On Kyrie Irving, OG Anunoby and more ahead of the Draft


The NBA season is over, but does it ever really stop?

Just days after the Golden State Warriors won a fourth title in eight seasons and finished their championship parade, we’re already looking ahead to what’s next.

First, there’s Thursday’s NBA Draft, where not only is there intrigue to see where future stars land, but also potential for blockbuster trades.

Then, there’s bracing for the annual chaos that is NBA free agency.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the long list of rumours circulating in the NBA:

What’s happening with Kyrie?

His ability to stay on the court is inconsistent. His ability to generate drama, however, is not. After three years, 103 games played and not much else to show for it — is this it for Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets?

Although some tension between Irving and the Nets doesn’t come as a surprise after a rollercoaster season, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Monday that both sides had “gone stagnant” in contract extension talks and the seven-time All-Star could consider testing the open market in free agency. At the centre of it all is Brooklyn’s reluctance to pay the unreliable Irving the max contract he desires.

Many see this recent report as a play by Irving’s camp to gain leverage. The 2016 NBA champion has, after all, continuously stated a desire to return to Brooklyn (although his words can’t necessarily be taken for certain, see: Celtics, Boston).

Still, the Nets enter this situation thinking it’s possible Irving could walk, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday, and fear what that could mean for franchise superstar Kevin Durant. That’s where Irving’s true leverage lies because rival executives reportedly hope Irving leaves to free agency so Durant could become acquirable via trade.

Now, Durant is about to start the first year of a four-year deal, but we’ve seen star NBA players force their way out time and again (one did it twice in 13 months, actually), so the Nets are balancing the difficult tasks of standing their ground on Irving’s contract demands and keeping Durant happy in Brooklyn.

Should Irving become available, Charania lists the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers as among the teams interested, while Wojnaroski says the Lakers are “the biggest threat right now.”

Some things to note:

• Irving has a $36.9-million player option for next season, which has a June 29 deadline.

• Should he opt in, he’ll remain under contract with the Nets for the 2022-23 season.

• Should he opt out, he’ll be eligible for a five-year $250-million extension with the Nets or become a free agent, and teams could offer him as much as $182 million over four seasons.

For cap reasons, the clearest way for the Lakers or Clippers to acquire Irving is by trading for him once he’s opted into his player option, but in that scenario there’s no incentive for the Nets to trade him — especially when neither team has anything to offer.

Durant is 33 and, depending how you view his playoff performance against the Celtics, may not have that many years left at the top of his game. The Nets need to win now, it’s championship-or-bust as long as Durant is in Brooklyn, and trading Irving for anything less than a star of a similar calibre won’t help with that. Besides, one way to keep Durant pleased with Brooklyn even if Irving leaves is to bring in talent in return.

The Clippers are presumably hanging on to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at all costs and can’t offer much more than some above-average role players in Norman Powell and Luke Kennard.

For the Lakers, a Russell Westbrook-for-Irving swap simultaneously reuniting Durant with Westbrook and Irving with LeBron James is about the only thing that could top the James Harden-Ben Simmons madness from earlier this season. But no, Westbrook does not fit the criteria of a similar-level player to Irving, nor would that make Durant happy, we’d think. That is about all the Lakers can offer.

Now there is always the chance, Wojnarowski said, that Irving walks and signs with the Lakers on a mid-level exception of roughly $6 million.

“Most people would say a player’s not going to give up that much money, but Kyrie Irving gave up nearly $17 million last year because of his refusal to get vaccinated, (and) is in the process of losing that shoe deal with Nike, so I think the Nets have gone into this with their eyes open that it’s possible he could walk,” Wojnarowski said Wednesday on ESPN’s NBA Today.

The Knicks have a pathway to acquiring Irving through a sign-and-trade or directly through free agency, if they can offload some on their contracts, but it would take a lot of work to make room for Irving’s $40-plus million cap hit.

Other than that? Only the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs have cap space once free agency begins — and those marriages don’t make much sense for either side.

Anything can happen in the NBA. We’ll see how it plays out.

OG… oh no?

The Portland Trail Blazers are in pursuit of quiet-but-loveable Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, and suddenly the rumours feel a little more real.

Bleacher Report insider Jake Fischer got the ball rolling in late May, sending shockwaves through Raptors Twitter by reporting Anunoby was unhappy with his role on the Raptors. Sportsnet’s Michael Grange wrote in his latest column that the displeasure is thought to have been overstated, but pointed out that Raptors general manager Bobby Webster interestingly didn’t jump at the opportunity to dispel any trade rumours revolving around Anunoby on Tuesday — seemingly leaving open the possibility that it could happen, even if it’s not likely.

Haynes added in his report that the Blazers’ No. 7 overall pick in the draft is in play. But is that what the Raptors want? Would Toronto really trade its 24-year-old two-way wing who has steadily improved season after season for a project that may or may not reach a similar level in a few years? It’s impossible to say for sure, but that doesn’t feel like the kind of offer the Raptors are looking for — even though there’s no shortage of enticing prospects in the No. 7 range.

When we talk of the Raptors moving one step closer to being a contender, trading Anunoby might be a way to make that happen, but including him in a trade for a big man like Rudy Gobert or Deandre Ayton, instead of futures, might make more sense.

Should the Blazers pull off a deal, it’ll already mark their second significant off-season move after the franchise reportedly traded a Milwaukee Bucks 2025 first-round pick and more to the Pistons for forward Jerami Grant on Wednesday evening.

Ayton to Motown?

With the Grant deal done, the Pistons now have a whopping $43 million in cap space — and they’re already thinking of ways they might spend it. According to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, the Pistons are “heavily expected to pursue” Ayton on the open market.

Ayton and the Phoenix Suns failed to reach an agreement on a rookie extension prior to the 2021-22 season, which raised eyebrows considering the franchise’s No. 1 overall pick in 2018 had just played a pivotal role in helping the team to the NBA Finals.

When Suns head coach Monty Williams said the reason Ayton played only 17 minutes is Phoenix’s Game 7 second-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks was “internal,” the writing was on the wall.

Wojnarowski, who’d previously reported in May that Ayton did not feel valued by the Suns, also reported during ESPN’s NBA Draft preview show Wednesday night that Phoenix does not value Ayton as a max contract and is “very motivated” to find a sign-and-trade for him.

For the Pistons, it’s a perfect fit. They have cap space, he’s only 23 and in line with Detroit’s young core. As a big who rebounds and finishes effectively around the rim, he’s an ideal piece to place alongside franchise cornerstone and playmaker Cade Cunningham, who’s only 20.

But the Pistons don’t really have many pieces that could help the contending Suns or make a sign-and-trade work right now — their biggest chip is the No. 5 overall pick.

More Draft Pick Chatter

The projected top three picks of Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paulo Banchero feel set in stone, with Wojnarowski saying Thursday the likelihood is them going in that order to Orlando, Oklahoma City and Houston, respectively, but after that it gets interesting.

The Pacers, Knicks, Spurs and Washington Wizards among others have “made efforts to leapfrog in the lottery,” according to Fischer. The Knicks have reportedly talked about offering a package centred around multiple first-round picks for the Sacramento Kings’ No. 4 overall selection in order to select Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, SNY’s Ian Begley reports.

Begley also reported the Knicks have touched base with the Pistons regarding their No. 5 overall pick, where Ivey could still be available should the Kings select Iowa standout Keegan Murray.

Get to know the Canadians in this draft

They aren’t consensus top-three picks. But, in this year’s NBA Draft, these Canadians are ready to leave their mark.

From Montreal to the Top 10: Raised in “a city of underdogs,” Bennedict Mathurin’s path to the NBA Draft was shaped by where he came from.

Small track record, big potential: That Shaedon Sharpe grew up to be an athletic kid in London, Ontario was no great shock. But what came next? That part has been unscripted.

The whirlwind of Nembhard and Houstan: Their paths were different. They ended up in the same place, though, taking pains to keep the opinions of others from creeping into their consciousness as the big night approaches.


John Collins package for Dejounte Murray?

According to multiple reports, John Collins’s time in Atlanta could be over before the end of the day. The 24-year-old power forward, who has scored over 15 points a game his last four seasons while shooting the ball well from deep, is reportedly commanding a fair bit of interest from teams such as the Celtics, Blazers and Kings.

But one trade rumour comes as a bit of a surprise.

Fischer reported late Wednesday that the Hawks and Spurs have discussed a trade revolving around Collins and Dejounte Murray — with the Spurs seeking a “Jrue Holiday-like package,” which included three first-round picks.

Murray is coming off a breakout season where he averaged 21-9-8 while leading the NBA in steals to earn his first NBA All-Star nod. The 25-year-old also has two years left on a more-than-reasonable four-year, $64-million deal, so why the Spurs would even entertain an offer is a little curious — with the only real precursor being an out-of-the-blue a cryptic tweet by Murray on Tuesday.

Bye, Bye, Brogdon

If not for Collins, Malcolm Brogdon might be the most likely player to be traded this off-season, with Wojnarowski reporting he’s likely to be traded before the draft begins.

Made possible by last season’s acquisition of young guard Tyrese Haliburton, the Pacers can safely move off Brogdon, who turns 30 in December, as the team continues its rebuild.

The Lakers are reportedly interested, and offered the Pacers Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker and a 2026 first-round pick, ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony said on The Lowe Post. Fischer reports the Pacers have primarily held discussions with the Knicks and Wizards, who can build packages around the No. 11 and No. 10 pick, respectively.

On top of Brogdon, the Pacers are, as always, fielding calls on centre Myles Turner, Charania reports. Fischer lists the Raptors, Timberwolves and Hornets as possible suitors.

Quick notes

• James Harden is “heading towards” opting into his $47-million player option for next season, and then extending for something short of a max contract, per Wojnarowski.

• Chicago is the “closest thing there is to a likely destination” for Rudy Gobert, according to Independent NBA insider Marc Stein. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor also said the Timberwolves “like” Gobert and Hawks centre Clint Capela, and Charania reported the Wolves have discussed trades for veteran centres — including Capela.

• The Charlotte Hornets are hesitant to match a max offer sheet for pending restricted free agent Miles Bridges, according to Charania. Bridges turned down a low-ball extension offer from the Hornets last off-season and proceeded to have his best season yet — averaging 20.2 points at 23 years old. Still, the Hornets are gauging interest in Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee ahead of Bridges entering free agency, according to Fischer, and are willing to attach a first-round pick to dump Gordon Hayward’s contract, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

• The Knicks are looking to clear $25 million in cap space for Jalen Brunson, per Fischer.

 • The Philadelphia 76ers are interested in signing PJ Tucker to a three-year, $30-million deal, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey adds that the 76ers are shopping Matisse Thybulle and the 23rd overall pick to create cap space.

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