0 out of 4
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Ahead of NBA Free Agency 2022, clouds of smoke are drifting across the basketball world.
Finding the source of this smoke — player or team leverage, or legitimate interest in the rumored opportunity — is key to understanding the rumor mill, which is turning at full steam.
That’s the goal here, as we run each of the top rumors through our trusty BS meter to separate fact from fiction.
1 out of 4
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Kyrie Irving’s decision to choose his player option as relayed by Shine Charania from The Athletic and Stadium, provides temporary relief for the Brooklyn Nets. Last but not least, they have clarity about his contract and could even seek a longer extension.
Of course, this does not erase the possibility of a trade. It also doesn’t necessarily settle things with Kevin Durant, who has reportedly been less than impressed with how the nets have been handling Irving so far.
“Kevin Durant hasn’t spoken to the team in weeks,” said The Ringer’s Logan Murdock (h/t Nets Daily). “I don’t think Kevin is confident in the front office at the moment. I don’t know if he’s about to leave, but there’s a lot of unease from… the KD side.”
This has always been the most significant domino of the Irving drama. If he left Brooklyn, would Durant do the same? According to Wojnarowski, Durant has reportedly never made a trade request and “remains a supporter of the Nets committing to a long-term deal for Irving.”
Does Irving’s decision calm things down with Durant? Or does the fact that Irving only has one more season left Durant still feeling uneasy?
If Durant’s complaint is that the franchise isn’t going for a super-long, super-expensive contract with Irving, that’s a tough stance to take. Injuries and personal decisions have limited Irving to 103 games combined over the past three seasons. In order for the networks to be comfortable with anything approaching a long-term maximum, they need to feel a sense of reliability that Irving failed to convey.
However, Durant is responsible for his opinion—Murdock says the beef came from a feeling “the front office didn’t understand Kyrie, whatever that means,” but also from the firing of assistant coach Adam Harrington, “one of them Kevin’s boys” – so the rationale behind it is only really important to him.
BS Meter: Not much, if anything. You can disagree with Durant’s logic if you wish, but it’s his opinion. He’s probably frustrated with how things have been going in Brooklyn so far, and if he wants to pin some of that frustration on the front office, that’s up to him.
2 out of 4
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Last season, Miles Bridges took a sizeable step — actually, an explosive leap — towards stardom.
What he apparently hasn’t done, at least as far as the Charlotte Hornets are supposedly concerned, is play his way into a Max contract.
“He’s not being offered a Max contract by the Charlotte Hornets, I’m told, at this time,” ESPN said Brian Windhorst reported Monday. “So he’s going to go to the market from Thursday, Friday and see if he can get that offer from somewhere else.”
This is difficult, as is often the case with many restricted free agency companies.
From a purely business perspective, the Hornets arguably make the right choice. Bridges has never made an All-Star appearance or an All-NBA roster. Prior to 2021-22, he was never even remotely close to that discussion. Its value in the open market is dismal, especially since Cap Space is at a premium this summer.
Still, this is risky.
For one, the Hornets risk alienating Bridges, much like the Utah Jazz once did to Gordon Hayward when they forced him to find his own restricted free agency offer hand that he ended up inked with –wait for it– exactly these hornets.
Second, while Charlotte has the right to take on any offer Bridges receives, she obviously has no control over his negotiations with other teams. He could sign something with very unfriendly terms for the team, maybe like the one the Dallas Mavericks once used to get Chandler Parsons away from the Houston Rockets.
Then again, the Hornets may not be trying to make a few bucks out of it and just don’t see Bridges as top-level players. Charania recently reported that there is “hesitancy” on Charlotte’s side to get a maximum bid for Bridges.
BS Meter: Oddly enough, very little, it seems. It doesn’t seem like the Hornets see Bridges as their biggest talent. However, it would be quite daring (ruthless?) to let him walk as an aspiring 24-year-old, especially with the chemistry he’s forged with Charlotte’s franchise face, LaMelo Ball.
3 out of 4
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Before all eyes in the basketball world turned to Brooklyn, there were rumors of a bumpy free agency for Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls.
Now that the moment of truth is almost here, it sounds like things could be a piece of cake in the Windy City.
“When free agency opens at 5 p.m. Thursday night, expect the Bulls to officially announce a five-year maximum contract offer valued at approximately $212 million,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson. “All signs continue to point to LaVine accepting this offer at a point in its discretion.”
This always stood out as the most logical outcome of LaVine’s free agency.
Assuming he can remain sane, there is no legitimate way to crack his maximum contract credentials. This was his fourth straight season, averaging more than 23 points, four assists and four rebounds. Its 60.5 percent true shooting percentage ranked seventh among high-volume players with a usage percentage of over 25.
You can debate where he is a Tier 1 Superstar. Whether the bulls can actually fight for the crown with him at the heart is debatable.
It’s good. He’s a 27-year-old star who’s shortlisted for the league’s best offensive weapons. Assuming his knees hold up, he can justify the cost of his next contract.
BS meter: None detected. LaVine deserves a maximum contract, and given the lack of cap space in the NBA, there’s no better place for him to sign.
4 out of 4
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The Philadelphia 76ers are in dire need of stoppers since selling both Ben Simmons and Danny Green. They also have a standing directive to maximize their distance from perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid.
Could PJ Tucker be the solution to their two-pronged problem? According to reports, people in the League sound confident enough to write his name in permanent marker.
“Numerous rival teams are now saying with even more conviction than last week — when I first reported Wednesday — that they expect PJ Tucker to land in free agency in Philadelphia on a three-year, $30 million deal,” Marc said Stein reported.
The Sixers need to make room to make such an offer, but Stein added that they “are expected to continue exploring trade scenarios involving Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle.” These swaps might be more than enough to create the wiggle room.
Embiid has previously singled out Tucker as the kind of tough player this roster needs to get where it wants in the postseason. James Harden, on the other hand, previously spent more than three seasons with Tucker (and for much of that stretch, 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey) with the Houston Rockets, so the Beard should be on board as well.
As a player, Tucker should fit seamlessly. He just hit a career-high 41.5 percent of his threes and ranks in the 83rd percentile for defensive versatility according to the BBall Index. If you can find a ring glossary floating around, its image is as likely as any other seen in the three-and-d section.
The only potential issue here is the contract, as a three-year deal for a 37-year-old inevitably carries some risk, even if Tucker was mostly an Ironman. Still, it’s possible Philly may need this third season to win a potentially contested bidding war among win-now buyers. It’s also possible that the Sixers could make the deal more team-friendly.
BS Meter: Not zero, but probably not a ton either. Tucker makes a lot of sense in Philly’s roster, and while the length of the rumored agreement might worry us, perhaps the Sixers now see a reward big enough to offset any future risk.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Salary information per Spotrac.