The 2019-20 NBA regular season isn't quite here yet, but as basketball fans know, the rumor mill never stops.
Following a wild summer of surprise signings and trades, there are multiple contenders with realistic chances to make a run to the NBA Finals. That means deals executed prior to the Feb. 6 trade deadline could ultimately determine how the championship chase plays out.
Major stars like Bradley Beal and Chris Paul will generate trade buzz over the next few months, but for now, let's focus on the latest reports covering some under-the-radar players. Time to dive into a preseason rumor roundup...
Warriors want to keep D'Angelo Russell (really, they do)
After the Warriors acquired Russell via sign-and-trade with the Nets, there was plenty of speculation about the All-Star guard being used as a future asset rather than a significant part of the team's rotation. Russell should start next to two-time MVP Stephen Curry with fellow "Splash Brother" Klay Thompson recovering from ACL surgery, but beyond this season, it's difficult to see how such a crowded backcourt can work together.
However, Golden State president of basketball operations Bob Myers made it clear back in July that he "didn't sign [Russell] with the intention of just trading him." That seems to be the feeling throughout the organization.
After doing a little digging, I've come to buy the Warriors front office on this one. I believe that the Warriors' public messaging actually matches their private beliefs. While it's nice to retain the "optionality" that comes with signing a 23-year-old max player, I don't think that he was primarily acquired for his trade value. The front office's first hope is that Russell flourishes alongside Curry and becomes a foundational piece.
In the era of player empowerment and movement, it's easy to fall into the trap of the ESPN Trade Machine and create blockbuster trades. But as Strauss notes, front offices don't typically throw out four-year, $117 million contracts if there isn't some level of commitment to that player.
Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range with the Nets last season. He is talented and still improving, a guy who is capable of taking pressure of Curry.
It shouldn't come as a shock to hear Myers say he wants to find out what he has in Russell before pulling the trigger on another deal. A core of Curry, Russell, Thompson and Draymond Green might not be a dynasty, but it should win a lot of games.
Thunder having trouble in search for Steven Adams trade
While most eyes are fixed on Paul and how long he stays in Oklahoma City, the Thunder have also been seeking out offers for Adams. The 26-year-old is a strong interior defender and rebounder, but there are a few issues in any potential Adams deal.
The Thunder are asking for a draft pick, a young player and salary relief, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, a huge request for a big man with an expensive contract and no perimeter game.
"They set the price too high," one league executive told Deveney. "That's what you'd expect and maybe it will drop as the year goes on. It's tough to take on his contract (two years, $53 million remaining) and give up picks and players. Most teams are pretty well set at the center spot now, you have a big guy and you have your small lineup. You can't just take on a contract like that. There isn't a big number of teams who could take him."
The Kings, Mavericks and Celtics have expressed interest in Adams, per Deveney, but previous trade talks never became serious.
Traditional centers like Adams do have a place in a pace-and-space league. He doesn't generate incredible numbers in the box score, but his impact on the game is certainly felt. Adams finished in the top five in contested shots (14.2) and box outs (8.9) last season, according to NBA.com advanced stats, and OKC performed far better with him on the floor (plus-6.7 net rating) than on the bench (minus-3.6).
Unfortunately for Adams, he is best utilized in a complementary role next to other stars. The money left on Adams' deal ($25.8 million in 2019-20 and $27.5 million in 2020-21) doesn't match his overall value. Sacramento chose to sign a cheaper option in Dewayne Dedmon, who agreed to a three-year, $40 million deal this past offseason. Plus, Dedmon has displayed the ability to shoot from the outside (38.2 percent on 3.4 3-point attempts per game in 2018-19), an element Adams has barely touched in his career (0-of-7 from 3-point range in 467 games).
Adams should stay on the trade block. Just don't expect him to join another team until the Thunder drop that asking price.
Magic see Jonathan Isaac as key part of franchise's future
If you're an NBA GM outside of Orlando wondering if you can steal Isaac away from the Magic, don't even pick up the phone. It's not happening.
The Magic's front office is committed to developing the 22-year-old as he enters his third season.
"It's hard to overstate how much the Magic love Isaac. They have batted away any Isaac trade inquiries, sources say. He has quickly become a standard-bearer of the culture president Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond want to nurture."
Isaac flashed serious potential as a sophomore, averaging 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 26.6 minutes per game for the East's No. 7 seed. The 6-10 forward has the length and athleticism to guard across every position, but his slender frame did hurt him against bigger bruisers. He added significant weight this summer, engulfing 5,000 calories per day.
What does 5,000 calories actually look like? Isaac described his daily diet as "one breakfast, two lunches and two dinners, a snack, and two protein shakes as well."
Orlando is hoping the development of Isaac's body and offensive repertoire will turn him into an All-Star caliber player for years to come. There is a bit of a frontcourt pileup on the Magic's roster, but Isaac is the one to watch in that group as the season progresses.