Heading into 2017 there are a lot of stories left to unfold for the 2016-17 season and some that may extend into the off-season or even to start the 2017-18 campaign. Is it possible that the NBA will expand to include another Western Division team? Which coaches are on the hot seat and on the verge of receiving a pink slip? And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite, the trade rumors!
As we have seen in the past, there are some players who are just floating and not really living up to team or even their own expectations and a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered. Whether they’re role players or Superstars, sometimes a fresh start can bring out the best in someone. With the trade deadline just under two months away, rumors start to build momentum as teams look to make the championship push or get over the playoff bubble, or for some just clear cap space and create room in their wallet for the summer free agency.
Some rumors never actually become anything more than water cooler talk, whereas others have been known to cause tension with some players in certain locker rooms. While all players know that the NBA is more of a business than a dedication, the fact that their name are brought up in talks can still have an impact one way or another.
With that being said, here are fifteen of the hottest rumors floating around the league as we head into the meat of the 2016-17 season. How many, if any will come true? Stay tuned to find out.
15. A Return To The Emerald City?
Ok, so it won’t happen in 2017, but back in November of 2016, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson got Seattle fans hopes up once again for a return of their beloved Supersonics. Since 2008 when the team relocated to Oklahoma City, hoop fans in the Northwest have been pining for their team (or any team for that matter) to return.
Thanks to the efforts of Chris Hansen (Valiant Capital Management), talks of a new franchise have been brewing since 2011, but have gained very little ground. Enter Wilson. One would think that a All-Pro level, Super Bowl winning QB would have some pull in a sports city crazed to see the Sonics return. On a typical fall day in rainy Seattle, Wilson brought a ray of hope to his city, announcing that he will partner with the Sonics Arena Group. Could we see Adam Silver make an announcement at the end of the 2016/17 season that the green, gold and white will be returning to Seattle?
14. Rondo On The Move?
The Chicago Bulls were once a team primed to return to prominence in the Eastern Conference. Gone is Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. In their place, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Not bad on paper, if this was say eight years ago.
The problem many figure is that Rondo is nowhere near the player he once was when he was leading the Celtics super-team. Maybe they should have talked to the Dallas Mavericks and the Sacramento Kings before signing the disgruntled point guard to a two year, $28 million dollar contract. At thirty years old, Rondo is no longer a young buck, something that the Bulls should have been looking for in their rebuild. He also struggles putting the ball in the bucket, posting a 36.9 FG% and 32.7% from three point territory, not really a great option in the the pace, space and shooting era.
Strong rumors are floating that the Miami Heat and Bulls are in talks for a point guard swap, Rondo for Goran Dragic. Statistically Dragic would help the Bulls right away, but the move does little for the team’s future as they would most likely have to give up some draft picks and youth to acquire a player who is the same age as Rondo, who also has three more years left on a $85 million dollar contract.
13. Boogie Goes To Hollywood?
Ever since D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young set about on their college-like antics last season, the rumors of an unhappy DeMarcus Cousins heading to Los Angeles have been floating around. Let’s face it, we all know how physically talented the Sacramento Kings big man is, as he’s basically a walking double double with inside and outside abilities, but just as skilled as he is with the rock, it’s the rocks in his head that get him in trouble with just about anyone and everyone in the league.
Could Luke Walton help Boogie find inner peace in one of the busiest, pressure filled cities in America? Are the Lakers ready to give up on their point guard of the future so soon to get him? After a tabloid filled rookie season, Russell seems to be maturing this season as the young Lakers try to figure it out. If he doesn’t end up in LA, there are about 28 other teams in the league that could use a player of Cousins ability, they just might not be willing to put up with the circus that comes with it. Maybe a rekindled relationship with a former Kentucky point guard in Washington?
12. Okafor or Noel?
One will stay, one will go. Let’s face it, after three years of sitting on the sidelines, Joel Embiid has come in and taken over as the face of the Sixers and when Ben Simmons becomes healthy, they will give the team a one, two punch they haven’t had since….yes it has been that long….still thinking here….ok, let’s move on.
Embiid has established himself as the Sixers big man, so where does that leave a back to the basket type player like Jahlil Okafor, who has limited range and more limited defensive abilities? Or flip that same script around for Nerlens Noel and the problem still remains. There are some talks that the Boston Celtics are interested in the former Duke Blue Devil, but would they be willing to part with a rotation player? Would they be willing to move third overall pick Jaylen Brown? Could the Timberwolves be interested in tightening up their defensive inabilities by moving either Ricky Rubio or Tyus Jones? Either way, there just isn’t enough room in the city of Brotherly Love for both big men.
11. Pass The Buck
When Greg Monroe signed a three year, $51 million dollar free agent contract with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015, many were left shaking their heads. As the Sixers have with Okafor and Noel, the Detroit Pistons were in the same situation with Monroe and Andre Drummond, deciding to keep the latter and letting the former Georgetown product walk.
Now in his second year with the Bucks, it is obvious that despite his talents and presence on the defensive end (though he could be more of a shot blocking threat), there doesn’t seem to be a fit for him in coach Jason Kidd’s starting rotation. With teams like Boston, Toronto and New Orleans looking to improve their inside game, a trade to either of these three teams could give Monroe the fresh start he sought after leaving Detroit. One other option would be to work out a deal with the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins, who would make one scary lineup with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks may have to throw in some additional talent like Khris Middleton in order to sweeten the offer, but it may be worth it.
10. Alvin Gentry On The Hot Seat?
Sitting at 14-22 as of this writing, the New Orleans Pelicans are far from the team that many had predicted they were on the road to coming back in 2014-15. After drafting franchise forward Anthony Davis, the Pels improved their record in each of the next three seasons on route to a 45-37 regular season and a playoff appearance. Last year they dropped fifteen games in the win column and this year they don’t appear any better.
Is that Gentry’s fault? Not completely, but as we know, it’s easier to move a coach than it is to move a roster. They have a decent starting five (assuming everyone is healthy) and they drafted the NCAA Player Of The Year in Buddy Hield, so what’s the problem? Great question. The Pelicans are below average in both offensive and defensive rankings, so it’s quite possible that Gentry’s philosophies and strategies are not a mesh for a young team. If Gentry doesn’t make it through the season, look for long time assistant Fred Vinson to take over the coaches seat.
9. Log Jam In Orlando
For whatever reason, the Magic management team and coaching staff did not get the memo about the change of game style over the last couple of years and decided to create an issue within their frontcourt by adding Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green to a cast that already included Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon. That wouldn’t be that bad if this was the mid 90s, but when perimeter scoring is at a premium and you don’t have any, then chances are nothing good will come of it.
From a defensive standpoint all five big men can move in the transition and keep up with most of their opponents, but when your team is shooting a combined 33% from downtown, you have addressed the issue incorrectly. So who do you move? You just spent big money on bringing Biyombo and Green in and traded Victor Oladipo and your 2016 draft pick for Ibaka. As for trading Gordon, chances are slim, as he’s a fan favorite and one of your most athletic players. That leaves Vucevic, who is on the outside of the starting five looking in. Rumors say that Boston, Dallas and Portland are the most like destination for the talented big man who can return a backcourt package in return.
8. Which Way Did He Go George, Which Way Did He Go?
They say he isn’t going anywhere, but that won’t stop stories that Indiana Pacers star Paul George could soon be putting on a different jersey. It would be unfortunate for fans to watch George leave as the team seems to be on the cusp of returning to something positive, but they are just a player short of reaching their goal.
Myles Turner is looking to be the star many projected and Jeff Teague, despite his trouble long range, is playing just as well as he did in Atlanta. This past summer, the California native was the subject of trade rumors to return home and become the star that the Lakers are searching for to transition from the Kobe Bryant era, but those rumors obviously did not evolve.
That doesn’t mean they won’t return before the February deadline if both teams are struggling to make the playoffs. Problem is, there is no way in hell that Larry Bird does business with the Lakers, so look for George to end up elsewhere, maybe Bird’s old stomping grounds in Boston? In a trade that would work for both teams, a move to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins could benefit both parties as it gives the Wolves the veteran they’re looking for and the Pacers could build around Wiggins and a draft pick.
7. Mavericks Commit To Rebuild
At 10-24 and with limited young star power to compete with (outside of Harrison Barnes), the Dallas Mavericks should be looking to be sellers come February. Both the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors are in need of some interior defensive help. Sure he isn’t much of a scoring threat, but Andrew Bogut is a solid paint defender, can run the floor and is one of the better passing big men in the league.
Both the Rockets and Raptors have starting big men who make valuable contributions, but when it comes time for the second unit to step on the floor, there is a big drop off. Enter the championship veteran Bogut. Considering that the Mavs are looking for youth, a draft pick (which would be late for either Houston or Toronto) or a couple of seconds might be worth a Bogut package deal in order to help push them over the top.
6. Heat Chillin’
As part of a three team trade in 2015, the Miami Heat thought that Goran Dragic would be a component piece that would help the team return to the playoffs after LBJ left South Beach. And yes, the move paid off the following season as the Heat reached the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Unfortunately, 2016-17 has seen Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh both absent from the Heat lineup for various reasons, which has left the roster repairing on the fly, something Pat Riley doesn’t really want to do. In parting with Wade, Riley is fully committed to building with his youth, meaning there is very little need to keep the 30 year old point guard with three more years remaining on his five year, $85 million dollar contract.
Rumors of a trade to Philadelphia for Nerlens Noel would help both teams, as it would give the Sixers a veteran presence to help Ben Simmons and give Noel a fresh start. A secondary option is the rumored swap with their Florida neighbors, the Orlando Magic, who need to move someone off their front line and possibly add in young Elfrid Payton, again a win-win trade.
5. Who’s Replacing J.R.?
Despite the loss of their long range shooting guard J.R. Smith, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still rolling with a 26-7 record and 5-1 since Smith left with a broken right thumb. With a timeline of 12-14 weeks before he returns to action, the Cavs could be in need of a fill in for the twelve year vet. Could the Cavs find a way to bring in a player like Nick Young or Monta Ellis, two volume shooters into the mix?
Moving a defensive minded guard like Iman Shumpert to the Lakers could be a victory for both teams as the young Lakers are struggling defending their end of the floor. The Pacers on the other hand for Ellis, could use some youth in the form of DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae or a couple of second rounders. It’s unlikely that the Pacers would be willing to deal within their own division and again there is little chance that Pacers president Larry Bird would deal with the Lakers, but in the new era of everyone gets along NBA, stranger things have happened.
4. Kings Are A Mess
Let’s face it, the Sacramento Kings are a mess. They don’t know what to do with DeMarcus Cousins and while statistically Rudy Gay has been on par with his averages since arriving in Sacramento, the team hasn’t found the success they had hoped to achieve since trading for him.
So where would Gay end up? Could a package trade to Orlando with Darren Collison for Nik Vucevic and Elfrid Payton provide all parties with a change of scenery that they need? Considering that Gay becomes a free agent this coming summer, the Kings don’t want to let him walk with nothing in return. One other rumored destination is the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that prior to guard Cameron Payne’s broken foot was in the running to make a package deal for the scoring forward.
3. Don’t Count Us Out
Before the 2016-17 season tipped off, both Sixers star rookie Ben Simmons and Bucks guard Khris Middleton both suffered injuries that were said to be season ending. With both players playing a pivotal role in the future success of their respective teams, their absences has had a huge impact on their place within the standings.
Recently Middleton, who is plowing through his rehab, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he feels he will make it back into the Bucks lineup before the end of the season. With the team on the playoff bubble, a healthy Middleton could help push the team into the playoffs (and potentially a first round loss to the Cavaliers). As for Simmons, he has been able to hit the court for some light stationary shooting work, but remains without an official time line for return. Regardless the Sixers and their rookie point guard of the future remain optimistic that Simmons will see some floor time before the end of the 16-17 season.
2. Knight’s Out For The Suns
The Brandon Knight experiment is coming to an end for the Phoenix Suns. After trading for Knight during the 2014-15 season, the once borderline All-Star has seen his career come to a standstill as he comes off the bench for his current squad. While the original plan was to run Knight alongside of Eric Bledsoe, the emergence of Devin Booker quickly squashed that idea. In only his fifth year, the former Kentucky Wildcat still has aspirations and the ability to be a starting point guard in the NBA.
While there are a number of clubs that could use a player of Knight’s talents, one potential target could be a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for the expiring contract of either Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans. While the Suns would clear cap space to help with their rebuild, potentially adding around $11 million to their wallet, the Pels would bring in a scoring point guard who could take away some pressure from forward Anthony Davis.
1. Blake Heads East
The Clippers have failed to meet championship expectations since the commencement of Lob City. On paper, the Clippers should have been competing for a ring the last few years, but a trio of losses in the Western Conference Semi-Finals and a pair of first round knockouts are all the Clips have to brag about. With J.J. Redick set to be a free agent and Paul Pierce heading into retirement, LA needs to potentially replace their outside shooting. Enter Bradley Beal.
Reports say that Beal has struggled in his relationship with Wizards point guard John Wall, so a move could serve him well. Griffin is also set to be a free agent this summer, so Washington would be taking a big gamble on what could be a rental player, but as with Beal, a change of scenery and an escape from the spotlight could be what Griffin needs.
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