 percent of his attempts came within eight feet of the basket.
With the departure of JJ Redick, the Sixers are primed to face a problem with floor spacing. Josh Richardson and Al Horford's 237 combined threes last season may mitigate some of that, but for Joel Embiid and Simmons to share the floor in games that matter, Simmons will have to expand his game beyond the stripe.
"You're probably going to see him in one of the corners," Brown said. "I'm going to start there. We're going to encourage him to shoot threes." … "We're not going to hunt threes. When they are available, I want him to shoot them."
Verdict: Again, we'll believe it when we see it
Is Deandre Ayton Shifting to Power Forward?
Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones dropped a bit of a bombshell in comments regarding last year's No. 1 overall pick.
"This year, we have—from Frank [Kaminsky], Dario [Saric], Cheick [Diallo]—we can play Deandre [Ayton] at power forward if we need to, with Aron Baynes as our center," Jones told Lindsey Smith on The Outlet. "We have a lot of depth at that position."
"I wanted to run more. I wanted to push the ball more off the rebound and just really shoot that three ball," the 7'1", 250-pound Ayton said, smiling.
The pairing of Aron Baynes and Ayton could work if Baynes continues his hot shooting as part of Australia's FIBA World Cup team. The 6'10", 260-pound center shot 52.4 percent from three on 2.6 shots per game.
"That's my born and raised position is power forward," Ayton said, per Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports.
Verdict: No BS; the Suns will experiment with Ayton at the 4, and it may accelerate their tanking odds