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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
The 2019 NBA draft is days away, and the free-agent market will open shortly thereafter.
In other words, the buzz from basketball rumors is nearing a fever pitch.
Draft strategies continue to come into focus. Free-agency flight risks are approaching the runway. Trade talks are loud enough that they could soon transform into full-fledged transactions.
It’s arguably the best time of the year for hoop heads, provided they’re able to separate fact from fiction in the rumor mill.
We’re here to help by using our old, reliable BS Meter to perform the totally scientific, always-accurate smell test on the latest and most significant offseason rumors.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
The Shamrocks never approached their collective ceiling, and their second-round flameout was lowlighted by a particularly brutal stretch by Uncle Drew. He averaged more shots (20.8) than points (19.0) over Boston’s season-ending four-game losing streak, uttering only “Who cares?” when pressed about the inefficiency.
In the process, the free-agent-to-be may have pushed this relationship past the point of salvaging.
“There’s nobody in Boston who thinks he’s staying,” a source told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
Fair or not, the Celtics’ underwhelming effort this past season—they won more games and traveled deeper into the playoffs last year despite losing Irving and Gordon Hayward to injuries—was often treated as Irving’s failure first. He struggled to mesh with the team’s young core, but they also struggled to fit in alongside the club’s now-healthy vets.
Should that rush Uncle Drew out the door? Remember, the Celtics can give him a longer, richer contract than anyone (five years, $188 million). They also continue boasting superteam potential on paper.
But all indications are this ship has sailed and isn’t coming back to port.
Verdict: Zero traces of BS. Both sides seem ready to move on.
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The Atlanta Hawks are open for business.
After previous reports suggested they were plotting a major move in free agency, they now may be looking to launch up the draft board. With six total picks and three top-20 selections—No. 17 recently arrived via the Brooklyn Nets, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski—the Hawks seemingly have the capital to move up and might have a preferred prospect, too.
“According to league sources, Atlanta has been angling to move up in the draft by packaging their various picks, and continue to explore possibilities there,” SI.com’s Jeremy Woo reported. “Their primary target would seem to be Jarrett Culver, and they would likely have to get ahead of Phoenix to get him.”
It’s no surprise the 6’5″ Culver is highly regarded. He broke out in a major way as a sophomore, bumping several key stat categories, including points (18.5), rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.7). He also logged the most minutes on the nation’s best defense. Plus, his biggest weakness last season was three-point shooting (30.4 percent), which was one of his top strengths just the year before (38.2).
It’d also be no surprise if he’s found his way onto Atlanta’s radar. After dealing Taurean Prince, the Hawks have an opening for a defensive-minded, do-it-all glue guy to slot alongside Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins. That’s a potentially scary squad, especially with Collins being its senior member at 21 years old.
Verdict: No BS on Atlanta’s interest in Culver, possible BS on the ability to move up high enough to take him.
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They may have one escape clause, but it’s of the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency variety. Trading Bradley Beal—a 25-year-old two-time All-Star on a relatively affordable deal through the 2020-21 season—could be the one move that brings difference-making potential to the franchise.
But having a reset button only matters if an organization is willing to press it. It doesn’t sound like the Wizards have reached that point.
League sources told The Athletic’s David Aldridge that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis “insists on keeping Beal.” For what it’s worth, multiple decision-makers around the league told Aldridge if they were steering the ship in the District, they’d keep Beal onboard.
But what’s the point? Wall was the only sure thing on this roster. Now, the athleticism-dependent point guard is about to blow past his 29th birthday—and possibly the entire 2019-20 campaign—recovering from a torn Achilles. The only certainty with his future is its absurd cost.
If that’s not motivation enough for the Wizards to entertain trade talks for Beal, the offseason climate should be. Multiple teams have created enough cap space to hunt for a max player or two, and the market lacks the supply to satisfy that demand. Washington should be ready to position Beal as the best kind of consolation prize and then prepare to collect a small army of assets.
Verdict: Major BS they wouldn’t consider moving Beal. It might be the only way out of this mess.
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Chris Seward/Associated Press
Word of advice to Memphis Grizzlies fans: You might want to hold off on placing any orders for a custom Ja Morant jersey.
Despite early indications the Grizzlies were dead set on Morant, their minds may not be made up yet.
“According to league sources, Memphis’ leadership has not come to a firm decision on this pick yet, with RJ Barrett still a candidate for No. 2,” SI.com’s Jeremy Woo reported.
This sort of makes sense, and then it doesn’t at all. We’ll explain.
Barrett is a brilliant prospect. He sat atop this draft class before the season started and then proceeded to average 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists as an 18-year-old freshman in the ACC.
If this rookie crop produces a go-to NBA scorer, he’s the most likely candidate. Assuming his deep ball comes around (he has better mechanics than his 30.8 three-point percentage suggests), he could be a three-level threat. Since that description might apply to Jaren Jackson Jr., too, Memphis could have a pair of mismatches under the age of 20.
That said, the early (and ongoing) interest in Morant is there for a reason. He looks perfect for Memphis, a true floor general to take Beale Street’s baton from Mike Conley and carry it into the future. An explosive athlete with elite court vision, he could team with Jackson to establish the Grizzlies’ post-grit-and-grind identity.
Verdict: Minimal BS that Barrett is in the discussion, medium BS the Grizzlies would actually make him the pick.
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Howard Simmons/Associated Press
While Anthony Davis can’t hit the free-agent market until next summer, the single-browed superstar is already attempting to handpick his next employer.
This isn’t a new idea. After his trade demand surfaced in late January, he provided the New Orleans Pelicans with four preferred destinations shortly thereafter: the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.
The list has apparently been split in half since. Only the Knicks and Lakers remain, league sources told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Truth be told, these may have been his only desired landing spots all along. Adding the Clippers and Bucks to the February list made little sense, since they didn’t have viable offers to make.
Now, Davis is trying to use whatever leverage he has to route himself to L.A. or New York. It’s in no way coincidental this revised list came to light only hours after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pelicans had started providing potential trade partners with their desired framework for a deal.
New Orleans is aiming for “a combination of assets that include an All-Star player, a young player with All-Star potential and two first-round picks,” Wojnarowski reported. If it takes a multi-team transaction to deliver that haul, the Pelicans are open to that avenue.
One way or another, New Orleans (rightfully) seems determined to squeeze this situation for all it’s worth. While the Knicks and Lakers will almost assuredly be in the bidding, Davis’ desires don’t necessarily get them any closer to winning the sweepstakes.
Verdict: No BS Davis has a two-team wish list, moderate BS it will play a major role in trade talks.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.