Rumor Roundup: Orlando Emerges as Front-Runner for Bulls’ Big Target, Knicks All-in on Brunson, Sign-And-Trade for Ayton? Beal, Simons, More

Earlier this morning, we caught wind that the Bulls were connected to a couple of free-agent big men, Isaiah Hartenstein and Mo Bamba. But even more recently, Marc Stein reported that Orlando has emerged as the leading suitor for Hartenstein. Depending on your big preferences, that could be good news for the Bulls, as the path clears up on Bamba. But Hartenstein is a good target, in his own right. I think both are likely still an option, and we won’t have to wait too long to see how this all shakes out!

Here’s the latest from the NBA, with just over 24 hours until free agency begins.

Knicks Appear to Have Jalen Brunson on Their Minds

Jake Fischer put together a hefty free agency notebook at B/R today. Among the information reported by Fischer is the Knicks’ potential pursuit of Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson. Offloading Kemba Walker on draft night and then shedding the contracts of Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks via trade this week signals that the Knicks are all-in on Brunson.

The Knicks can offer Brunson a four-year deal, and Fischer believes that the former Villanova Wildcat will command an annual salary near $25 million per season or $110 million in total.

If Brunson does decide to head to The Big Apple, Dallas doesn’t have to come up empty-handed. They can work out a sign-and-trade that would send Brunson to the Knicks but ensure that they receive compensation from New York which has 11 first-round picks to work with.

Fischer also reports that the Knicks are looking to free up even more cash by shopping Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish on the open market. This makes sense with the reporting of Marc Stein that has the Knicks in play for Spurs guard Dejounte Murray in addition to Brunson.

The Spurs have indicated that they’re willing to trade Murray and remain focused on a rebuild rather than pay up on Murray’s impending long-term deal that will be due after the 2024 season. New York and their plethora of first-rounders would certainly be a viable partner for the Spurs in a trade for Murray, but would that compromise their shot at Brunson after they promised Brunson that the Knicks would be his team.

If Brunson and Murray both land in New York, they’ll have one of the more impressive backcourts in the NBA in no time, and Fischer believes that Mitchell Robinson is bound to re-up with the Knicks for somewhere in the four-year, $60 million range.

Detroit Shifting Gears on Ayton?

The draft-night trade of Kemba Walker from New York to Detroit might have implications beyond the Knicks’ pursuit of Jalen Brunson. The Pistons, initially believed to be a front-runner for the services of Suns center Deandre Ayton, have watched their nearly $40 million in available cap space be slashed in half since reports before the NBA Draft pegged Detroit as a potential landing spot for Ayton.

The Pistons’ acquisitions of Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks on Tuesday night coupled with the draft-night acquisition of center Jalen Duren might have Detroit passing on a long-term deal for Ayton.

So, where might Ayton land? Returning to Phoenix seems unlikely as the relationship between Ayton, head coach Monty Williams, and veteran guard Chris Paul has deteriorated beyond a reunion. According to Fischer, there’s very little interest around the league regarding the max deal the former top pick is rumored to be searching for, making Ayton’s search for a new home one of the more intriguing ones this free agency.

Ope, and before I clicked publish, Adrian Wojnarowski just said that the outcome for Ayton is most likely going to be a sign-and-trade max deal. Here’s a look at that segment for further context.

https://twitter.com/_Talkin_NBA/status/1542229803390189568?s=20&t=kNWMrl2lL4JPGM539O8Zig

Bradley Beal and the Wizards Search for a PG

Fischer predicts that Bradley Beal will decline his player option for the 2022-23 season and re-up with the Wizards on a deal expected to be somewhere in the ballpark of five years and upwards of $248 million.

The Wizards are also in the market for a veteran point guard to pair with Beal in the Washington backcourt, but their trade with the Nuggets this morning might change that. Woj has the Wizards close to sending Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Denver Nuggets for forward Will Barton and point guard Monté Morris.

Does the Morris trade take the Wiz out of the hunt for a PG, or will they still look to add depth to their backcourt? Tyus Jones, Malcolm Brogdon, and Delon Wright are all options for Washington if they choose to add another point guard in addition to Morris.

Big Bag on the Horizon for Anfernee Simons

Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto is reporting that the Anfernee Simons is going to command a deal that will pay him north of $80 million over four years in free agency. Simons was stellar in a starting role after the Trail Blazers traded CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the trade deadline last season.

Simons averaged 22.0 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.5 percent from beyond the arc with 5.5 assists per game in the starting role for Portland.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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