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Post draft Rumors: Rockets eye Lopez, Harden latest, Draymond-Kings buzz, & scary Dame updates

The latest on Bucks’ center Brook Lopez’s future, could Draymond Green team up with Domantas Sabonis, the player who he stomped on in the playoffs? Plus, more on James Harden and Dame Lillard.

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Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Game Two Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The NBA Draft has come and gone and the Sixers waited until it was over before pouncing on three undrafted prospects.

But things may only just be heating up. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, writing after the draft wrapped: “League personnel are anticipating the chance for some atypical trade activity between the conclusion of the draft and the start of free agency.”

Atypical!? Could we be headed for NBA rumor Sloppageddon?

Where do things stand with the NBA Draft now in the rear view and heading into free agency an trade season? Let’s check in on new title odds, Brook Lopez, James Harden, Draymond Green, and Damian Lillard’s latest.

A new pecking order?

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Following their acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis and a pair of first-round picks, the Boston Celtics have actually tied the reigning champs, the Denver Nuggets, on DraftKings for 2024 finals favorite. Denver held a brief lead after winning this year’s title. But now Boston and Denver are both at +475 now.

For a Conference Finals runner-up to have surged into a tie with the defending champs here, wow. Oddsmakers seem to believe the move from Marcus Smart to Porzingis is a big-time (on paper) upgrade for Boston.

The Sixers are +1300, tied for 6th with the Golden State Warriors.

As of now, only the Celtics and Bucks are ahead of your Sixers in the East, with the Heat just behind Philly at +1400. But Jimmy Butler and co. are hoping to land Damian Lillard, so let’s keep our eyes on that.

The odds as of Saturday morning per DK:

Let’s start with news out of Milwaukee, maybe Philadelphia can gain some ground on them.

Brook Lopez, you are a Houston Rocket?!

Milwaukee Bucks v Houston Rockets Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

So the Bucks now sit at +750 in the East, with nearly twice the title equity as your Sixers. But you know what might change that dramatically? If the Bucks lost a key starter and the Sixers did not.

Many of us started to get used to the idea the Bucks would stay pat with Sixers’ star James Harden leaving for Houston. Some of us were even talking about “punt years.” But lately, there’s been this steady drum beat that things could actually play out the other way.

Let’s rewind back to April 2023. Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry sold his 25 percent team ownership. The team wound up getting bounced in the playoffs by the Miami Heat.

They would fire championship winning head coach Mike Budenholzer, tapping Nick Nurse’s former Toronto Assistant, Adrian Griffin, as Coach Bud’s successor.

And as more and more details of the NBA’s new CBA started to trickle out, it all started to paint the picture of a team whose future is far from certain.

The 2021 NBA Finals MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is under contract for at least two more years. The team will likely try to extend him prior to that point. If Freak doesn’t sign that extension, fans in Cheese town can sound the alarm bells with a potential seismic free agency period two summers away.

But assuming Giannis is their plan A, B, and C, as a luxury tax team, things could get very steep very fast for this newish ownership group.

Maybe that’s what Lasry sniffed out ahead of time?

Per Jake Fischer, reporting last week:

“And there is a growing sense among league executives that [Khris] Middleton will return to the Bucks on a long-term agreement. Another key Milwaukee starter, however, sharp-shooting center Brook Lopez, is a veteran free agent on Houston’s radar, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”

So it sounds like the Bucks are in the driver’s seat to keep Middleton. But can they keep him and Splash Mountain?

Losing the 35-year-old 2023 NBA All Defensive First-Teamer, who also drained 136 triples (just behind top names like Porzingis, OG Anunonby, Joe Harris, and Al Horford) would be a tough blow.

Lopez’s shooting pulls bigs like Joel Embiid away from the rim on defense, plus he can hold his own against Embiid on the other end, allowing Giannis to wreak havoc on the weakside. His departure could have a true ripple effect on The Deer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, reporting on air during the NBA Draft Thursday: “the Bucks are also facing Brook Lopez’s free agency. There’s an expectation that the Houston Rockets, flushed with a lot of salary cap space, are going to be a real threat for Lopez.”

Brian Windhorst of ESPN added more fuel to that fire.

Per Windy from a Hoop Collective Draft night special, on the Rockets’ summer plan:

“I think they’re trying to sign veterans....players that they’re looking at Dillon Brooks...and Brook Lopez is a guy that [Rockets coach] Ime Udoka, the word in the NBA is that he has targeted to want to come in and and be the back line of his defense....Milwaukee is gonna try to get Khris Middleton re-signed. The Brook Lopez thing is gonna be hard. Milwaukee is a repeater tax team. Lopez is gonna be one the interesting contracts that comes out in the first day or two of free agency.”

Brooks and Brook? Has a nice ring. Windy mentions how when you’re a bad team trying to steal a good player from a contender, you basically have to throw a major bag at him.

Windy continued:

“You kind of got to buy your way out of the situation...I think the Rockets have some free agents where they’re like ‘they gotta have’.... I think they want to rapidly improve and I don’t know how much time [No. 4 pick of Overtime Elite] Amen Thompson is gonna get....I think they’re transitioning, they wanna hit the gas a little bit....”

But that last note, about being unclear of Amen Thompson’s role (he plays the same position as James Harden) and how much burn the rookie would get from the jump if they’re trying to “hit the gas,” well it all begs the question: would they throw that full bag at Harden? Is he still one of those guys “they have to have?”

They’re looking at roughly $60M in space. That could mean $40M for Harden and $20M for Lopez, annually. Would that do the trick? What about $35M and $25M respectively?

Harden latest

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

When asked, Windy did not go so far as to say he personally thinks Harden would be back with the Sixers. But he did say he thinks Daryl Morey’s front office is gaining confidence they’ll be able to re-sign him:

“I think the Sixers are feeling positive about their ability to re-sign James. I think it’s more positive than it was a month ago, you can debate about whether the coaching change [from Doc Rivers to Nick Nurse] had anything to do with that. The thing with James Harden will be how much and how long. He’s significantly below the max right now, do you take him to the max? If they take him to the max, they can only give him four they give him four? Do they give him three with a fourth year non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed or some way to do it? But I think Philly feels like they’ve got a decent shot to keep James Harden.”

Hey, James’ name is written in red sharpie on the team’s leaked white board photo with Paul Reed’s so maybe that’s a clue!

Windy is spitballing about a potential three year deal with partial guarantees, and Woj is talking about sub-max deals as well.

It’s still all hypothetical and no one is saying flat out, “I expect Harden back” yet. But it sounds like the Sixers may have the inside track on keeping The Beard.

Draymond Green to Sac Town?

The Dubs are tied with the Sixers for the 6th best title odds. They just traded 24 year old Jordan Poole for 38 year old Chris Paul because they want to maximize Steph Curry’s title window. The Warriors even used a 2030 first-round pick to land CP3. (Would they have wanted Tobias Harris, if Morey didn’t insist on the picks the Wizards got? What if Morey added picks to Harris AND let them keep their own picks?)

So you’d think that would help them retain Draymond Green, shedding long-time salary, and removing players he’s most likely to punch in practice.

But could there be other suitors?

Windhorst draws the connection from Green to Kings’ reigning Coach of the Year winner Mike Brown, a former Warriors’ assistant. The NBA insider says the Poole trade should give the Dubs the inside track to keep both Green and Klay Thompson.

But Windy adds: the Kings can now go hunting for Draymond Green, if they wish... with this cap space they can blow Golden State, what Golden State would want to pay, out of the water.”

You can hear the crew in the tweet below joke a little bit about how awkward that first practice would be between Green and Sabonis.

Would the Kings really put a massive offer on the table for the player who stomped on All-NBA Third Teamer Domantas Sabonis’ ribs in a playoff altercation? Sabonis was diagnosed with a sternum contusion after imaging. That pairing would produce quite a few memes.

Per Anthony Slater of The Athletic, writing last May:

“....the Kings could now offer Sabonis a four-year extension worth around $121.6 million. The starting salary would be $27.1 million....Should Sabonis wait until he is an unrestricted free agent next summer, his max contract could start around an estimated $42.2 million, extend five years and make him substantially more over the course of the deal.”

So if the Kings are committed to keeping Sabonis happy, they’d need his 1,000 percent buy in on a potential Green move like this. If Sabonis didn’t sound absolutely thrilled about the idea, then asking him to stomach it and ‘oh please sign this below market-value extension’ may not go over well.

On the flip side, if they bring in Green and then Sabonis doesn’t sign his extension, they’d have to worry about team chemistry perhaps going kablooie as the Gonzaga product heads into his own future free agency down the road.

It all gives me a few non-starter vibes until I picture Sabonis saying: meh, Dray has so many rings and he fits so well, and Green saying: how many more millions to move just 87 miles away!? Let’s patch things up.

Operation: Avoid Damian Lillard going to Miami

If the Sixers run it back, and two teams above them in the pecking order in Milwaukee and Golden State potentially lose a key star, the Sixers would see a sizable boost in their own championship odds. That is, unless the Miami Heat swing a blockbuster for Damian Lillard.

We’ve reached the point enough fans think Dame could be heading to Miami, his agent has to clarify why certain songs were heard on certain social media appearances:

There isn’t much coming out of Philadelphia lately. But if bad things happen to those around you, it can work out also. Dame staying put would be bad for the Heat.

The latest from Woj and Shams does not make make me very confident Dame is going to stick around for a rebuild around no. 3 pick, Scoot Henderson.

“Portland wants to keep building around Damian Lillard,” Adrian Wojnarowski said on an ESPN appearance, post draft. “They want to try to continue to make some moves here after the draft and into the free agency with trades, re-signing Jerami Grant....if he decides that he wants a trade, that he wants out of Portland, well then I think then that organization will accommodate him.”

And Shams Charania weighed in too, according to Anthony Chiang, writing for Miami Herald:

“The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday night as the draft was winding down that Lillard won’t immediately ask for a trade. Charania said that Lillard’s decision on his future will extend “now between tonight and the start of free agency and into free agency” to give the Trail Blazers a bit more time to make upgrades to their roster.”

All this after Chris Haynes told us that if Portland keeps that pick, Dame may want a trade, and if he did he might consider Miami, Brooklyn, or even Philly.

Well, it appears they’re very much keeping Scoot. And Jimmy is going for it....

Miami certainly wouldn’t stay at that +1400 if they landed Lillard for a package centered around Tyler Herro, a couple young players, and future picks. Brooklyn has an even better package but would Dame really want to play there?

Daryl Morey and co. have to keep hoping for bad things to happen to Conference Rivals, especially the teams already better than them.

And oh, almost forgot! They could also look to make a big upgrade themselves.

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