The Michelob Ultra sprayed about the Denver Nuggets’ locker room on Monday night has barely dried, but the NBA offseason is upon us and the league sleeps for no one.
There are already rumors abound about which star players are being targeted by teams to acquire, and there is no shortage of big names that could be available. Today, let’s discuss some of the latest rumors around the key players in the league, and what bets we can make based on those rumors.
Damian Lillard likely staying in Portland
It would seem that Portland is outwardly declaring its intentions to keep Lillard in the fold. ESPN NBA analyst Brian Windhorst made it known in a recent report that the two are committing to one another ahead of the draft next Thursday:
“The indications I have out of Portland are that they are still all-in together,” said Windhorst on ESPN’s Get Up. “He obviously did put them on the edge a little bit with what he said at the conclusion of the season, which is that he didn't look for any more developmental players. But I have no indications that the Blazers are doing anything with Dame, or that Dame is pushing in that direction.”
If that is the case then that would mean the third overall pick in next Thursday’s draft will be up for grabs as Portland looks to add readymade talent next to Lillard. This report from Windhorst also coincides with reports from Charania that the New Orleans Pelicans are making a push to grab the second or third overall pick in the hopes of drafting G-League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson. It would take a big piece to grab that pick from the Trail Blazers, but the Pelicans have just that in Zion Williamson.
The potential of Williamson being traded to Portland was discussed by Kelley Bydlon and I on the latest Hardwood Handicappers, and it doesn’t seem to be a wild theory. Marc Stein recently reported that New Orleans would consider trading Williamson if it meant getting Henderson, and Williamson would be the running-mate Lillard could use to make a push in the Western Conference.
Henderson is currently -185 to go third overall at DraftKings, and the Trail Blazers are 120-1 to win the NBA Finals next season. Should this trade go down both bets would be worth making at this point. New Orleans would only make the move to select Henderson, and the market would shift dramatically on Portland’s price to win the title next season should Williamson be acquired.
Bradley Beal on the way out of Washington
It seemed that Bradley Beal’s name came up in almost every offseason as a potential trade candidate. Now that is a reality after The Athletic NBA Insider Shams Charania reported that Beal and the Washington Wizards were going to work together to find him a new home.
Beal is now one of quite a few guards available, either via trade or free agency, that can theoretically increase the probability of a team winning the NBA Finals. Especially if he is going to a team where he does not have to be the main option. However, there are some roadblocks to getting this done.
First, Beal has a no-trade clause, which means that he can effectively decide where he wants to go. That cuts down Washington’s leverage in trade talks quite a bit, and if they feel like the deal they are getting back for Beal is not good enough they can just decline to trade him and force him to play. Remember, he still has three years and a player option for a fourth year left on his deal.
Second, he just isn’t the same player he once was. Beal has only played in 90 of a possible 164 regular season games the past two seasons. His VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) in those seasons (+2.6) pale in comparison to what it was at his peak from 2016-2021 (+15.9). These factors mean Washington should be the favorite to retain him this offseason, but it is still worth keeping an eye on two Eastern Conference contenders: Miami and Milwaukee.
Charania has reported that those two teams were expected to be candidates to acquire Beal via trade. Miami has already made it known that they are going to be in the market for a big acquisition, and if Lillard is likely staying in Portland then pursuing Beal might be the next best thing.
The Heat have plenty of draft assets to send Washington and there is plenty of salary on their books - Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson to name a few - that could be used in a swap. They also have the desire. Miami is in desperate need of a secondary scoring option next to Jimmy Butler, and a trade for Beal would vault them near the top of the oddsboard in the Eastern Conference. Given the obvious Florida ties as well, and it seems like the Heat are the favorite to land Beal this offseason.
Regardless, if there is an offseason future investment to be made it would be on Miami to win the NBA Finals. Every indication is that the Heat want to acquire an impactful player this offseason. Whether that is Beal, Lillard or even one of the free agent guards in Kyrie Irving, James Harden or Fred VanVleet, bettors should expect a roster improvement. If that is the case the 25-1 that is out there on Miami to win the Finals is going to be cut in half at least.