BS Meter on Latest NBA Rumors: Reading Simmons, Lillard and Beal Tea Leaves
Rumors are flying inside 48 hours of the 2021 NBA draft and less than a week before the start of free agency, and that can mean only one thing: It's B.S. Meter time!
Escaping trade talks is impossible right now. Rumblings are ubiquitous. Some of them are actual whispers. Others sound more like roars. We could spend days parsing through everything getting churned out by the gossip factory.
Because we have lives—allegedly, anyway—we're going to focus only on the biggest, most important rumors the conjecture wire has to offer. Congratulations to Team A for trying to use Picks B, C and maybe D to acquire a Lottery Selection E or F from Team G or H, respectively. That's not the type of hearsay we're trying to overanalyze and inject into our veins. Marquee names and notable draft picks are our catnip.
Obligatory disclaimer before we get started: The "B.S. Meter" is not meant to trash the highlighted reporting. Every tidbit here is included because it holds meaningful weight. Our B.S. Meter is designed only to gauge what we should make of each situation—if anything.
Ben Simmons Talks Getting Serious
New tidbits related to Ben Simmons' future—or lack thereof—with the Philadelphia 76ers continue to trickle out daily. The latest suggests trade talks will heat up in advance of Thursday's draft.
"I think it will be serious this week," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said during the Woj & Lowe: NBA Special (h/t SI.com's Kevin McCormick). "If there's a deal out there, they're going to do it. Multiple teams are still reported to be interested in the three-time All-Star. It will all come down to who is willing to meet [Sixers team president Daryl] Morey's high asking price."
That asking price is believed to be an "All-Star-caliber player," according to The Athletic's Shams Charania—a hard line on which Morey doesn't appear ready to soften. He apparently pitched the Toronto Raptors on the framework of a Simmons deal that left Philly with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and the 4th overall pick, per Action Network's Matt Moore.
The Sixers couldn't hope to get that much for Simmons at the absolute peak of his value. Asking for the world and then some now, even as a launching point, is super gutsy on the heels of his offensive vanishing act in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It's this disconnect between how the rest of the league views Simmons and what Philly both needs and wants to get for him that makes any imminent deal unlikely. His departure from the Sixers definitely feels like a fait accompli. But the time to move him isn't when the four years and $146.7 million left on his contract registers as an albatross, even if only somewhat, to potentially interested parties.
This instead feels like a situation that'll be revisited midseason, after Simmons has time to rehabilitate his value. At the very least, it'll be a semi-shock if he's rerouted anywhere prior to or during the draft.
B.S. Meter: Simmons trade talks are no doubt ramping up. The likelihood he gets moved before the draft or free agency still seems like a long-ish shot.
Damian Lillard Still Contemplating Trade Request
Damian Lillard is yet another star with four years left on his deal whose future remains unsettled. And it isn't on the verge of getting any clearer.
From TrueHoop's Henry Abbott:
"Sources say he told his national team friends that he thought the situation in Portland was getting worse. The next day was his birthday; he would turn 31. He told the group that he had meetings with his team coming up the day after that, and he was thinking about demanding a trade. He put percentages on it—75/25—which confused people. What did that mean? It meant he would listen to the team’s plans, and if he didn’t like what he heard, he would demand a trade. He estimated he was 25 percent likely to demand a trade that Friday. Whatever the number, some in the room tell TrueHoop they took it as the beginning of the end for Lillard and the Blazers."
This follows a previous report from Abbott in which sources intimated Lillard was on the cusp of demanding a trade. Though the superstar himself rebuffed those sentiments, he didn't exactly kibosh them. And he straddled that same line in an interview with Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.
Given that Lillard has essentially said everything just short of "Trade me," it's entirely fair to monitor the state of his relationship and future with the Blazers. Similar to Ben Simmons, though, it's tough to imagine a deal getting done anytime soon, albeit for different reasons.
Lillard's contract is leverage for the organization in this case. Portland has no reason to shop him until he demands it, and even then, general manager Neil Olshey can drag out the process or refuse to do anything. The Blazers aren't technically at Defcon 1 until Lillard is a year out from free agency. (He has a 2024-25 player option.)
Chances are this all comes to head well before then. But it still feels like we're at least a year early on Lillard trade talk. Everything he's said so far implies a willingness to give the Blazers one last crack at building a genuine contender around him.
B.S. Meter: Lillard's trade status is fluid, but not urgent.
Bradley Beal Falling in Love with Washington Still, or Again, or Something
Death, taxes and another shift in the Bradley Beal-Washington Wizards discussion.
Loyalty prevailed entering the offseason. Beal repeatedly indicated a desire to stay in Washington, and the Wizards had no plans to look at moving him, according to The Athletic's Fred Katz. But then he started "mulling" his future with the team, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, a development that acted like a trade-request bat signal.
Now, however, Beal may be re-warming up to the idea of remaining in Washington. As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer relayed:
"By all accounts, Bradley Beal is still weighing his future with the Washington Wizards two days before the draft, yet there's a growing expectation among league personnel that the All-Star guard may still choose to remain with the Wizards for now. Winning, and winning in the nation's capital, has long been communicated as Beal's top priority, and Washington's ability to offer a fifth year to his next deal using Bird rights next summer could ultimately net Beal an extra $54 million over the length of that contract."
Paint yours truly skeptical of the rationale from league personnel. Beal doesn't need to be concerned with the fifth year Washington can offer him in a new deal. (He has a 2022-23 player option.)
He is slated for free agency at age 29. Even with 10 years of service under his belt—and the chance to sign a max contract worth 35 percent of the cap that comes with it—he stands to beef up his earnings by re-exploring free agency sooner. There's little chance he plays out the entirety of a five-year deal anyway, particularly when the salary cap should eventually start trending upward in the next couple of years.
This, of course, isn't akin to saying Beal wants out of Washington. He has been open about his preference to make it work with the Wizards. But allegiance isn't boundless when tethered to an interest in titles. Washington is currently too far away from contention for Beal to believe "winning in the nation's capital" is imminent or plausible.
Maybe he isn't made available or moved on draft night. I'd bet he won't be. But unless the Wizards figure out a way to reel in another star or make a series of high-impact upgrades, this doesn't forecast as a situation that ends with Beal staying put.
B.S. Meter: Keep an eye on Beal. He seems like the star most likely to be traded this offseason.
The Evan Mobley Sweepstakes Are Intensifying at No. 3
Evan Mobley could wind up with the Cleveland Cavaliers if he's still on the board at No. 3. Or he could land with one of the many teams apparently hoping to trade for, and subsequently nab him, at No. 3.
Consider what Fischer tweeted: "Cleveland continues to receive plenty of trade interest at No. 3, where teams such as Toronto, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Golden State and now Memphis (from No. 10) still see a chance to land Evan Mobley."
Captain This Makes Sense, reporting for duty.
Most mocks have Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green going first and second, respectively, in Thursday's draft—including the latest from Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. That puts the Cavs in a potential bind: Do they take Mobley, a big, when they're about to pay Jarrett Allen in restricted free agency? Or do they select Jalen Suggs, a guard, to join a backcourt that already includes Darius Garland and the extension-eligible Collin Sexton?
Drafting for fit is overrated when a roster is absent inarguable cornerstones. The Cavs do not have that tent-pole star. If they think Mobley or Suggs gives them a legitimate crack at developing one, then they should take him and worry about the depth-chart logistics later.
On the flip side, if they're not married to Mobley or Suggs and have more interest in a Scottie Barnes, James Bouknight, Jonathan Kuminga or whoever, there's value in trading down and scooping up another asset or two . Their decision gets a whole lot easier if teams in the top seven—like Toronto (No. 4), Orlando (No. 5), Oklahoma City (No. 6) and Golden State (No. 7)—are attaching sweeteners to their picks.
B.S. Meter: Don't bet on the Cavs trading No. 3, but they could. And if they do, expect them to remain in the top seven.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Is Reportedly Gettable
Few players in the NBA are truly untouchable. Most stars just tend to be not readily available. And it turns out Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may no longer be among them.
As one team executive told Fischer: "It's going to take a f--king lot to get him, but he's no longer impossible to get."
This jibes with Basketball News' Matt Babcock hearing the Oklahoma City Thunder offered SGA and the No. 6 pick to the Detroit Pistons for No. 1 only to get rebuffed. That could be a Cade Cunningham-specific overture, but if true, it might also be a harbinger of OKC's larger intentions.
Gilgeous-Alexander just turned 23 and is working off a career-year in which he became a max-contract formality. That could be part of the Thunder's calculus. They may be reticent to bankroll a cornerstone payday so early into their rebuild. They could also be leery of ponying up a five-year max to someone who missed a huge chunk of last season with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Then again: Eh.
Oklahoma City is a notoriously tight-lipped organization. So many of their moves, including their biggest ones, have come without much public warning. Gilgeous-Alexander's next deal also isn't a rational reason to move him now. He's not some fringey star like Collin Sexton. His max contract isn't warring against the Thunder's timeline, because he is their timeline.
Anyway, failing a nibble from the Pistons, Oklahoma City doesn't have many worthwhile avenues to explore. Jettisoning players while still on rookie-scale deals is categorically unpalatable. They don't make enough to bring back anyone significant, and the Thunder needn't be in the market for additional picks when they already have all the first-rounders over the next seven drafts.
Keeping their options open for this season would also entail holding off on an SGA extension. The poison pill provision makes moving him prohibitive after he signs one. If anything, then, the Thunder can reevaluate their commitment to SGA once his next deal kicks in.
B.S. Meter: Don't count on SGA going anywhere—or even being truly available.
Detroit Not Married to Picking Cade Cunningham at No. 1
Think the Detroit Pistons are destined to keep the No. 1 pick and use it on Cade Cunningham? Think again.
Three players have reportedly caught the Pistons' eye as potential options with the first overall selection, according to Wojnarowski: Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. That's cute.
Plenty of people have touted Detroit's general manager, Troy Weaver, as an independent thinker who won't be swayed by groupthink. If he's not bold enough to choose someone else at No. 1, then he's confident to trade down.
Forgive me for not buying it—at least as it pertains to this draft.
Sure, Cunningham may not be the foregone conclusion that Zion Williamson was at No. 1 in 2019. Whatever. He's still the overwhelming consensus best prospect, someone who projects as face-of-the-franchise material.
The Pistons desperately need a prospect who checks that box. Passing on him by way of trade or choosing someone else would be a monumental risk. They can defend their decision to take him if he goes bust. It's much harder to spin choosing to miss a can't-miss prospect.
Perhaps Detroit is just trying to see what offers are on the table at No. 1. But that's due diligence, not intent. That Cunningham hasn't agreed to work out for other teams beyond the Pistons seems telltale. And if we're to believe Detroit turned down an offer of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and No. 6 for the top pick, that feels telltale, too.
Oh, various sources around the league also told The Athletic's Sam Vecenie the Pistons drafting Cunningham is "by far" the most likely outcome.
B.S. Meter: Believe the Pistons will draft Cunningham at No. 1 until they don't.