Play fact or fiction with the latest NBA news and rumors
The James Harden-Los Angeles Clippers trade continues to send ripples throughout the NBA world.
What will the Philadelphia 76ers do with their new picks and players? What stars could become available next? Could the Chicago Bulls emerge as a potential trade partner after a 2-5 start to the season?
It’s time to play fact or fiction with the latest NBA news and rumors, much of which revolves around the implications of the Harden trade.
At some point, Chicago is going to have to look at itself in the mirror and admit that this core simply doesn’t work together without Lonzo Ball. Not enough was done this offseason to address the point guard position, as Patrick Williams took a step back and started the defense ranked 23rd.
Instead of the famous bull’s head logo, Chicago is perhaps better represented by a hamster running on a wheel. Things are technically happening, but no progress is actually being made.
If a rebuild occurs, it may or may not include Zach LaVine. The Bulls reportedly have “no intention” of trading the 28-year-old according to Joe Cawley of Chicago Sun-Times.
Of course, that’s exactly the message the front office would want to get across even if they wanted to trade a player, in an attempt to increase what little value they might have.
LaVine is a great scorer, though he’s long been a flawed defender and hasn’t impacted wins the way a multiple-time All-Star should. Now in his 10th season, LaVine has finished with a positive swing rating just twice in his career, with the Bulls currently winning by 6.7 points per 100 possessions with their star on the floor.
Given his contract, LaVine’s market won’t be as strong.
Now in the second season of a five-year, $215 million deal, LaVine will average $46 million from 2024 to 2027.
While LaVine could theoretically play a role in the post-James Harden 76ers, Philly’s plan to keep cap space open next summer would be ruined by taking that kind of money.
The Bulls would be smart to acquire LaVine outright, even if it means trading him for a salary bump and one first-round pick.
real or fantasy: imaginary. Chicago must do everything it can to start rebuilding and get rid of LaVine’s contract. But his return won’t be great.
James Harden’s trade value has diminished dramatically with each transfer request, from his high value going from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets to the roles and draft picks he currently has for the Los Angeles Clippers.
While he’s getting older (34) and putting a lot of miles on the tires (he ranks 68th all-time in regular season and playoff minutes), could Harden really be on the last stretch of his career?
Former Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough thinks so, noting that there were no teams lining up to acquire Harden in his latest trade saga.
“I think for Harden, on an individual level, there’s not a lot of interest. The majority of teams don’t want him at any price, even the non-guaranteed minimum, that he has to earn.” McDonough said on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “I think it should work out in Los Angeles, and if it doesn’t work out, I think there’s a chance he’ll be out of the league next year.”
There’s no doubt that interest in Harden has waned in recent years, although signing a player to a minimum contract is a lot different than having to give up multiple first-round picks and players for him.
Harden still led the NBA in assists last season (10.7), averaged over 20 points per game for the 11th straight season, and had some monster performances (over 40 points in two games against the Boston Celtics).
If all Harden costs next summer is the exception to mediocrity, there are still a number of cash-strapped contenders (Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns) who should welcome him into their hearts.
Even if things go badly with the Clippers, it’s incomprehensible to think that Harden won’t even get a contract offer from one of the 30 teams next year.
real or fantasy: imaginary. Harden’s value has plummeted, but he still found a contender’s home as a free agent.
While the Bulls know exactly what they’re doing this season, DeMar DeRozan’s future will take center stage. A free agent next summer, there’s no reason for the 34-year-old forward to re-sign if Chicago truly begins rebuilding.
This is likely DeRozan’s last chance to get another big contract given his age, even if he is still playing at a high level.
When asked about not extending his contract, the six-time All-Star gave a surprising answer.
“Honestly, I don’t think about it at all. I never think about it. It doesn’t worry me or stress me out. Again, I control what I can control. And in time, let it speak for itself,” DeRozan said. Via KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
Good for DeRozan if that’s the truth. Having already earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary throughout his career ($256.4 million by the end of this year), money may no longer be the concern it once was.
Overall, DeRozan looks like one of the most loyal players in the NBA, as he remained on the back foot with the San Antonio Spurs following his trade from the Toronto Raptors and is now doing everything he can to try and get the Bulls’ subpar roster back to the next level. Playoffs without whispering a trade request.
For most players, we would call BS for not thinking about the contract. As for DeRozan, we actually believe him.
real or fantasy: fact. DeRozan has made enough money in his career that he is completely comfortable, focusing entirely on basketball instead.
As the Philadelphia 76ers survey the league to see what stars are available, there are two Eastern Conference rivals that are particularly interesting.
According to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, the 76ers will “monitor” Donovan Mitchell’s situation in Cleveland while the Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby is “liked” by current Sixers head coach and former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
Mitchell is clearly on a level of his own here, as he was an All-Star last season and currently leads the NBA in scoring with 32.5 points per game. He’s under contract for this year and next, with the complete implosion of the season by the Cavaliers making any type of trade possible.
However, Anunoby is a much more realistic target. The question becomes whether Philly tries to trade the two-way star before the deadline or waits until the summer of 2024 when Anunoby becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The Sixers could gain $55.6 million in cap space after trading James Harden according to ESPN Bobby Marks, giving them the space to sign Anunoby outright while still having plenty of space left over. Of course, this means no 2022-2023 All-Defensive team member is available for the 2024 playoff run.
Expect Philly to make a run at Anunoby at the deadline if the Raptors start getting out of the playoffs, with Mitchell still a pipe dream at this point.
real or fantasy: The fact that the Sixers could acquire Anunoby before the deadline is a fantasy that Mitchell will become available this season.