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Do you ever find yourself puzzled by the bizarre things you hear from “NBA sources”? Do you find you struggle to keep up with the news because there’s so much happening at once? Are you constantly checking your phone due to paranoia of the next NBA news drop?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be caught up in what is known as the NBA’s “Rumour Season.” It’s the time just after the actual basketball season has been completed, and leading right up to the draft, and ultimately, free agency. Speculation is abound, as your favourite team is linked to Players X, Y, and Z, but it’s also reported that they are not interested in said players. The team is locked in on one player in the NBA Draft, but is also reportedly planning to trade up or down.
There’s a lot of nonsense going on around the league, and it’s become nearly impossible to keep up with. If you’re a fan of the Toronto Raptors in particular, you know they’re a notoriously quiet organization that has somehow been linked to every player or event that’s taken place. Nothing makes sense, and it’s gotten to a point where it needs to be addressed.
That’s why I’ve built a guide to surviving Rumour Season. We’re going to learn why things leak in the NBA, how information circulates, and what we can best do to equip ourselves to deal with the onslaught of information that’s coming over the next eight days. It’s a lot, but we’re going to do our best to help you get through it.
Enjoy, and be safe out there.
Rule #1: Information Leaks Because Somebody Wants It To Leak
Everything you hear has a purpose and a reason to it.
The important context for all information is that somebody wants you to hear it, and it is important to read between the lines.
Always remember to ask these three questions: Who could’ve leaked this information? What motive did they have to leak it? How is this information going to impact others? The answer might often surprise you. Particularly now, there are plenty of reasons for why information leaks in the manner it does.
For example, you may be hearing a lot about this situation around the league, particularly as it concerns the Raptors:
In order to best understand the application of our three key questions, let’s put them into action:
Who: These leaks are more than likely coming from Philadelphia’s side.
Why: They want to start a bidding war for Ben Simmons.
How: Teams will get nervous and fear they’re going to lose out if they don’t offer more, thereby driving the price up for Simmons and ensuring Daryl Morey gets a better deal.
Maybe it’s better to think about it this way: why would the organization that wants to trade for a player leak their own interest in said player? If teams know they’re desperate, that team is going to lose leverage in any negotiation. Everything is about gaining power and swaying the public perception.
On the flip side, when you see rumours leaked about what potential teams are offering in a trade, or when you hear of a “tepid market,” it’s a way to drive the price down, or make the public perceive a player’s value for lesser than what it is.
Is it shady tactics? Maybe. Does it work? Sometimes. The important key is to always apply the context of who wants you to read this information and what their endgame is.
Rule #2: All Free Agency Leaks Before Free Agency is Speculation Disguised as News
Before I get into it, I’m just very simply going to state what the actual NBA rule is:
NBA teams cannot interact with any opposing players or their agents regarding their free agency status until the start of free agency at midnight. Any prior interaction is a tampering violation and teams can be subject to fines, or forfeiture of draft picks.
One truth of this is that players talk to each other. In 2019, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had their decision to team up on the Brooklyn Nets telegraphed on June 30th, several hours before free agency even started. That was a players-driven thing, since agents can’t communicate.
So the question is, when you see free agency leaks now, how is that even possible?
It’s quite simple: most of it isn’t.
Again, referring back to Rule #1, let’s apply our three questions to the Jarrett Allen rumours that have been swirling, again as it relates to the Raptors (you can read our take on the Allen rumours here):
Who: The player’s agent is leaking this information.
Why: They want to get a better contract for their client.
How: Making it look like there’s interest will send teams in more aggressive for the free agents they want. Even if that “prior interest” is fabricated.
That’s pretty much what it comes down to: there is no actual way to gauge team interest in a free agent until August 1st rolls around. Any reporting you see is mostly just guesswork based on who has holes in their roster, and speculating that a certain player could fill that hole.
Rule #3: Where There’s Trade Smoke, There’s Usually Fire
If you’re hearing about a player being on the block, it’s usually true.
The reason you hear about a player being on the block is because you want to see how much trade interest you can garner on the player. Sometimes, teams will leak it just to see what’s out there, but if it gets leaked, it means the team is at least thinking about it.
The aforementioned Ben Simmons and Collin Sexton have been two of the biggest names floated this year. Some of the bigger speculation has been around stars that people expect to ask out. Bradley Beal’s name has come up almost every year for the past three or four seasons. Damian Lillard has been putting public pressure on his general manager, Neil Olshey, to make some roster moves, and people are thinking that situation could reach a boiling point.
Typically, yes, this is the case. When it comes to trades, things don’t leak completely out of the blue. I does sound like there is internal strife with Lillard and the Blazers, particularly over the fact that they’ve continued to come up short in the postseason and the mishandling of Chauncey Billups’ hire.
Sexton is another interesting case. He’s due for an extension this summer, and based on the fact that Cleveland is allegedly floating him in the trade market, it sounds like they’re hesitant to commit a big contract to him.
I tend to believe that if a player’s name is being floated on the trade market, it’s usually with good reason, and that player does wind up getting traded more often than not. At the very least, the initial leak lets you know they’re at least thinking about it.
Rule #4: Be Wary of The Clout Chasers Who Want “The Scoop”
Always the fun part of every Rumour Season: the people who manufacture scoops in order to be the person who got the scoop.
Jusuf Nurkic is not interested in that.
Every single year, you have these random fabrications that come out of nowhere, spewed by people that aren’t actually connected to the situation, all in the quest of gaining new followers.
This isn’t my way of disparaging any reporters who are out there trying to make a name for themselves; I want to be perfectly clear that there are a lot of people doing a lot of really good work on a daily basis. But the truth is, there are a lot of people chasing clout, and with so much information going around right now, it’s easy to get caught up in every single blurb and run with it.
Some people do try and take advantage of the situation. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the age we live in. Always be on the lookout, and make sure that the source at least makes sense.
Rule #5: Never Forget to Abide by the Actual Rules
The fact that we need a rule that reminds us to follow the rules is asinine, but here we are.
Much like the rule about free agents and tampering, there are plenty of other rules governing the NBA that make a lot of leaks untrue, simply because it’s impossible for them to happen.
Whether it be adhering to the NBA’s salary cap or following the Stepien Rule, it’s important to make sure that whatever rumours are out there actually follow the rules.
I know this next bit is going to seem like I’m picking on Laker fans a little, but seriously, can we talk about this for a second?
The Lakers only have six players under contract for next season and are practically already at the salary cap line, thanks to max contracts for LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
How is it that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who are two of the premier players in the free agency market and are each expected to command at least 25 million dollars per year, are both planning on landing with the Lakers?
Unless both of them decide to completely forgo contracts and sign for the veteran’s minimum, there is a less than zero percent chance this would ever be able to happen. DeRozan, a California native, was also heavily linked to the Lakers in 2016 by Los Angeles media, but never even took a meeting with them and re-signed with the Raptors quickly.
The Lakers have also been linked to Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook despite not having adequate salaries to match either of their max contracts, and zero draft picks to trade.
This is my bare minimum ask, to every leaker out there: at least make sure whatever information is out there is within the realm of possibility in the rules, okay?
Rumour Season is silly. It’s fun. It’s also dangerous at times when it comes to misinformation. Always stay on your toes, and happy leaking!