With the draft just two days away and free agency right around the corner, the NBA’s rumour season is officially in full swing — if it ever slowed down in the first place.
In the spirit of ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus,’ here’s a look at some of the latest rumblings from around the Association.
Chris Paul wants out?
The Houston Rockets appear to be a franchise in disarray. There were extension talks with head coach Mike D’Antonio that broke down following the season and the whole perennial-playoff-disappointment thing this iteration of the Rockets has been facing over the last three years.
A recent scathing feature on the team spelled out just how toxic the environment in Houston’s locker room reportedly is, with backcourt stars James Harden and Chris Paul at the centre of it all.
On Tuesday afternoon the story took a not-so-unexpected turn, with Yahoo’s Vince Goodwill reporting that Paul is now demanding a trade.
All told, that’s probably a blessing for Houston, and something the team’s front office has already explored. The 34-year old Paul is a nine-time all-star and arguably the greatest point guard of his generation, but he’s never been a good fit alongside Harden, and his career has been on a steady decline. Despite that undisputed fact, he’s still owed $123 million over the next three years, so trading him may prove to be extremely difficult as the situation in Houston could only get uglier.
A potential Masai Ujiri-Washington Wizards partnership off the table
Update: In an interview with the The Washington Post, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied the report that his team was pursuing Ujiri.
“We have not commented on the many rumours surrounding potential candidates during this process, but I wanted to make an exception in this case out of respect to the Raptors organization as they celebrate their well-deserved championship,” Leonsis said in a statement procured by The Post. “Any reports that we have interest in Masai Ujiri as a candidate are simply not true, and we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process.”
At more or less the exact moment the Raptors were crowned champions ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, as had been rumoured at points earlier in the season, that the Washington Wizards were going to aggressively try to lure president Masai Ujiri from Toronto this summer, with offers of an ownership stake and a $10 million annual salary.
Now it appears that the Raptors’ president is staying put.
Duke reunion in the works?
Zion Williamson, a surefire future all-star and the most anticipated prospect since LeBron James, is a lock to be drafted first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, who will also be drafting fourth overall as a result of the Anthony Davis deal with the Los Angeles Lakers this weekend.
The Pelicans have reportedly entertained the notion of moving up in the draft by dealing that number four pick along with some of their many assets gained as part of the Davis bounty in order to select Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett, who is currently projected to be drafted third overall by the New York Knicks.
The top-three players in the draft appear to be set — who knows what surprises are in store on draft night and, for entertainment’s sake, hopefully many — but where Barrett and electrifying point guard Ja Morant wind up suddenly may be up in the air.
Raptors-Clippers brawling over Kawhi
On Tuesday Wojnarowski joined ESPN’s Get Up to dispel the notion that Kawhi Leonard was seriously considering offers from a handful of teams, including the New York Knicks and the new-look Lakers as had been previously reported.
Instead, he says, while Leonard may take meetings with other teams, the Finals MVP is currently only seriously considering either returning to Toronto or signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, who can offer him a max deal and, like the Raptors, should have a rock solid roster in place around him along with the geographical advantage of being where he’s long been believed to want to play near his California home.
The Clippers have been considered the frontrunner for Leonard all season long, and it’s only a matter of time until we find out if the Raptors have done enough to convince the superstar to return, with, you know, winning a championship, keeping him healthy, drawing millions to celebrate him at Monday’s parade, and whatnot.
Mike Conley to the Jazz?
Mike Conley’s name has been in trade talks all season given the all-star calibre point guard is on the tail end of his prime while his team, the Memphis Grizzlies, are engaged in a full-on rebuild.
The draft lottery reignited those rumours once the Grizzlies got lucky and will be selecting second overall with point guard Ja Morant the favourite to land in Memphis.
The Utah Jazz, in need of an upgrade at point guard to establish themselves as a true threat in the West, are considered the “frontrunners” to acquire Conley, per reports. A core of Conley, Donnovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert would certainly be enticing to Jazz fans.
The Indiana Pacers, who are also popping up in a number of rumours — including potential trades for New Orleans’ fourth overall pick or Utah’s Ricky Rubio — are also considered a potential Conley destination.
Lakers set their sights on free agent market
Now that the Lakers have Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James, the team is out to acquire a third star via free agency — and that man, according to NYT’s Marc Stein, is all-star point guard Kemba Walker.
Walker is a free agent but has said he’d like to return to Charlotte, however the Hornets have zero cap flexibility to add talent around him via free agency and lack the trade assets to do the same, so the opportunity to play for a contender for the first time in his career may be too good for Walker to pass up.
Another name that has been mentioned as a potential target for Los Angeles is Kyrie Irving, who is not expected to return to Boston (the Brooklyn Nets are the overwhelming favourite to land him at the moment). The NBA, man. What did we do to deserve all this richness?
Bradley Beal on the move?
While the star-studded free agent class is garnering a ton of attention — and for good reason given it’s headlined by names like Leonard, Kevin Durant, Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and other established stars — don’t overlook the trade market, where Wizards star guard Bradley Beal has been mentioned in several rumours.
Washington is eying a potentially bleak future given John Wall is both hurt long-term and eating up the team’s cap space from now until eternity. Their lone real trade asset is Beal, fresh off an all-NBA worthy season.
One of the more interesting teams that has reportedly expressed “sincere interest” in Beal is the aforementioned New Orleans Pelicans who, with a treasure trove of young talent and current-and-future first round draft picks, could be an ideal partner for a Wizards team that may be looking to hit refresh after a number of disappointing seasons and a talented backcourt that, like Toronto’s prior to this year, may have suffered one playoff exit too many to warrant staying intact.