Buying or Selling Latest NBA Draft, Free-Agency and Offseason RumorsNovember 2, 2020
Buying or Selling Latest NBA Draft, Free-Agency and Offseason Rumors
By just about any measure, the 2020 offseason will be one of the least conventional the NBA has ever experienced.
It's taking place when the regular season is generally in full swing. It'll be packed into a tighter window than it generally is. And the salary cap remains a question mark, thanks to the impact of a months-long hiatus and a postseason without fans in attendance.
One thing that never seems to change is that the rumor mill gets to churning pretty much the moment the champion is crowned.
The Los Angeles Lakers secured the title on October 11, and chatter is all over the place less than a month later.
Discerning what has a chance to actually evolve from rumor to transaction can be tough, but that won't prevent us from trying.
To do so, let's dive into the time-honored tradition of "buy or sell."
Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Warriors?
Kelly Oubre Jr. is coming off a breakout 2019-20 in which he averaged 18.7 points and 1.9 threes for the Phoenix Suns.
When he shared the floor with Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio, the Suns were plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions (87th percentile).
That number and a late charge in the bubble suggest Phoenix could be ready to compete for a postseason berth in 2021, if only it can cobble together a bit of depth this offseason.
So, trading for the 24-year-old wing on a decent salary ($14.4 million in 2020-21) should be difficult, though that may not prevent the Golden State Warriors from trying.
"If they had their choice in a dream world, I think they would make a deal," ESPN's Nick Friedell said on The Jump. "The name that keeps popping up when you talk to people is Kelly Oubre."
Golden State is in a better position than most for an Oubre pursuit. It holds a $17.2 million trade exception from last summer, when Andre Iguodala was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies. Oubre's salary would fit in there, and the Warriors have the No. 2 pick to sweeten any deal.
In most years, you'd think that selection would command a much bigger name in return, but this draft class lacks star power. If the Warriors don't think there's a difference-maker at No. 2, they may look to shop the pick.
This wouldn't be a no-brainer for Phoenix, either. Booker is now on his max extension, and he's yet to appear in the playoffs. Unloading a player who just neared 20 points per game and still has some time to develop for another potential project may not send the right signal to the star.
Buy that Golden State is interested. Sell that a deal actually happens.
DeMar DeRozan Trade?
In terms of individual numbers, DeMar DeRozan just wrapped up one of the best offensive seasons in the NBA.
He posted a career high in effective field-goal percentage. And his assist percentage trailed only the one he posted in 2018-19.
His stint with the San Antonio Spurs seems to have had a positive impact on his efficiency and selflessness, but he still struggled to help the team's bottom line.
For the 10th time in 11 seasons, DeRozan's team was better when he was off the floor. The last time he had a positive swing was in 2011-12 with the Toronto Raptors.
The influence seems mostly confined to the defensive side of the floor, where DeRozan is consistently targeted on the perimeter and often loses his man off the ball.
In San Antonio, those are big no-nos.
That and the end of the postseason streak that lasted over two decades make recent rumors about DeRozan's availability plenty believable.
"I feel like DeRozan is a guy that can end up being on the move," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor said on the Bill Simmons Podcast. "I’ve heard he’s been involved in some trade conversations."
If he picks up his $27.7 million player option, DeRozan will be on an expiring contract in 2020-21. The numbers above indicate he may need to be recast into a heat-check-off-the-bench role, and that's a lot to pay for that.
But there are a few teams around the league that could be desperate enough for an offensive boost to take a one-year shot on DeRozan.
The Orlando Magic, who were linked to DDR this past season, still make some sense.
Buy. The Spurs should be plenty motivated for a fresh start. And that could start with trading DeRozan.
Victor Oladipo to the Bucks?
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo appeared poised to take over face-of-the-franchise status two years ago.
After a 2017-18 in which he averaged 23.1 points, 4.3 assists and a league-leading 2.4 steals, Oladipo secured the Most Improved Player award and a third-team All-NBA nod.
Then, a devastating injury ended his next campaign after just 36 games. And it took just over 12 months to return from the torn quadriceps tendon.
By the time he returned to Indiana's lineup, Domantas Sabonis had developed into an All-Star and the Pacers learned to play winning basketball without the star guard.
In 2019-20, they were minus-0.4 points per 100 possessions when Oladipo was on the floor and plus-2.8 when he was off.
One abbreviated season with injury-impacted numbers shouldn't destroy his trade value, though. If he's available, there are a few teams that make sense as possible destinations. And he's already been linked to a couple of Eastern Conference playoff teams.
"How about Victor Oladipo?" The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor asked when discussing possible targets for the Philadelphia 76ers. "League sources say the Pacers have talked with the [Milwaukee] Bucks about a trade involving Oladipo, though at this point it seems unlikely."
With Giannis Antetokounmpo's free agency on track to hit next summer and the Bucks suffering another early postseason exit in 2020, swinging for the fences may be in order for that front office.
In theory, a healthy Oladipo can provide a lot of the perimeter defense Eric Bledsoe does while also bringing a higher offensive ceiling. It remains to be seen what else might be included in such a trade (Milwaukee would have to throw in a bit more), but Oladipo and Bledsoe would likely be the centerpieces.
Buy. Let's root for some chaos.
LaMelo Ball at No. 1?
The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. And a recent development suggests they may be considering LaMelo Ball for the top spot.
"The meeting, conducted in Southern California, consisted of an interview and did not feature any basketball activity," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote of the interview between Minnesota and Ball. "It was attended by Gersson Rosas, the Timberwolves president of basketball operations, and head coach Ryan Saunders."
Proponents of positionless basketball may be able to ignore the potential stylistic clash between Ball and D'Angelo Russell, both of whom seem better served on the ball.
"The more passing, the better" is an intriguing philosophy. And Russell shared plenty of playing time and playmaking with Spencer Dinwiddie in 2018-19 (though the results weren't great). Ball's size (6'7") alleviates some concern, as well. But the defense could be a major problem with him, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.
"And the team composition sucks as far as defensive presence overall," a rival scout told Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "How do you ever get past the first round of the playoffs with that starting five?"
Aside from the fact that pretty much any first-round series in the West has nightmare potential, the scout has a point. Even if an abundance of playmaking around Towns might give Minnesota an explosive attack, it wouldn't be surprising to still see it surrender more points than it scores.
Someone who better fits the mold of a more traditional 2 alongside Russell makes sense. And that naturally points to Anthony Edwards.
Sell. This is a tough draft to predict, so the field seems like a safe bet against Ball.
Rajon Rondo to the Clippers?
"Playoff" Rajon Rondo struck again in 2019-20. After posting a below-average box plus/minus ("...a basketball box-score-based metric that estimates a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference) for the fourth consecutive season, he trailed only LeBron James and Anthony Davis among Los Angeles Lakers rotation players in the playoffs.
The Lakers, of course, won the title. And their crosstown rival must've taken note of Rondo's play during that run. The New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted about the Los Angeles Clippers' interest:
"The Clippers have interest in signing the Lakers' Rajon Rondo, league sources say, and are expected to pursue Rondo when free agency opens in November.
"The Lakers are naturally determined to re-sign Rondo, who played a huge role in their playoff run, but the Clippers are eager to upgrade at point guard. Rondo has said he is planning to test the open market, which means declining his §2.7 million option for next season."
"Upgrade" is sort of a subjective term as applied here. Patrick Beverley's box plus/minus over the last three seasons is significantly higher than Rondo's.
And he fits better as a floor spacer alongside ball-dominant wings like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Beverley has posted an above-average three-point percentage in each season of his career. Rondo has been above average in three of his 14 campaigns.
Now, if L.A. is after Rondo as a backup point guard, this might make more sense. After all, Beverley is under contract through 2021-22. But the Clippers don't have the cap space to be terribly aggressive with Rondo (not that many teams would be), and a backcourt rotation with him, Beverley, Lou Williams and Landry Shamet may get a bit crowded.
Sell. Expect Rondo back for a title defense with the Lakers.