BS Meter on Latest 2019 NBA Trade Deadline Rumors
Rumor has it you don't have to navigate the NBA's latest trade chatter by yourself.
Sources confirm this is, in fact, true. Bleacher Report is here to help.
Not only is this space a compilation of the most recent and pertinent rumors, but it contains our trusty ol' B.S. detector to determine whether the gossip that's making the rounds is on the money or tilts more toward flim-flam.
To be clear, this will not be a gauge on the actual reporting. Scuttlebutt that makes the cut comes exclusively from trusted newsbreakers. Our B.S. meter is more of a buy-or-sell barometer that aims to answer one question: Do the rumblings make sense for those most closely associated with them?
And just to reiterate, this isn't meant to be a rehashing of the same babble. Teams are interested in trading for Robert Covington. Kevin Love is very available. We get it. This space is reserved for the newest hearsay or for reports that substantively build on what's already known.
Let us now go where every devoted hoops head has gone before. To the NBA's late-January grapevine!
Pelicans Sitting Out Trade Talks...for Now
Initially billed as potential sellers but also possible buyers, the New Orleans Pelicans are instead resisting the urge to choose a trade-deadline leaning. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on Sportscenter that they "really pulled back in trade talks among all their players" (h/t Forbes' Tommy Beer).
Sign us all the way up for New Orleans' "Now wait just a damn minute!" approach.
Zion Williamson only just made his regular-season debut. The Pelicans need time to see how he fits with the rest of the roster before committing to a direction. They don't have much of a grace period with the deadline only two weeks away, but that's fine.
New Orleans doesn't need Zion to be a savior, or even to push it over the edge. The Pelicans won 10 of their last 14 games entering Wednesday, over which time they were fifth in points scored per 100 possessions and fourth in net rating.
This doesn't feel like a total fluke. They've rattled off wins over the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz during this stretch, as well as fringe playoff squads like the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers. They've generally defended better since Derrick Favors' initial return from lower back spasms. Jrue Holiday has rejoined the rotation. Lonzo Ball looks more comfortable at both ends. Brandon Ingram should be an All-Star.
That the Pelicans have the league's easiest remaining schedule, per PlayoffStatus.com, should only embolden their conservative deadline stance. If anything, they have more of an incentive to buy low than sell high. (Think: Darius Miller for Tony Snell, or something along these lines.)
Holiday and JJ Redick would both fetch premiums on the chopping block. Big whoop. That will still be true this summer should the Pelicans decide they need to embrace a more traditional reset—which, frankly, they may not.
B.S. Meter: Zero B.S. detected.
Clippers Keeping Tabs on Aron Baynes
Consensus championship contenders don't tend to need much at the deadline. The Los Angeles Clippers might be an exception.
They could use a combo-forward upgrade from Moe Harkless. And a big man who is more playoff-proof than Ivica Zubac but more of a rebounding presence than Montrezl Harrell. And a more conventional floor general. And a shooter aside from Landry Shamet who can get looks off on the move.
This is all presented with the caveat that the Clippers are 14-4 and are annihilating opponents when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard play together. They could do nothing at the deadline and remain in the hunt for a title.
Still, both George and Leonard have battled injuries and can re-enter free agency in 2021 (player options). Now is not the time to willingly accept the status quo.
It doesn't appear that they will. The Clippers have shown preliminary interest in Derrick Rose, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes; are among the many teams linked to Robert Covington, according to the Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen; and are still mentioned as a potential Andre Iguodala destination.
Their interest isn't hard to rationalize. He's a bruising presence at both ends of the floor, and while he's cooled off from beyond the arc, he has more pick-and-pop range than Harrell or Zubac.
Prioritizing an upgrade at center is arguably the right move for Los Angeles. Darren Collison could potentially beef up the backcourt if he comes out of retirement, and Shamet has shown a little more pep in recent weeks, mitigating some of the urgency to acquire another shooter. Bolstering the Harkless minutes would be nice, but combo wings are in extreme demand. Harkless himself would represent an upgrade for more than a few rotations.
Settling on Baynes as a top target is right up the Clippers' alley. At the same time, finding a workable deal is tough. The Phoenix Suns don't need Zubac with Deandre Ayton in tow, and Harrell isn't an ideal fit beside the latter unless one of them starts chucking threes.
Though the Clippers have other ways to match Baynes' $5.5 million salary and can dangle this year's first-round pick, they need to be wary of taking on another big about to enter free agency. They already have to worry about paying Harrell. Baynes won't command nearly as much ahead of his age-34 season, but locking up both in addition to having Zubac on the books will get pricey.
Treating Baynes as a rental this season would be fine if the price is low enough, but it won't be. And with so few ways to improve the roster going forward, the Clippers cannot afford to burn a first-rounder on a temporary fix. They should focus their attentions on bigs who won't cost as much or wait for the buyout market to take shape.
B.S. Meter: Baynes is a good on-court fit, but the Suns aren't the Clippers' ideal trade partner. They should move on.
Alec Burks Drawing Serious Interest
"Several teams in recent weeks have expressed interest in Burks, according to league sources, and some have gone so far to scout him. That's not likely to change. There is demand for veteran, low-maintenance wings unbothered by circumstances and capable of creating offense for both themselves and teammates."
It doesn't hurt that Burks counts as only $1.6 million against his team's books (his actual salary is $2.3 million), rendering him particularly tantalizing for squads light on cap flexibility and/or dispensable salary-matching assets. Shot creation typically comes at a premium, and Burks is hitting 35.5 percent of his pull-up threes and ranks in the 70th percentile of pick-and-roll scoring efficiency while earning the league minimum.
Whether he will be as effective on a team that isn't giving him almost 30 minutes per game and floating his highest usage rate since 2015-16 is a separate matter. Some players are more at home working on the ball. He's one of them. Displacing him from the rock may adversely impact his output.
At such a low price point, though, Burks is worth a flier. He's canning 36.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, and contenders like the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have the bandwidth to use him as a bench-unit headliner—or at the very least a secondary ball-handler in glitzier lineups.
The Warriors, meanwhile, don't have much of a reason to keep Burks past the deadline. His bang has outpaced his buck, but they don't own his Bird rights. They'll need to use an exception to re-sign him this summer. And while that should be enough to keep him in town, a team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and (presumably) D'Angelo Russell is better off investing its best free-agency tools elsewhere.
B.S. Meter: No B.S. here.
Sixers Prioritizing Bogdan Bogdanovic and a RoCo Renuion
The Philadelphia 76ers are in a tough spot entering the deadline. They need an influx of playmaking and shooting, but they don't have the salary-matching tools to explore major trade-market options without dealing one of their starters, which isn't happening.
Lower-salary solutions are harder to find, but they do exist. The Sixers are already targeting them. They have interest in Derrick Rose, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, and are "currently focusing on Bogdan Bogdanovic and Robert Covington as potential deadline acquisitions," according to Jon Johnson of 94WIP.
Packaging Mike Scott and Zhaire Smith with picks would give the Sixers enough salary to land any of those three. With that said, they should promptly remove themselves from the RoCo sweepstakes.
Meeting the Minnesota Timberwolves' likely demands figures to be tough. Covington has two years and $25.1 million left on his contract, making him neither an imminent flight risk nor overpaid. For the type of equity it'll take to pry him from Minnesota, the Sixers should be prioritizing secondary ball-handlers who can shoot off the dribble. Covington doesn't fit that bill, and Philly will be bidding against a slew of other suitors, per the Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen.
Ponying up for Bogdanovic or Rose might even prove too costly. Bogdanovic is exactly what they need, but the Sacramento Kings are unlikely to move him, per NBC Sports Bay Area's James Ham. The Detroit Pistons should take a similar stance on Rose, who has another year at $7.7 million left on his deal.
Bogdanovic makes the most sense of the three targets—Rose partners his playmaking with shaky shooting—but the Sixers have to reconcile the opportunity cost of acquiring any impact player.
Barring an injury to one of their starters, nobody they land at the deadline will be slated to close games. Unloading some of their best trade chips for what could be their seventh man, depending on how you view Matisse Thybulle, wouldn't be the best asset management.
If Bogdanovic can be had for a song, the Sixers should absolutely pounce. Even then, they have to consider what it'll cost to bring him back next season, when they're projected to be well into the luxury tax. Waiting for the buyout market to develop or setting its sights even lower (Alec Burks, Langston Galloway) is Philly's most efficient play.
B.S. Meter: Humming slightly. Philly needs to adjust its primary targets.
OKC Thunder Still Open to Blowing It Up
Firmly planting themselves in the Western Conference's playoff picture hasn't convinced the Oklahoma City Thunder to stand pat. They are "still interested in hearing what teams are willing to offer before the trade deadline," according to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus.
This tracks with what ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said during an early January appearance on SportsCenter: Oklahoma City is "open for business" in advance of Feb. 6 (h/t the OKC Dream Team podcast's Andrew Schlecht).
Color yours truly skeptical that the Thunder will disband what was supposed to be their makeshift roster. They are closer to the West's No. 5 spot than the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies, and they own the league's eighth-best net rating since Thanksgiving.
That isn't license for them to reverse course and become buyers. Their core is still very much provisional, a scenic detour on the way to their actual fresh start. But letting this year's postseason push play out wouldn't delay their endgame.
Ensuring they keep their draft pick (owed to Philadelphia with top-20 protection) has little value ahead of a weak 2020 class, and they could have as many as 15 first-rounders between this June and 2026. Who's to say they can bottom out anyway? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already a borderline star, and they aren't finding homes for all four of Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder by the deadline.
Oklahoma City should find that waiting to bust up its roster is more profitable. Both Adams and Schroder, a Sixth Man of the Year favorite, will be more appealing as expiring contracts this summer. The light at the end of Paul's deal will be slightly more visible over the offseason, too.
More urgency is ingrained into Gallinari's future since he'll be a free agent this summer. However, even that isn't cause for the Thunder to rush. So few teams have meaningful cap space this summer that they could feasibly get more value for him in a sign-and-trade or by flipping him around next year's deadline.
Godfather offers from desperate suitors are subject to push Oklahoma City towards dissolution. That's assuming those overtures ever come. They probably won't.
No team is going to view Adams or Schroder as its missing piece, and most will be reticent to fork over too much for Gallinari when he's up for a new contract. Paul has outperformed expectations, but the two years and $85.6 million he's owed will still scare away most prospective admirers. And as he told SI.com's Rohan Nadkarni, he has no plans to decline his $44.2 million player option for 2021-22 to help facilitate a trade.
B.S. Meter: Oklahoma City should definitely be listening to offers, but it doesn't have the cleanest path to starting completely over right now.
Lakers and Sixers Eyeing Derrick Rose
The Los Angeles Lakers must figure out how to navigate their offense without LeBron James. They rank inside the 85th percentile of points scored per 100 possessions with him on the court, but that standing plummets to the 59th percentile when he's off the floor. It falls even lower, to the 43rd percentile, with Anthony Davis included in those lineups.
Hovering around average offensive production without James is hardly the end of the world. It could even be considered borderline encouraging. But the defense has taken the largest hit during his breathers, most notably when Rajon Rondo is running the show. Los Angeles ranks in the 82nd percentile of offensive efficiency when Rondo goes it alone but is a net negative overall because it's coughing up 115.3 points per 100 possessions (11th percentile).
Adding another playmaker won't solve that problem on its own unless he's a top-flight defender. But the Lakers are almost barren of reliable secondary ball-handlers, and upgrading the Rondo minutes at either end of the floor would be a win.
Derrick Rose has caught their eye, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes—and not just because they're all about 2011 MVP candidates.
The 31-year-old has been a genuine asset this season. He's averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in only 26.1 minutes per game, and the Detroit Pistons offense improves by a team-high 9.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, a swing so large that it ranks in the 95th percentile.
Rose doesn't get to the rim nearly as often as he did in his prime, but he's posting a career-high clip there when does. His three-point touch remains below average, but he's downing 47 percent of his mid-range looks, tying his personal-best mark.
Subbing out Rondo for him would put far more pressure on opposing defenses. Rose is averaging 24.5 drives per 36 minutes compared to the former's 11.8. That extra probing opens scoring opportunities for both Rose and those around him. Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the only players who have tossed more corner three-point assists, per PBP Stats.
Asking price is bound to be an issue. Rose is under contract for a tidy $7.7 million next year, which gives the Pistons leverage to demand more than if he were a midseason rental. The Lakers cannot flip a first-round pick, and including Kyle Kuzma in any deal that doesn't net another combo forward would be dicey at best.
This same thinking applies to Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the latter of whom has an implicit no-trade clause. The Lakers could offer multiple second-rounders while granting the Pistons more wiggle room under the tax with a two-player package of Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels, but the first of those draft selections wouldn't convey until 2023.
If they want Rose, they might have to decide whether he's worth surrendering Talen Horton-Tucker.
B.S. Meter: The Lakers' interest in Rose is plausible. Their path to getting him? Not so much.