Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade RumorsMarch 9, 2021
Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade Rumors
Another trip around the NBA rumor mill is just what your doctored ordered.
Don't bother asking them. Just trust us.
Barely audible whispers are starting to become murmurings inside three weeks of the Association's March 25 trade deadline. Many of the same names are being bandied about the rumor mill, but fresh intel is dropping on them almost daily—and we have a couple of fresh faces at which to look, as well.
This space cares only about the most noteworthy rumblings. And those rat-a-tats must be related to trade scenarios. We are not interested in buyout speculation, new or old. Not here, anyway. Andre Drummond and Otto Porter Jr., please accept our apologies.
As a reminder, all buy-and-sell verdicts are not meant to comment on the validity of the included reports. They are instead acting as barometers for the sensibility and feasibility of each rumor.
Away to the rumor mill we go.
Lonzo Ball Staying in New Orleans?
League sources told The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor that trade talks for Lonzo Ball have "fizzled," at least in the interim. We are now obligated to take a moment and appreciate how far the 23-year-old guard has come over the past month-and-a-half.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported at the end of January that the New Orleans Pelicans had "shown an openness" to moving him. The sentiment made sense. Ball is headed for restricted free agency and the substantial raise that comes with it this summer, and he was averaging just 12.0 points and 4.7 assists while hitting 29.1 percent of his treys at the time.
Trade speculation apparently looks good on Ball, though. He's averaging 16.0 points and 5.3 assists while converting 43.5 percent of his triples since his limbo with the organization reached critical mass. He's even hitting 40 percent of his three-point attempts that come after using two or more dribbles over this stretch.
Interest in Ball should be at a fever pitch when he's playing so well on both sides of the floor. And it might be. But that only makes him harder to move. It is easier to deal a soon-to-be free agent when he's not a fit for the roster. This version of Ball is absolutely valuable to the Pelicans' big picture—even at a steeper price.
Maybe they aren't married to bringing him back. They probably aren't set on it. They've already paid Steven Adams and Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart will be a restricted free agent himself. Ball, meanwhile, still doesn't profile as the type of floor general who can get New Orleans into all of its half-court sets. Lineups with him running point at the very least need to include more shooters if he's ever going to become a consistent threat to score downhill.
The Pelicans' asking price should be on the up-and-up regardless. It doesn't matter how they view Ball long-term. He's playing better. They have every incentive to keep him if the market isn't scorching hot. And we, in turn, have every reason to believe it won't be. The sweepstakes for non-stars approaching paydays is always iffy. Fewer squads will be inclined to surrender a sizable return for someone who's about to get really expensive or leave.
Verdict: Buy Lonzo Ball finishing the season in New Orleans.
Could Larry Nance Jr. Be on the Move?
Larry Nance Jr. hasn't played since Feb. 6 while recovering from a fractured finger on his left hand. It turns out that hasn't stopped teams from blowing up the Cleveland Cavaliers' phone and inquiring about his availability.
The Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have all shown interest in the 6'7" Swiss Army knife, according to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor. But before fans of those six teams flock to the trade machine, a word of caution:
Fedor noted it's unlikely anyone from Cleveland's preferred starting five gets dealt unless the team is presented with "an offer it can't refuse." And yet, he added that "calls keep coming and strong offers have been made for Nance, including one package with multiple late first-round picks."
I, for one, look forward to finding out on March 26 how Celtics general manager Danny Ainge almost pried Nance away from the Cavs. But tales of almost are as close as Nance should get to being rerouted.
Teams are smart to target him. Especially contenders. He can defend nearly every position, even if he is a little overtaxed tussling with burlier bigs and as a primary rim protector, and was shooting a career-best 38.1 percent from distance prior to his injury. Most of his buckets are going to come off helping hands, but he can push the ball after rebounds and steals and finish off quick one- and two-dribble moves in the half court. He'll have a real crack at All-Defensive consideration if he logs enough minutes.
This is all to say: Admirers must do better than "multiple late first-round picks" if they're going to wrench Nance away from Cleveland. He has two years and $20.4 million left on his deal after this one and, at 28, isn't so old he's aged out of the Cavaliers' long-term plans.
Moving him now doesn't track if they fancy themselves imminent playoff threats. And they might as well. Everyone in the Eastern Conference is perpetually no more than a stone's throw away from the play-in discourse. Somebody will need to bowl Cleveland over with a combination of higher-end firsts and prospects to grease the wheels, a type of package unlikely to come together at midseason and with Nance still yet to return from injury. (He's close.)
Verdict: Sell Nance getting moved before the trade deadline. Buy the leaguewide interest in him.
Significant Interest in PJ Tucker?
Water is wet. The sky is sometimes blue. LeBron James will play until his mid-100s.
And PJ Tucker will not finish the season with the Houston Rockets.
There continues to be "significant interest" in the 35-year-old, according to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. This is the most predictable chatter ever, mostly because it predates even James Harden's departure.
Tucker hits free agency after this season and was reportedly unhappy he didn't receive an extension prior to opening night. In the weeks that have followed the Harden trade, Houston has also apparently set and then reset its asking price for Tucker's services.
Translation: He's good as gone.
Granted, the Rockets will have to settle for much less than a king's ransom. Tucker is shooting just 31.4 percent from long range—23 percent since the Harden blockbuster—and isn't the same all-encompassing defensive force. This drop-off could come with the aging territory, or it could be a nod to the listless situation in which he finds himself.
At least one suitor will convince themselves it's the latter. Tucker is still a viable small-ball-5 option even when he's not swishing wide-open triples, and contenders will be looking to diversify their lineups ahead of the playoffs.
For their part, the Rockets have no reason to keep Tucker. He isn't coming back next season. They should get something, anything, for his inevitable departure.
Verdict: Buy Houston eventually trading Tucker to a contender.
Dallas Intrigued by Kevin Love?
Kevin Love has now loosely been linked to the Dallas Mavericks, according to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor:
"A source with knowledge of the Mavericks' thinking suggested Kevin Love as a much better fit given the team's three-point woes and desire to surround MVP candidate Luka Doncic with shooters. Love would also help boost Dallas' problematic defensive rebounding metrics. Still, the Mavericks have two appealing expiring contracts—Tim Hardaway Jr. ($18 million) and James Johnson ($16 million)—that would help facilitate a deal."
This scenario feels like a stretch. Love fits with the Mavericks as another floor-spacing big, but they're no longer in the three-point doldrums. They're 10th in shooting percentage from beyond the arc since their 8-13 start.
More than that, Love is on the books for $31.3 million this season and owed $60.2 million over the next two years. Dallas shouldn't be funneling that much into another big man if Kristaps Porzingis—who has three years and $101.5 million left on his deal—remains in their bigger picture.
If for some reason the Mavericks are open to acquiring another expensive big, it better be someone on an expiring contract.
Or who adds serious defensive value.
Or who has played in more than two games this season.
Verdict: Sell Dallas' interest in Love.
Golden State Interested in Victor Oladipo?
Victor Oladipo has caught the eye of the Golden State Warriors, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. They need him, too. Or rather, they need the idea of him.
The Warriors are getting cruh-ushed in the minutes they play without Stephen Curry. The offense is mustering just 95.0 points per 100 possessions (0th percentile) while bricking threes and taking, albeit not making, enough mid-range jumpers to keep the wish-it-were-1995ers extremely happy.
Finding another ball-handler and shot-creator is non-negotiable if Golden State wants to make something out of this season. Andrew Wiggins is not the answer. A healthy Klay Thompson probably wouldn't be, either.
Those quick to (mega accurately) point out that Curry is playing at an MVP level and warrants an unequivocal commitment to winning now will implore the Warriors to think bigger than Oladipo. And yeah, bigger is better. That doesn't make it possible.
This year's star trade market wants for actual options. Bradley Beal remains off limits, according to The Athletic's Fred Katz and Jason Quick. Zach LaVine also doesn't seem available. What's more, neither Beal nor LaVine may be a big enough acquisition by the Warriors' standards. A team source told the San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau they won't move James Wiseman or the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2021 first (top-three protection) for anyone short of a "generational" superstar (h/t NBC Sports' Marcus White).
That stance is...questionable. It all depends on what you consider a generational superstar. But if Golden State could theoretically get someone like LaVine—or LaVine himself—using only the Minnesota pick and non-Wiseman assets, it should pounce.
Oladipo comes across as a potential compromise, an impact player who shouldn't cost either the Timberwolves selection or Wiseman. Whether the Warriors have the juice to broker a deal without them is a separate matter.
Kelly Oubre Jr.'s expiring salary is a good starting point, but where do they go from there? They can only trade their own first-rounder in 2022 and 2026 or 2027—and they're not forking over a 2026 or 2027 pick for Oladipo.
Golden State needs to ask itself if moving Oubre is even the right call. Getting Oladipo's Bird rights is valuable if he's good enough to re-sign. He is shooting just 43.6 percent on twos and 31.3 percent from distance since arriving in Houston. The off-the-dribble relief he provides is very much hypothetical. Oubre doesn't match his offensive ceiling, but he's been demonstratively better since a disastrous start to the season. Oladipo recently returned from yet another right quad issue to boot.
Pairing Oubre with a protected 2022 pick (that must convey or expire) or another player (Eric Paschall, perhaps) and filler is worth a conversation. The decision gets a lot harder if the Rockets are willing to roll the dice into Oladipo's upcoming free agency and set a higher bar for entry.
Verdict: Buy Golden State's interest. Sell the chances of a deal getting done.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Basketball Insiders and Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Adam Fromal.