The NBA is officially back and the best evidence of this is that the hot stove is burning bright at a nearly nonstop pace.
Here’s a look at some of the latest rumblings, with a particular focus on reports of note for Toronto Raptors fans.
Lakers, other clubs interested in Ibaka
A key piece of off-season business for the Raptors will be determining what to do with free agent centre Serge Ibaka.
The 31-year-old is coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 51.2 per cent from the field and 38.5 per cent from deep. He'll likely be looking to stay in the same $22-24-million per year range (or more) with his next contract, a dilemma the Raptors will be wrestling with as they also have to sort out Fred VanVleet’s free agency and keep as much flexibility as possible for the 2021 off-season as well.
As such, Ibaka’s garnering interest from a number of contenders around the the league who believe a centre of his versatile talents would put them over the top. Most notably, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers believe Ibaka would be “exactly the kind of combo big guy [they] need,” according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.
According to Mike Mezzeo of Forbes, Kevin Durant has been recruiting his old Oklahoma City Thunder teammate to come join him and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. However, Ibaka would have to take a significant pay cut in order to make a move like this happen.
And, as ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported on his colleague Brian Windhorst’s podcast, the Rockets appear to be interested in reuniting James Harden with Ibaka, although, like with the Nets, finding room to add him may prove almost impossible to do.
Oladipo looking to leave Indiana?
Per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, it looks like Indiana Pacers all-star Victor Oladipo might want to play for a different team, and, oddly enough, supposedly made this fact known right in front of his own teammates.
Oladipo had a rough go last season, playing only 19 games after returning from a ruptured quad injury he suffered in January, 2019.
Despite the frustrating year he had, it’s unclear why Oladipo may want to leave as the Pacers appear to be a team on the rise thanks to the emergence of all-star forward Domantas Sabonis, who, in theory alongside a fully healthy Oladipo, could make Indiana one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Oladipo’s contract is set to expire at the end of this coming season and it’s possible he might be frustrated that extension talks haven’t picked up the way he may have thought they would, especially because the injury he suffered perhaps cost him a shot at a max contract, something it looked like he would be in line for when he first arrived in Indiana in 2017.
Update: Oladipo has reportedly expressed his desire to remain with the Pacers.
Lakers may be setting sights on DeRozan
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor is reporting that the the San Antonio Spurs might be looking to unload stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and that the Lakers have expressed interest in acquiring the former Raptors guard for a package that would include Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green.
From DeRozan's perspective, this could be something of a dream come true. A Southern California kid who grew up a Kobe Bryant and Lakers fan getting a chance to play for his childhood team and legitimately compete for a championship.
For the Lakers, the notion is a little trickier because while DeRozan is objectively a better overall player than both Kuzma and Green, he isn’t a better shooter than either of them. And if there’s one thing we’ve gotten to know about LeBron James, it’s that he loves being surrounded by shooters.
Hornets a potential suitor for Westbrook
The Hornets are a team equipped with a lot of salary cap space and are expected to be one of the more aggressive teams in free agency. A move for Westbrook would only solidify this expectation of them.
The Hornets have a big expiring contract in Nicolas Batum that could help make salaries match, but one has to wonder just how much better Westbrook would actually make Charlotte.
An athletic wonder in his prime, Westbrook looks to be on the decline as his natural athleticism has begun to fade and he hasn’t adjusted his play-style to compensate.
On the other hand, Westbrook is still definitely good enough to take the Hornets to the playoffs and for a team that hasn’t seen a post-season berth since 2016, that may ultimately be worth it.
O’Connor recently released a big mock draft with plenty of notes about possible activity we could see on Nov. 18 and beyond. Here are some quick-hitter highlights:
• The Boston Celtics have looked to offer all three first-round picks they own (14, 26, 30) to try to move up into the lottery and then use that lottery pick to try to swing a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire all-star Jrue Holiday. The move would probably require sending either Kemba Walker or Gordon Hayward the other way to make it work.
• The Milwaukee Bucks have supposedly been active in trade discussions and are shopping Eric Bledsoe, making it known they’re ready to move on from the mercurial point guard. O’Connor says the Bucks have made several offers already and are in pursuit of the Rockets' Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker.
Tucker appears to be upset with Houston, so it looks like he could be had in a trade.
The Magic have been bounced in five games in the first round of the last two post-seasons and may be looking to break their status quo as a means to improve now.