Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade, Free-Agency, Offseason Rumors
Welcome to the dog days of the NBA offseason, a post-apocalyptic stretch in the schedule that, while brief, tests the sanity of fans and opens the floodgates for debates and heated arguments over the most trivial and painfully pointless topics.
Fortunately for us, the league's rumor mill takes exactly zero days off per year.
Rumblings invariably reach rock bottom, but tidbits of varying juiciness are always trickling out, ensuring we will never be totally barren of meaningful happenings. The latest batch of trustworthy speculation unveils potential sellers in Cleveland and Memphis, covers what remains of free agency and, as ever, updates us on the stalemate that is Ben Simmons' future with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Like always, whether we buy or sell the freshest chatter has nothing to do with the actual reporting. Every news item here makes the cut because it is both notable and comes from a reputable source. The buy-or-sell verdicts are only meant to comment on what, if anything, we should expect to become of each rumor.
Lakers, Hornets and Others Interested in Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb looks out of place on an Indiana Pacers squad that should have a fully healthy Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren, and teams around the NBA know it. He has reportedly drawn interest from four suitors, including the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers, according to the Indianapolis Star's J. Michael.
Trading for Lamb does carry some semblance of risk. He missed half of last season while recovering from a torn left ACL, and then his year ended due to soreness in that same left knee. But the downside is limited by his expiring contract, which runs only slightly more than mid-level-exception money ($10.5 million).
Rolling the dice on a reasonably priced bucket-getter with genuine 2-guard size is never a terrible idea, either. Lamb has defensive limitations, but he can generate his own looks and knows how to find his preferred spots off the dribble. He should be slightly more appealing after what he flashed last season, trading in many of his long twos for more threes, on which he shot a career-best 40.6 percent.
Envisioning him with the Hornets or Lakers, on the other hand, is extremely difficult. Neither team has a trade exception large enough to swallow his money or the eminently expendable salaries necessary to match his $10.5 million cap hit.
Go ahead and rule out the Lakers as a potential destination for the next few months. They aren't moving any of their three highest-paid players (Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook). Their next most expensive salary is that of Kendrick Nunn, at $5 million, and he cannot be jettisoned until the middle of December. Marc Gasol is currently their highest-paid and realistically movable player, and he's on the books for under $3 million.
The Hornets are in a similarly restrictive position. Terry Rozier isn't getting moved after landing a four-year, $96.2 million extension, and many of their mid-end salaries belong to youngsters they have no business using to facilitate a Lamb reunion (James Bouknight, Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, etc.). They could engage Indy on larger talks for Myles Turner using Gordon Hayward, but Lamb's place in such a scenario would be the secondary carrot.
Verdict: Buy teams showing interest in Lamb. Sell interest from the Hornets and Lakers.
Both Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks Available
Two consecutive unexpected playoff berths weren't enough to nudge the Memphis Grizzlies in a win-now direction. From shipping out Jonas Valanciunas to taking on immediate payroll to drafting Ziaire Williams at No. 10, they have acted like a franchise more in tune with the bigger picture than present day.
It turns out Memphis' marriage to the long game also extends to the futures of Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks. Both are "available for the right price," according to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor.
This passes the sniff test. The Grizzlies seem more concerned with accruing as many bites at the "co-star running mate for Ja Morant" apple as possible. They have picked up future first-rounders from the Lakers (via New Orleans), Golden State and Utah and selected a high-risk, high-reward project—who might not actually be a project—in Williams.
Offloading Eric Bledsoe's partial guarantee for 2022-23 also suggests an interest in maximizing next summer's cap flexibility. Even trading Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans can be spun in that vein. Steve Adams tacked on $17.9 million to Memphis' books beyond next season, but a new contract for Valanciunas could prove more expensive.
Flipping Anderson before he enters free agency in 2022 would follow that same blueprint. He remains one of the league's most understated, well-rounded players and just recorded career-highs in three-point attempts (3.8) and makes (1.4). The Grizzlies should be able to sell high if they so choose.
Meanwhile, Brooks is entering the first season of a three-year, $35 million extension. It becomes an ultra team-friendly deal if he continues to put forth fringe All-Defense efforts, so shopping him now might seem counterintuitive
At the same time, leaning on him for significant minutes is a fragile existence—particularly on offense. On some nights, he's a gritty, physical power wing who can bully opponents. On others, he indulges the shot selection of prime Michael Jordan without the results. Moving him for shorter-term or expiring money can help Memphis increase its flexibility and, most importantly, open up additional minutes and touches for Williams and summer-league superhero Desmond Bane.
Verdict: Buy both Anderson and Brooks being available. And buy at least one of them getting moved before the trade deadline.
Cleveland Open to Moving Larry Nance Jr.
Drafting Evan Mobley and re-signing Jarrett Allen may finally push the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade Larry Nance Jr., according to Fedor. And that...makes a lot of sense.
Cleveland's big-man setup currently borders on superfluous. Testing out an Allen-Mobley frontcourt is necessary, tantalizing and a little perturbing. At this point, the Cavs could have three players who warrant heavy minutes at center in Allen, Mobley and Kevin Love.
Treating Love like a backup 5, as Fedor says is on the table, would alleviate roughly nothing. It instead forces Mobley to be deployed almost strictly at the 4. Nance can conform to whatever approach the Cavs favor, but the rotation is still begging for wings. Unless they are willing to fork over a future first-rounder or one of their core youngsters, he's the asset most likely to net them a perimeter rotation staple.
Sussing out prospective Nance suitors takes no time at all, as twenty-something teams should want him. His defensive engagement is both disruptive and switch-proof, he can fling nifty passes while on the move, and he's banging in 35.5 percent of his triples over the past two seasons.
As if that's not appealing enough, Nance makes under $20.4 million over the next two years. Players this impactful and universally scalable are seldom so cheap—or even realistically available.
The Cavs would move Love instead of Nance in an ideal world, but they're not getting net-neutral value by dangling the former. Nance is their ticket to a more balanced wing rotation. With that said, Cleveland has held onto its players for too long in the past. (See: Love, Kevin.) And given Nance's ties to the community and value to the locker room, his departure shouldn't be considered a formality.
Verdict: Buy Nance becoming more available. Sell the idea he'll definitely be traded. Lightly buy his finishing next season on a different team.
Golden State and Brooklyn Interested in Paul Millsap
Both the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors have interest in the 36-year-old, according to the Denver Post's Mike Singer. This is all to say two good teams would like to add a good player because that's a good decision.
Though Millsap is nowhere near the All-Star he was years ago in Atlanta, he has remained plenty useful as he ages. He can still defend the 4 spot and is the ideal late-August pickup for any team planning to deploy smaller five-out lineups. His offense now also tilts more complementary. Over 70 percent of his made buckets came off assists last year, and he's downing 39.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples since 2018-19 (151-of-384).
Golden State looms as the better destination if Millsap cares about court time. The Warriors still need talent, period. But they especially need another frontcourt player who can stretch the floor beside Draymond Green or James Wiseman without compromising their defense. Otto Porter Jr. fits that bill. So does Juan Toscano-Anderson. However, Millsap, unlike those two, can soak up minutes at the 5.
Small-ball units featuring Green and Millsap should annihilate opponents on defense even with their lack of size. Wiseman, meanwhile, should be afforded more rim-running opportunities if 1) head coach Steve Kerr allows it and 2) Millsap is dotting the arc with the threat level he displayed for most of his time in Denver.
Landing with the Nets, of course, is hardly a nightmare scenario. They are next year's title favorites—and deservedly so. Their willingness to play small up front ensures Millsap will neither go unused nor unappreciated. But between Bruce Brown-as-pseudo-center lineups, Blake Griffin, James Johnson, DeAndre Jordan and rookie Day'Ron Sharpe, their frontline rotation falls on the more crowded end of the spectrum.
Verdict: Sell Millsap to Brooklyn. Buy Millsap to Golden State or somewhere else.
Ben Simmons Not Getting Traded Before Training Camp?
Anyone holding their breath for a Ben Simmons trade might want to reconsider their life choices. It doesn't sound like the Philadelphia 76ers will be moving him in the near term. As Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer wrote:
"Each of Minnesota, Golden State, Sacramento and San Antonio has been consistently linked as a top Simmons destination, yet the overwhelming sense among league insiders continues to be that Simmons, for now, is expected to remain a Sixer once training camp opens on September 28—barring a change of temperature with Damian Lillard in Portland. That appears to be the ever-important undercurrent to what has been routinely described as a 'James Harden-like' package Philadelphia is seeking for any Simmons return."
Holding on to Simmons until at least next year's trade deadline makes a ton of sense—in a vacuum. His market value is at its absolute nadir. Philadelphia stands to up its potential return by putting more distance between Simmons and his offensive vanishing act in the Eastern Conference semifinals and letting him rehabilitate perception surrounding his game during the first part of the regular season.
Waiting also allows the rest of the star market to develop. Teams like Minnesota, Golden State, Sacramento and San Antonio can all build packages around higher-level prospects, future draft picks and, in some cases, fringe stars like Dejounte Murray, but none of them have or are in position to send back a top-30-or-so player.
The latter feels like a non-negotiable point for the Sixers. They are firmly in win-now mode with Joel Embiid. Turning Simmons into a hodgepodge of good-not-great players and draft picks doesn't fortify their championship window.
Granted, the NBA does not unfold in a vacuum. Simmons' actions are part of this calculus. Some believe he could try forcing Philly's hand by not reporting to training camp, per The Ringer's Paolo Uggetti. He has four years left under team control, limiting the ultimate extent of his leverage, but a theoretical holdout creates an extremely awkward situation for everyone involved.
Still, the Sixers have little to gain by settling now. They lit up opponents with Embiid and Simmons on the floor last season. They don't needn't act with urgency that's actually panic. If they can get Simmons to report, they will remain imperfect but still really good; remaining really good is their path to rebooting Simmons' value; rebooting his value is also Simmons' best path to a fresh start somewhere else.
Verdict: Buy Simmons remaining with the Sixers until at least training camp.