Buying or Selling NBA's Biggest Offseason Rumors

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 14, 2020

Buying or Selling NBA's Biggest Offseason Rumors

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    The 2020 NBA offseason is on after the Los Angeles Lakers' six-game Finals takedown of the Miami Heat.

    Most teams have been in offseason mode for weeks, if not months, which explains why the rumor mill is so active this close to basketball's latest coronation.

    But when there's so much chatter, it's tough to tell which bits of info are trustworthy. Luckily, we're here to make heads or tails of the biggest rumors around with some good, old-fashioned buying or selling decisions.

Timberwolves Want to Trade Top Pick?

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Timberwolves were overdue for some draft-lottery luck, and they got it when the pingpong balls bounced their way in August and delivered the No. 1 pick.

    That opened a pathway to whichever prospect sat atop their big board. LaMelo Ball helping send the offense into overdrive alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell? Anthony Edwards finding his two-way footing along the wing? A surprise candidate in what seems destined to be a surprise draft?

    All of those options are available—yet no one is said to be the Wolves' preference.

    "The belief is that Minnesota's priority is to trade, realistically down the board assuming an established star won't become available," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman reported.

    This draft class lacks a clear-cut No. 1 prospect, which is why there's still mystery at the top even though the Nov. 18 talent grab is roughly one month away. It does seem to have a decent amount of depth, though, which increases the appeal of moving down, but not out of, the draft.

    Will Minnesota really put this pick on the table?

            

    Verdict: Buying

    There's almost zero doubt the Wolves want to move this selection. Ball is an awkward fit with Russell. Edwards might be an Andrew Wiggins reboot. If any other prospect deserves consideration at No. 1, it's big man James Wiseman, who couldn't share the floor with Towns.

    So, yeah, it's in Minnesota's best interest to the shop the selection, but the real question is whether anyone is buying. Maybe someone (cough, the New York Knicks) grows infatuated with a prospect (cough, Ball), but otherwise no one is paying a premium for the pick.

Buddy Hield Forcing His Way to Philadelphia?

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    For someone who inked a contract worth up to $106 million last October, Buddy Hield didn't have the most enjoyable year. He was benched by the Sacramento Kings, a team he paced in points per game in 2018-19, and watched them play their best ball after his January demotion.

    Not even a month after the move, there were whispers Hield might want out if things didn't change. Well, they never did, and the scoring swingman is incensed. At this point, he won't even pick up when head coach Luke Walton calls, per The Athletic's Jason Jones.

    Hield has even taken his frustrations public. If a social media post surfaces linking him to the starved-for-spacing Philadelphia 76ers, there's a decent chance Hield has already liked it.

    His discontent makes sense for several reasons. First are the many reports, including one from Jones, that Sacramento plans to match any offer made to restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, the player who replaced Hield in the starting lineup. Then there's the fact that Philly is closer to contention and has enough ball-movers that he could tighten his focus to catch-and-shoot sniping, his sharpest skill and an area the Sixers need to improve.

    Hield's motivations are many, but it's harder to see the appeal for Sacramento, which could bring this whole thing tumbling down.

                   

    Verdict: Selling

    Hield has no leverage, and the Kings have no incentive to let him go. Even if they did, it's tough to cobble together an offer from Philadelphia that would catch Sacramento's attention. Hield might be overpaid, but the contracts tied to Al Horford and Tobias Harris are worse. Mutual interest between Hield and the Sixers would make all kinds of sense, but that's not enough to get a deal done.

Miami Is Top Destination for Stranded Stars?

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will often point out how their program isn't for everyone. It includes a militaristic commitment to conditioning and a level of spotlight sharing that's rare in such a star-driven league. It's one thing to employ an egalitarian approach to offense; it's another to play an NBA Finals in which rookie Tyler Herro nearly takes as many shots (87) as superstar Jimmy Butler (96).

    The Heat tout their #Culture as their top selling point, but it's hardly their only ace in the hole. They have the still-underrated Spoelstra, the legendary Pat Riley, a deep roster, a vibrant home market, a lack of state income taxes and a willingness to spend big on a winner. They easily sold Butler on their program, and word is the Heat could get the attention of the next star looking to relocate.

    "Front office executives around the league believe the Heat have become the league's top destination for the next star with a wandering eye," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote. "Maybe it will be a free agent. Or maybe a player under contract who will seek a trade in 2021, since the Heat have good young players who could be traded in addition to first-round picks in 2025, 2026 and 2027."

    Miami, of course, is home to the biggest haul in free-agency history, when it linked LeBron James and Chris Bosh with Dwyane Wade in 2010. Getting Butler last summer wasn't quite as substantial, but to do it with no discernible cap space speaks to the team's rare buying power.

    So, is it really destination No. 1 for stars in search of a reset?

                         

    Verdict: Selling

    Do players want to go to Miami? Absolutely. The beach and nightclubs alone are tremendous draws, and that's before getting to the brilliant basketball minds within this organization.

    But do the Heat sit a tier above the rest with all top-tier free agents? I can't buy it, because different stars will want different things. There are surely players who will value Miami above the rest, but others will covet a different market, different stars (LeBron James and Anthony Davis? Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving? Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?) or even the financial flexibility to sign with a superfriend.

Victor Oladipo Wants Out?

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Without an extension—which seems improbable for several reasons—Victor Oladipo will reach free agency in 2021. But he may not wait that long to break away from the Indiana Pacers.

    You know how you hear about whispers regarding someone wanting out? Well, there's so much chatter that the volume on those rumors is spiking.

    The Athletic's Jared Weiss reported in late September that Oladipo is "looking to move on this offseason." J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star corroborated that report. Now, O'Connor has added to the pile: "Since January, there have been rumblings among my own league sources about Oladipo's openness to a trade."

    Oladipo has denied this, but that's so many smoke clouds you have to think there's some fire at the source.

    Have three consecutive first-round exits convinced him this club can't contend? Might his off-court interests propel him toward a bigger market? Does he simply want to play in a different system with different teammates? Or is this all just a big misunderstanding?

                                  

    Verdict: Buying

    One reporter might mishear something or take it out of context, but when this many media members—and good ones at that—say something, it's worth listening.

    Oladipo's 2019 quad tendon tear and lengthy recovery might've forced him to face his hoops mortality and erased his patience for the Pacers to construct a contender around him. If he has a star teammate he wants to join or a huge city he wants to conquer, he wouldn't be the first to chase either one. This doesn't mean the Pacers have to deal him, but they should give it serious consideration before risking his leaving for nothing in return.

Bucks Aren't Interested in CP3?

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    For the second straight season, the Milwaukee Bucks paced the Association in wins and net rating. And for the second straight season, they came crashing down in the playoffs—only this year, the dismissal came a round earlier, as they were bounced from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the fifth-seeded Miami Heat.

    They're more in need of a shake-up than all those regular-season triumphs could suggest, especially when they need to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to align his future with theirs. The formula feels flawed, and it's unlikely to be fixed internally. Other than Donte DiVincenzo, this entire supporting cast might already be at its peak or engulfed in its decline.

    The half-court offense gets hard to stomach when teams sell out on limiting Antetokounmpo's paint chances. It runs short on shot-creation and shooting, but Milwaukee needs to scratch those itches without compromising the defense.

    The Bucks need...well, Chris Paul, frankly. He's an all-time shot-creator (career 9.5 assists against 2.4 turnovers per game), an above-average spacer (2.0 threes at a 37.8 percent clip over the past four seasons) and a brilliantly disruptive defender (seventh in career steals, 15th in career defensive box plus/minus). He's almost perfect, other than the fact that he's 35 years old and owed $85.6 million for the next two seasons.

    But that last part is reportedly a deal-breaker for the Bucks' brass. Eric Nehm and Sam Amick of The Athletic noted a Paul pursuit is "highly unlikely" because of his contract costs and the "potential difficulty" of adding his personality to the locker room. Are those concerns great enough to keep the club away from the Point God? 

                 

    Verdict: Buying

    This is a bummer, because Paul seems like the best-case addition to this roster, but this same group pinched pennies last summer in letting Malcolm Brogdon leave and watching him emerge as a difference-maker for a Central Division rival. Unless Antetokounmpo puts out a he-comes-or-I-go ultimatum, the financial aspect of a Paul trade feels like it will push the front office to seek alternate upgrades.

                             

    All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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