NBA Free Agency & Draft Intel: Ben Simmons & Kyle Lowry Updates; Latest on Draft Props
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Cade Cunningham.
With three days until the NBA Draft, here’s the latest league intel on free agency and the draft.
As always, keep in mind that leaks are often provided for a reason and this is the time of smokescreens, agent promotion, and counter-intel.
Ben Simmons Acceleration
There’s been an acceleration on the Ben Simmons front. Less than two weeks ago, league consensus was that Simmons would be traded sometime in August and not before the draft.
Bleacher Report reported Sunday that the Sixers have not received an offer of an All-Star for Simmons, thought to be the prerequisite for a deal.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been serious talks, however.
Multiple sources confirmed Sunday that the Toronto Raptors have emerged as a team with “significant” interest in Simmons. One source close to talks said discussions have not been substantial as of yet. Multiple sources including those close to talks said a proposed framework including Raptors guards Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and the 4th overall pick in Thursday’s draft for Simmons was rejected by Toronto.
Some league insiders did bring up a more complicated framework. As a preface, this is speculative based on what executives familiar with the situation have said. The Sixers want Bradley Beal, who is at least considering requesting a trade from the Wizards.
The Wizards, multiple sources have said, are aligning toward a full rebuild should Beal ask out. It’s not a coincidence that Bleacher Report reported that there have been preliminary talks between the Lakers and Wizards about a deal for Russell Westbrook, a deal that league sources said was increasingly likely as of Sunday night.
(As a reminder, these things are fluid. Deals fall apart all the time at the goal line and every single deal that gets leaked is “almost done” which almost never turns out to be true. Deals are done when they’re actually reported as done.)
So back to Simmons. The Sixers want Beal, the Wizards want rebuilding assets. The Raptors, to some degree, want Simmons. The Sixers have Simmons, the Wizards have Beal.
The Raptors have the No. 4 pick.
Is there a three-way framework to be found?
I have not heard that being discussed from any source involved in talks, but that idea was floated by more than one spitballing league source Sunday.
The list of other interested teams for Simmons lacks a marquee inclusion. The closest thing to it is talk of Simmons going to the Wolves for D’Angelo Russell. Given Russell’s relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns, I’m skeptical.
One other significant shift on the Simmons front: There was talk that 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey would be willing to start the season with Simmons to rehab his value before a midseason deal. That idea now seems untenable to executives based on discussions with Philadelphia.
One way or another, Simmons is very likely to be on another roster by the time September rolls around.
The Lowry Chase
Kyle Lowry is about to make an absolutely ridiculous amount of money for a 35-year-old non-All-NBA First Team guard.
There was some assumption from league sources that Lowry would be chasing a second ring in free agency. But while playoff or prospective playoff teams make up the list of suitors, the new operating assumption is that money will be the deciding factor for Lowry.
There will be no ring chasing under a minimum deal, in other words.
That limits which teams can field serious offers. Last week, we reported the Bulls as a team planning on throwing a lot of money at point guard, with Lowry a target of theirs and the Pelicans. Hall-of-Famer Marc Stein also reported the New Orleans angle.
Then on Monday, the Pelicans traded Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams along with the 10th pick to Memphis to clear cap space, presumably in pursuit of Lowry.
Add two more serious suitors to the Lowry list: the Knicks and the Mavericks.
The Knicks are considering a one-year deal that would trump, the thinking goes, a multi-team offer in single-year salary. The Mavericks are thought to be pursuing a two-year deal for Lowry.
There’s always room for Lowry to change his mind, but the thought process right now is that you need to be willing to put serious money in front of him to gain his services.
There’s a lot to get into here, let’s try and organize it a bit.
• Every year there’s a consensus No. 1 player by midseason of college basketball. This year it was Cade Cunningham. And that player is discussed as the No. 1 pick routinely up until the week of the draft, when suddenly “(Team with the No. 1 pick) is considering not taking (consensus No. 1 pick)” reports come out.
That happened on Monday.
That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible that the Pistons take Evan Mobley or Jalen Green.
There are two sides with arguments for not taking Cunningham. The first is that the analytics models aren’t terribly high on him. Two high-ranking analytics personnel said this week that the production Cunningham provided at Oklahoma State, even adjusted for teammates and role, doesn’t model as a real franchise star.
A really good player? Yes, but not a megastar.
The second angle is the same reasoning, that he may be a really great player who helps you win but not a franchise centerpiece, and there are scouts that think that.
However, if you press scouts and analysts “Who’s the best player in the draft?” it’s still Cunningham.
• The Rockets have basically taken out billboards across from the Pistons’ offices with “DO YOU WANT TO TRADE YOUR PICK? CALL 1-800-WE-HAVE-NO. 2-NO. 23-AND-NO. 24-NOW” on them.
• It’s probably worth noting if you’re the Pistons that if so many teams are desperate to get your pick, maybe you should just take the guy.
• Do I think there’s value on Cunningham to go 2nd at +2000? That’s 4.76% implied. There’s a better than 5% chance the Pistons trade the pick. But it’s “this is a flier” and not a major position.
• Here are the players that based on intel and informed big boards that have a better than 60% chance to go top 10 Thursday: Cunningham, Mobley, Green, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, Moses Moody and Josh Giddey.
• James Bouknight is another one. There’s a consensus among sources that he’ll go between No. 6 and 10.
Bouknight had a tremendous workout at the combine that impressed scouts and execs. (Yes, this was a 1-on-0 workout, yes, those are still influential, and no, I don’t know why.)
But Bouknight shot 30% from 3-point range last season at UConn and grades out poorly in analytics models. There are players like Bouknight who are discussed as consensus top guys and slide because the scouting departments just aren’t as high on them. Bouknight’s also going to be a 21-year-old rookie, and older players tend to slide.
Bouknight’s over/under is 7.5 at multiple books, and that’s just too sharp. If this goes to 6, I think the over is worth it, if it moves to 11.5 for some reason, I think the under has value depending on juice.
• Giddey is probably the hottest name right now. There’s a range for him from No. 7 to the Warriors to 10 if the Grizzlies remain there.
• Scottie Barnes has an over/under of 5.5, and the under has value. He’s been linked to the Raptors for over a month and if they trade back, it’s likely to someone who wants Jalen Suggs at 4.
In that scenario, the Magic are high on Barnes as well. Two different sources said their teams are operating under the assumption Barnes is a “lock” at 5, but I will vehemently caution against such language; those ideas presume that we’re always dealing with rational actors, a precept disproven by everything in NBA history.
• Two potential droppers with low over/unders are Jonathan Kuminga (6.5) and Davion Mitchell (10.5).
The only real threat for Kuminga is the Thunder at 6. Team draft consultants aren’t high on Kuminga, execs don’t light up at his mention.
There are two concerns with the under.
- No one, and I mean no one, knows what’s going on with the Thunder other than “they actively want to trade up.” Likes, dislikes, who’s high, who’s low, all of it is state secret in typical Thunder fashion.
- If OKC does complete a trade, it’s not crazy to think it’s to a team that wants to move up to reach for him or for a team in the top 4 willing to take the risk on him (Toronto).
Mitchell’s pretty straightforward. He’s 22 and neither team personnel or models have him high. He’s in play in the mid-teens.
• Moses Moody’s over/under is sharp at 11.5. The consensus is that no one dislikes Moody. Interviews have been good, the skillset is good, he’s impressed in workouts. He’s been talked about as high as No. 7 (with some question on if OKC might take him at No. 6).
Moody is a high-floor player, but he’s not considered real superstar material. If you’re a team in the top 10 and shopping for the home run, Moody is the safe choice.
For perspective, Moody at under 11.5 was juiced at +115 on July 4 at DraftKings and while the number hasn’t moved, it’s juiced to -140 now.
• Ayo Dosunmu checks all the boxes and isn’t expected to last until his over/under of 26.5 (evidenced by it being juiced at -165). … Aperen Sengun is in play for some top-10 teams but the teams interested (including Sacramento) are also interested in Franz Wagner. … The consistent names for the Knicks at 19 and 21 are Jared Butler and Isaiah Jackson. … if the Knicks don’t package the picks together to move up. … The Pacers have held a number of discussions on the No. 13 pick, including talks with the Rockets.