Buying or Selling Latest NBA Training Camp Buzz
Training camp has opened for all 30 NBA teams, with an unorthodox 2020-21 season just weeks away from tipping off.
With no official media days to show off improved physiques or emit eternal optimism, it's perhaps harder than ever to buy or sell the buzz coming from NBA practice facilities.
Between All-Stars returning from injury, superstar trade requests still up in the air and rookies impressing already, it's time to make sense of some of training camp's biggest storylines.
Kevin Knox Expecting 'Huge Season'
The No. 9 overall pick by the Knicks in 2018, Knox took a major step back during his sophomore season, going from starter to barely in the rotation.
New York selected him over players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr. and Mikal Bridges, intrigued by his size (6'7", 215 pounds) and athleticism as a combo forward.
Despite a rough start to his career, Knox is confident his third season will be different.
"I think going into the season, I have a lot of confidence right now. The coaching staff has a lot of faith in me and they're going to push me every single day, the players around me are going to compete every single day in practice. I think I'm expecting a huge season from me and I'm really ready to get to work," Knox told media members on a Zoom call.
It's unclear what his version of a huge season looks like. Anything would be better than last year. Literally anything.
Knox registered a real plus-minus score of minus-7.92 per ESPN last season, a number that ranked dead last among all 520 NBA players. He averaged 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists and shot a dismal 35.9 percent overall.
With a Knicks roster that cut ties with a lot of the 2019 veteran free-agent signings and chose not to overpay anyone in free agency this year, Knox should actually have a chance to land a regular position in new head coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation.
Extension eligible next year, Knox has to be better than last season's disaster.
Buy or Sell: Sell any talk of a "huge" season, buy that Knox will have the best year of his career.
Kevin Durant Is 'Right Back Where He Was'
Durant is about to make his return to basketball following nearly 18 months recovering from an Achilles injury, one that's produced various results from professional athletes.
For the 32-year-old Durant, there appears to be no rust.
"I think Kevin is right back to where he was, and everybody will see that," Nets wing Caris LeVert said, via Newsday's Greg Logan.
It's hard to imagine Durant will reach the heights he did the last time we saw him during the 2019 postseason. At the time he looked like the best player in the NBA, averaging a league-high 32.3 points on 51.4 percent shooting and 43.8 percent from three.
A 10-time All-Star, four-time scoring champ and 2014 league MVP, Durant set the bar high for his return.
Brooklyn's play style could be challenging for Durant coming off such a serious injury, with new head coach Steve Nash wanting his offense to resemble his old "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns.
"We want to play an uptempo style. We want to push the ball in transition and play in the open court, and in the half-court we want to make quick decisions, space the floor, take advantage of our playmaking and shooting," new Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters (h/t Ashish Mathur of ClutchPoints). "I definitely think there'll be similarities (to the seven seconds or less Suns). But I also think clearly the way we played in Phoenix is very common in today's game."
Nash has to make sure Durant isn't asked to do too much too soon, even if he is close to the player he was pre-injury.
Buy or Sell: Buy Durant being a top player in the league again, but sell him being on the same level now at age 32 coming off an Achilles injury.
Paul George Wants to Retire a Clipper
Following a disastrous postseason performance and with free agency potentially coming up next year, Paul George seemed to put a rest to the thought he may be leaving the Clippers anytime soon.
Per The Athletic's Jovan Buha, the 30-year-old George announced that he wanted to retire a Clipper.
While George pieced together a strong regular season, a 3-1 collapse in the second round to the Denver Nuggets perhaps cast some doubt into he and Kawhi Leonard's long-term coexistence with the franchise. George shot just 39.8 percent overall and 33.3 percent from three during the postseason, making the 53.6 percent true shooting mark his lowest in the playoffs since 2011-12.
George is under contract this season at $35.5 million and holds a player option for $37.9 million for 2021-22. With Gordon Hayward getting a four-year, $120 million deal this offseason, George will almost certainly not pick up his option and look for a more lucrative long-term deal.
With 10 years of NBA service now under his belt, George can sign a five-year max deal with the Clippers starting at 35 percent of the salary cap. With a projected salary cap of $112.4 million in 2021-22, George could sign a five-year, $228.2 million max deal starting at $39.3 million to stay in L.A.
Besides the money, George grew up in the Los Angeles area and the Clippers should continue to be one of the top teams in the NBA with a core of Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Serge Ibaka, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and company.
Buy or Sell: Buy. While George probably won't call it quits for another five-10 years, saying he wants to retire a Clipper completely checks out, despite how poorly last season ended.
Killian Hayes Starting over Derrick Rose, Delon Wright as Pistons Point Guard?
Hayes only officially became a member of the Pistons a few weeks ago, but the rookie may already be winning the starting point guard job over Detroit's veterans.
"We may start out with Killian there [but] there's nothing set in concrete right now," head coach Dwane Casey said, via MLive.com's Ansar Khan. "We'll start him there to see how it goes. He's not your typical rookie; he knows how to play."
Playing for Ratiopharm Ulm in the German League against adults last season, Hayes is probably more advanced than the average rookie at this age. With a former MVP point guard still in Detroit, however, it's a little surprising to see Hayes win the starting job with no summer league or regular preseason.
Derrick Rose primarily served as the Pistons sixth man last season, only starting 15 of his 50 games. His assist percentage (40.5 percent) was a career high, while his 18.1 points per game ranked as Rose's largest total since the 2011-12 season when he was an All-Star with the Chicago Bulls.
Casey stated that he wants to keep Rose off the bench, however, making it a battle between Hayes and the 28-year-old Delon Wright for the starting job.
Buy or Sell: Sell Hayes having earned the job this early, but buy starting him if Rose is locked in as sixth man.
James Harden 'For Sure' Wants to Play with Rockets This Season
James Harden still hasn't reported to Rockets training camp, with new head coach Stephen Silas acknowledging he hasn't had any recent communication with the scoring champ.
Despite Harden ghosting the organization, new Rockets point guard John Wall believes his star teammate "for sure" wants to play in Houston this season, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon. Wall says the two had "a great talk" and are on the same page about the upcoming season.
When asked about Harden's commitment to the Rockets, Silas didn't sound so sure.
"That's a question you're going to have to ask him when he gets here," Silas said, via MacMahon.
"We're looking forward to having him here and getting to his individual workout. That's the word I heard from the pipeline. Once he gets here, obviously the best communication for me would be face-to-face communication—not text, not phone, not anything else. I'm looking forward to him getting here, getting in the building, and then we can talk about what's best. But you know, that's kind of a work in progress right now."
While Harden may still want to be traded, swapping out Russell Westbrook for Wall was a major sign that Houston wants to keep him. Though he may not like it, Harden is under contract for the next two seasons and doesn't have much of a choice but to eventually show up.
Buy or Sell: Sell that Harden wants to be in Houston, but buy that he at least starts the season with the Rockets.