The NBA season may have just wrapped up, but the rumour mill is only beginning to churn ahead of one of the most anticipated off-seasons in recent memory.
With a treasure trove of top-tier talent potentially on the move, and a handful of teams looking to trade up or down in next week’s draft, there is no shortage of reports and speculation fuelling the beginning of the summer.
Here are the latest rumours and rumblings from around the Association:
LeBron to L.A.?
The final buzzer of the 2017-18 season hadn’t even sounded before we were all speculating where LeBron James would take his talents next. Rumours and speculation as to where the NBA’s most coveted free agent will play next season have persisted for months and Decision 3.0, whenever it’s officially made, remains the single biggest event of the 2018 off-season.
There are several teams who either have or can create the cap space necessary to sign James, who, it was reported before the playoffs had whittled his short list down to four teams: the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
More recently, San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich indicated that his team plans to make a pitch to the 14-time all-star.
But if there is any validity to the latest LeBron rumour, the Lakers appear to have the inside track.
Earlier this week, former Laker Gary Payton said in an interview that James’ son 13 year-old son, LeBron James Jr., was enrolling at Sierra Canyon, a Los Angeles-area high school where many celebrities send their children.
The school also boasts a top-level basketball team fresh off a state title that already features an impressive NBA bloodline. Scottie Pippen Jr. and K.J. Martin (son of Kenyon Martin), along with Derek Fisher’s nephew, and the younger brother of current top draft prospect Marvin Bagley all attend the school and star on the team. The team also stars five-star recruit Cassius Stanley.
James owns two homes in the L.A. area, including a $23-million mansion he purchased last year.
LeBron Jr. — who goes by Bronny — is himself a fast-rising high school prospect who led his team to an Ohio state tournament title last season. At age 11 he had reportedly already had scholarship offers from Duke and Kentucky, and following the 2018 Finals James said that his dream would be to share an NBA court with his son before he retires.
When Payton’s comments went viral, several reporters reached out to Sierra Canyon, who denied that James Jr. had enrolled. But when pressed by Rachel Nichols to refute the story, Scottie Pippen Sr. didn’t exactly throw water on the flames.
“I kind of made a few calls yesterday, and from what I’m hearing nothing is official yet,” Pippen said.
When asked what his biggest motivating factor will be in reaching a decision, James said that he would prioritize what is best for his family — and the assumption is that would mean being present in his children’s lives throughout the season.
Oddsmakers now have the Lakers as the favourite to land James.
Kyrie won’t talk extension
Star Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving has another year left on his contract but is eligible for an extension this summer that would keep him in Beantown for the foreseeable future.
With superstar rookie Jayson Tatum under contract for three more seasons, sophomore Jaylen Brown on the books for at least two, and Gordon Hayward just one year into a four-year deal, inking Irving would ensure the Celtics keep their stacked core intact.
But on Tuesday Irving says he doesn’t intend to sign any extension with Boston this summer and will postpone that decision until next season.
“I think you guys can feel my attitude is really just redemption next year. Really integrating myself with our team again and really focus on winning a championship,” Irving told reporters. “That’s the only thing I’m really worried about.
“Until I get to that point, then I can’t really answer any questions. I’m pretty sure management and I will have a talk, but that talk won’t happen now.”
As you can imagine, Irving’s unwillingness to sign an extension now has fuelled speculation that he could enter free agency next summer. The Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals and pushed the Cavaliers to seven games with Irving sidelined with a knee injury.
Expect draft day trades
The NBA draft goes down next Thursday, and apart from the first-overall pick — it’s widely expected that the Phoenix Suns will draft centre DeAndre Ayton — there is plenty still left in the air.
Luka Doncic, the 19 year-old EuroLeague champ and MVP who is considered to be the top European draft prospect of all time, is somehow not a lock to go to the Sacramento Kings at No. 2 (only the Kings could mess this one up), while Michigan State freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. is turning heads in private workouts.
With those prizes available, several teams are expected to try to trade up in the draft. And wouldn’t you know it, at least two teams — the Kings and Dallas Mavericks (drafting fifth overall) — are reportedly open to trading down.
Other draft trade rumours include teams drafting in the top 10 reaching out to the New York Knicks to see if they would like to trade up from ninth overall to select rumoured target Michael Porter Jr., the former top-ranked high school forward who missed nearly all of his lone college season at Missouri to a back injury.
Don’t be surprised to see plenty of movement within the lottery ahead of next Thursday’s draft.
Draymond wants the max
In 2015, Golden State Warriors big man and defensive anchor Draymond Green signed a five-year extension worth $82 million. Green estimates that he was eligible to earn $96 million, but says he took a discount in order to ensure the team had enough cap space to sign a marquee free agent — which turned out to be now two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant.
Turns out Green won’t be as generous the next time around and is reportedly expecting to seek a max contract once his current deal expires.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. With Green, Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson all max-level talents, the Warriors may have their work cut out to keep their championship core together long term and maintain dynasty status in the years to come.