BS Meter on Newest NBA Draft, Trade and Free-Agency Buzz

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2022

BS Meter on Newest NBA Draft, Trade and Free-Agency Buzz

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    On the verge of the NBA Finals, at least 28 teams now have their sights set on the offseason, when the draft, trades and free agency could change their fortunes.

    As teams have dropped out of the postseason, that increased attention on the summer has led to an influx of stories, reports and rumors.

    Now, it's time to sort through some of the juicier tidbits with the tried and true "B.S. Meter."

    At this point, a lot of these reports are about teams' interest in various players. And simply having interest really isn't a big deal. It might not even register on the B.S. Meter.

    So, instead of trying to decide if that interest exists, we'll let the meter determine whether that interest will actually lead to something concrete.

Cavs Interested in Mike Conley

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    While many of the NBA's fans and analysts were concerned with what "small ball" was doing to centers and power forwards (making them smaller, of course), plenty of teams around the league were getting bigger in the backcourt.

    Big playmakers like Luka Doncic (6'7") and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6'6") may well be the future of the league, and that means trouble for a backcourt like the Utah Jazz's.

    Last season, they started two 6'1" guards in Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. And that led to mismatches from the opening tip in most games. Utah gave up 113.0 points per 100 possessions when both were on the floor, compared to 109.8 when only one was on.

    It should come as little surprise, then, that the Jazz might be interested in breaking that duo up. The question is: For what?

    "There's another name, too, since they need a reliable backup point guard that can start, and I've heard this name with the [Cleveland Cavaliers] as well," Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor said on The HoopsHype Podcast. "My sources tell me J.B. Bickerstaff would love to coach him again, Mike Conley. If Utah decides to move him in an effort to put the right pieces around Donovan Mitchell and shake up that roster. Conley for somebody like Caris LeVert is something I think the Cavs would consider."

    In terms of size (LeVert is 6'6") and age (27 as opposed to Conley's 34), swapping LeVert for Conley makes sense. In terms of productivity, it doesn't.

    Over the last three seasons (the extent of his time in Utah), Conley is top-30 in the league in box plus/minus (BPM "is a basketball box-score-based metric that estimates a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court") with a 40.1 three-point percentage and averages of 14.6 points, 5.3 assists and 2.4 threes per game.

    Over the same stretch, LeVert is tied for 180th in BPM, with a 33.5 three-point percentage and averages of 18.5 points, 4.6 assists and 1.6 threes.

    B.S. Meter: Low as it relates to the possibility of Conley moving. High as it relates to LeVert being the target.

Deandre Ayton Not Long for Phoenix?

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    After the Phoenix Suns failed to sign Deandre Ayton to an extension last offseason, there was relatively little buzz about his future with the team during the 2021-22 campaign.

    Flaming out in the second round after winning 64 games changed that really quick, though. It suddenly feels like Ayton's name will be a mainstay in the rumor mill this summer.

    "Ayton is expected to command a maximum salary, sources said, but there is skepticism among league executives the Suns would match such a lucrative offer," Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer wrote. "... Now, there are three teams most often linked by league personnel as Ayton's potential suitors on the open market: Atlanta, Detroit and Portland."

    Despite using the No. 1 overall pick on Ayton just four years ago, the Suns' hesitance to fork over a max deal makes sense. This season, Phoenix's bigs, including Ayton, had roughly the same production when sharing the floor with Chris Paul.

    If they have evidence to suggest a much cheaper center will provide as much as Ayton can, it would be hard to justify paying him nearly $200 million.

    Losing him wouldn't come without risks, though. CP3 isn't going to play forever, and Ayton profiles as a more reliable self-creator than rim-runners like the players behind him on the depth chart in 2021-22 (JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo).

    The post-Paul version of the Suns is a little easier to envision with Devin Booker and Ayton than it is without the big man.

    This is a tricky situation. A max deal for someone who might struggle against small-ball lineups in the playoffs would be tough, but is it worse than losing a promising No. 1 pick four years after you got him?

    B.S. Meter: Medium. Phoenix has to be thinking about a possible future without Ayton. It would be borderline irresponsible not to. But a departure doesn't feel imminent.

Would the Nets Move on from Kyrie Irving?

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    Drama has followed Kyrie Irving throughout his career.

    He demanded a trade from the Cavaliers. One year after telling an arena full of Boston Celtics fans, "If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here," he left. And with the Brooklyn Nets, he was the focus of several seasons' worth of media attention and scrutiny after deciding not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Now, it looks like Brooklyn might be willing to embrace a future without him. On Tuesday, the New York Daily News' Kristian Winfield reported that the Nets are "outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension."

    A couple of days later, SNY's Ian Begley added that Brooklyn would entertain sign-and-trade possibilities if Irving opts out of the final year of his contract.

    Of course, this isn't as simple as just wishing Irving happy trails and moving on to a new point guard.

    With the Nets way over the salary cap, there's no replacing him in free agency (hence, being open to a sign-and-trade). More importantly, he and Kevin Durant were basically a package deal in 2019.

    "If Irving leaves the Nets, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Durant becomes frustrated with the organization’s ability to put championship pieces around him," Winfield wrote.

    KD is 33, and he finally started to show real signs of basketball mortality in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics (when he shot 38.6 percent from the field). But after clearing the books to make way for him and Irving, Brooklyn would surely like to have more than three early playoff exits to show for it.

    If losing Irving means losing Durant, Brooklyn almost has to figure something out with the former, at least for another year or two.

    B.S. Meter: Highish. The notion that any front office would be frustrated with Irving isn't surprising. It's the other factors that make a departure feel unlikely. The Nets might just have to put up with Kyrie as long as KD supports him. He's the Maverick to Durant's Iceman.

Will the Magic Draft Jabari Smith?

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    When the Orlando Magic emerged from the lottery with the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, you could find arguments all over the internet for Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith. But after the combine, it looks like Orlando may already be zeroing in on one candidate.

    "While Magic executives have made it clear they will conduct a thorough process ... most NBA teams firmly believe that's a formality and that Smith is all but assured to become the top pick," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote. "Smith, for his part, appears thrilled with that development."

    It's not hard to wrap your head around Orlando's interest in Smith. The 6'10" forward has one of the smoothest jumpers in the draft and averaged 16.9 points and 2.3 threes (while shooting 42.0 percent from deep) as a freshman at Auburn. With NBA playmakers, he should be able to get even better looks than he did in college.

    And with incumbent starting center Mo Bamba reportedly a flight risk in restricted free agency, the Magic could easily slide Wendell Carter Jr. to the 5 and start an interchangeable (and versatile) forward combo of Smith and Franz Wagner.

    Assuming he can get and stay healthy, Jonathan Isaac is an interesting addition to that frontcourt mix, as well.

    If even one of the young guards (Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs or Cole Anthony) materializes, Orlando would suddenly have one of the game's most intriguing young cores.

    B.S. Meter: Low

Zach LaVine to the Mavericks?

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    During his very young career, Luka Doncic has had to carry one of the heaviest burdens in the league.

    In the last three seasons, he's sixth in the league in points per game, fourth in assists per game and tied for 21st in rebounds per game.

    According to ESPN Stats & Info, he's led both teams in points, rebounds and assists in three different postseason elimination games. Only LeBron James (five) has more.

    Strides from Jalen Brunson and the midseason addition of Spencer Dinwiddie lightened the load a bit, but it makes sense that the Dallas Mavericks may still be on the lookout for a second star. On that subject, longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein wrote:

    "One option already being weighed by team brass is the prospect of joining the sign-and-trade bidding for the Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine, amid a growing belief around the league that LaVine, as he heads into free agency, has more interest in leaving Chicago than initially presumed."

    If the Mavericks could somehow pull that off, LaVine and Doncic would instantly be one of the league's most dynamic one-two punches.

    Over the last two seasons, LaVine put up 25.8 points and shot 40.4 percent from three. That makes him just the 11th player in league history to average at least 25 points and shoot at least 40 percent from three over a two-season stretch (minimum 200 three-point attempts).

    Luka has never played with a scorer as dynamic as LaVine, but it's hard to imagine the Mavericks have the trade capital necessary to get him. And reports of his desire to leave the Bulls may be overblown.

    "Business as usual," an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy's Sean Deveney about the buzz surrounding LaVine. "The Bulls can give him more money. They can give him a chance to go to the playoffs every year. If he is not the No. 1 option, he is 1A and that is going to be the case in just about any place he goes if he is serious about leaving."

    B.S. Meter: Low as it relates to Dallas being interested. High as it relates to the Mavs' ability to get him.

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