BS Meter on NBA Offseason Trade, Draft, Free-Agency Rumors
Got the NBA Finals on your brain? Of course you do. It just started. But the onset of the championship round just so happens to also mean the draft, free agency and summertime trade frenzy are collectively weeks away.
Our job, as undyingly loyal hoops geeks, is to monitor the rumor mill across all three fronts like vultures circling their prey—or 29 teams staring, unblinkingly, at Damian Lillard's happiness meter in Portland.
Relative to the torrent of action the Association will foment over the next month-plus, the speculation factory isn't churning out a ton of scenarios for us to painstakingly analyze. Like always, though, new developments continue to trickle out. And in times like these, we must of course turn to our trusty B.S. Meter.
Please note the "B.S. Meter" is not a comment on the validity of comments or the reporting. Every tidbit added here is included because they hold actual weight. The B.S. meter is more so meant to comment on what we should expect to come from each situation—if anything.
Detroit Willing to Trade No. 1
Cade Cunningham is headed to the Detroit Pistons after they won the 2021 NBA draft lottery. Probably. Maybe. We think.
Since Detroit picked up the No. 1 selection, the "Cunningham isn't a lock to go first overall and general manager Troy Weaver will consider all of the team's options" campaign has been out in full force. Most recently, ESPN's Jonathan Givony reported that "from all accounts, Detroit is comfortable standing pat at No. 1 and taking Cunningham but will be active in exploring the possibility of trading down and obtaining additional assets, with [Evan] Mobley a potential target if something gets done."
This isn't an anomalous sentiment. Sources told The Athletic's Sam Vecenie shortly after the lottery Detroit is "thought to be fans of Jalen Green." He also noted that, despite the hype, Cunningham isn't the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the same vein Zion Williamson was during the 2019 proceedings.
All of which suggests the door is open for a trade. And the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans are each trying to wedge their way through, per Givony.
Interest in the No. 1 pick is a given. The plausibility of a trade is not. New Orleans seems to be out of the running by virtue of drafting beyond the top four. Maybe executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is offering Brandon Ingram, No. 10 and a collection of future firsts, but if that's the Pelicans' baseline, the Pistons have to start wondering whether they're missing something on Cunningham.
Houston (No. 2) and Cleveland (No. 3) have ready-made packages given their standing in the top three, but to what end will they sweeten them? Collin Sexton and a future first alone isn't getting it done for the Cavs. The Rockets don't have anything too attractive other than next year's first-round pick, and the Pistons would need to believe Houston is on course to bottom out yet again.
Oklahoma City can get creative by including an assortment of firsts from its infinite collection of picks on top of the sixth overall choice. But unless it's also prepared to bake in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the potential payoff for Detroit figures to fall somewhere between modest and insubstantial.
In the end, this feels like a situation where the Pistons are doing obligatory diligence and we're overthinking the results. Cunningham projects as the exact kind of primary initiator and directional cornerstone they need. Presuming the pick is actually gettable—let alone banking on a trade—doesn't sit right.
B.S. Meter: Be careful not to choke on all the smoke.
Marcus Smart Is Worth a Top-10 Pick
Marcus Smart is one year out from free agency, but The Ringer's Bill Simmons doesn't think he'll actually reach the 2022 open market—at least not as a member of the Boston Celtics. As he said during an episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast with Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix (via NBC Sports Boston):
"My feeling is either Marcus gets extended or traded, but it'll happen in the next six weeks, and it'll be one or the other. And I would lean toward the extension, but I wouldn't be surprised if they traded him for, I don't know, the seventh pick with the Warriors. ... The seven to nine range is probably his value because I do think contending teams really value him because they've seen him in three conference finals teams. They know he could be a fourth or fifth guy on a really good team."
Mannix added that "there's a really good market for Marcus Smart."
This somewhat tracks. For the Celtics, it makes sense they would either trade or extend Smart. They can offer him a deal that starts as high as $17.2 million in 2022-23, a number he could feasibly get from other teams in free agency. If they're not willing to go that far, or if he rejects the offer in anticipation of fatter overtures, they'd do well to shop him around rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer.
But in exchange for a top-10 pick? That feels steep unless other moving parts are involved.
Smart is a genuine lockdown defender, someone who, at only 6'3", can match up with everyone from point guards to certain power forwards. His outside shot has improved, too. He's downing 34.8 percent of his triples—many of which have come off the dribble—over the past three seasons.
Still, teams aren't just going to fork over a mid-lottery selection for a non-star on the verge of cashing in during free agency. Looking at the draft order between Nos. 6 and 12 doesn't yield a whole bunch of options, either. Smart doesn't jibe with the timelines of non-contenders like Oklahoma City (No. 6), Orlando (No. 8), Sacramento (No. 9), New Orleans (No. 10), Charlotte (No. 11) or even San Antonio (No. 12).
And while the Warriors should be operating with more urgency than their mid-lotto counterparts, they seem more likely to swing big with either of their two best trade chips (No. 7 and James Wiseman) or not at all.
B.S. Meter: Smart no doubt has serious trade value, but netting a top-10 pick for his services feels like a pipe dream.
Kelly Oubre Jr. Not Long for Golden State?
Kelly Oubre Jr. doesn't sound like someone who will make returning to the Warriors a priority in free agency. Consider what he said during an appearance on the Posted Up with Chris Haynes podcast while discussing his demotion to the bench this past season (via NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole):
“I don't even want to speak and elaborate on much on that situation. But all I'll tell you is that it put fire in my heart. It added more fuel to the fire.
"Being 25 years old, the way that my career has been shaping out, the growth that I've shown in my career to go from the 15th pick to continuously have my numbers grow each and every year and my role and opportunity on the team to grow each and every year, to have a year where my opportunity is lessened, and then as the year goes on I'm put into this category of trying to shape out the future of the organization when I haven't been given a fair opportunity to show what I can do on a large scale—yeah, it is unfair."
These sentiments come as little surprise. Oubre was none too happy about the move to the bench when it first happened. His feelings aren't about to change just because he suffered a season-ending left wrist injury that could, in theory, adversely impact his free-agent market.
Talking about this at all may be moot. Oubre's thoughts seem to align with the Warriors' reality. They most need to add shot creation, floor spacing and a big who more seamlessly fits next to Draymond Green on offense.
Oubre doesn't check any of those boxes. He has plenty of value as a play-finishing floor-runner who can tussle with some quicker perimeter assignments, but Golden State's primary governor Joe Lacob has expressed concerns over the team's payroll. Footing the bill for a non-star who's not the ideal fit—and struggled significantly from three to start the year—doesn't seem to be in the cards.
Sign-and-trade scenarios are worth keeping an eye on. It takes a perfect storm of "Yeses" to happen, but a quick glance at the free-agency landscape doesn't reveal a cap-space squad prepared to throw the bag at Oubre. Given how much of an affinity the Warriors now have for Andrew Wiggins, sending out Oubre on a new contract could be a mutually beneficial way of bringing back more money while getting him paid—provided said trade partner has actual interest in keeping him.
B.S. Meter: One way or another, Oubre seems destined to wind up on another team.
Philly Will Only Trade Ben Simmons for an All-Star-Caliber Player
Think the Philadelphia 76ers are desperate to trade Ben Simmons? Think again, apparently.
"The Sixers have already fielded offers for Ben Simmons but continue to hold a stance that they will only trade him for an All-Star-caliber player," Bleacher Report's Jason Dumas tweeted. "They most recently turned down a deal with the Pacers that included Malcolm Brogdon and a first-round pick."
Though J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star followed up by saying "there haven't been any talks" between Indiana and Philadelphia, the mere presentation of Brogdon and No. 13 for Simmons speaks to how far perception of his value has plunged. Michael even noted the Pacers "avoid albatross contracts," the implication being the four years, $146.6 million left on Simmons' deal is more detriment than asset.
Sure, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix recently said "people value [Simmons] pretty high across the league" (h/t NBC Sports' Kurt Helin). But continuing to view him in star terms—while the logical stance—is much easier when you're not actually at the bargaining table. Teams in position to potentially sell off stars—think Washington with Bradley Beal, Chicago with Zach LaVine and Portland with Damian Lillard—are much less likely to consider Simmons a viable centerpiece around whom they can reset their entire futures.
Neither side is wrong in this case. Treating Simmons as a roadblock rather than genuine building block just because he imploded during the postseason places too much stock in a small sample. At the same time, he averaged under seven points and five field-goal attempts while shooting 35.0 percent at the charity stripe over the Sixers' final three games against the Atlanta Hawks. His finite range and tottering aggression is a real problem.
Philly is smart to sit on Simmons following his playoff vanishing act. Making moves on the margins is enough to keep it in play for the regular-season Eastern Conference crown. The Sixers outscored opponents by 16.0 points per 100 possessions this past year when he shared the court with Joel Embiid. Any instant pressure they feel to bust up the duo has more to do with the postseason.
That, in turn, enables them to wait. Simmons will in all likelihood reboot his value closer to next season's trade deadline, at which point they'll have a better lay of the available-star market. Just as keeping Simmons gives him the runway to put the playoffs behind him, it allows time for things to go belly up in place like Chicago, Portland, Washington et al.
B.S. Meter: Zero B.S. detected.
Team USA Is a Superteam Breeding Ground
When pressed on how much talk there will be among players on Team USA about playing together in the NBA, Bradley Beal didn't mince words, per Brian T. Robb of MassLive.com: "I don't know. Probably a lot."
This is at once a non-committal response and an answer that cops to the obvious.
Plans to link up will forever be hatched when superstars or NBA players at-large get together. Team USA is cited only as a primary example thanks to the lore of the Miami Heat's Big Three. Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were first thought to discuss the possibility at the 2008 Olympics. But like Bosh previously admitted, other conversations took place well before then.
Marquee names don't need Team USA to author future superteams. They just need contact with one another, period. And they have that access in excess.
Team USA, All-Star Weekend, offseason pickup runs, group texts with former AAU and college teammates, not-so-clandestine meetings at halfcourt following regular-season showdowns between opposing teams, friendships forged as a result of being "coworkers" for years and years—you name the context or event, and there will be an opportunity for players to build blueprints for eventual partnerships.
Granted, Olympic basketball is unique in the sense that rival stars are syncing up for an extended stretch while traveling abroad, ensuring they spend more time together. That still doesn't guarantee any groundbreaking plans will be laid.
Then again, it doesn't mean they won't be.
B.S. Meter: Yes, the Olympics will be a hotbed for team-up talk.