NBA rumors: NBA GM slams Bronny James, Celtics' Jrue Holiday risk, OG Anunoby asking price

  • OG Anunoby could run up the price on his next contract with the Knicks
  • Celtics face 'risky' Jrue Holiday decision
  • NBA GM speaks frankly about Bronny James' NBA Draft outlook
Bronny James, USC Trojans
Bronny James, USC Trojans / Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Gather 'round, for there are NBA rumors abound!

As we gear up for the NBA playoffs, several teams already have an eye toward the offseason. Several teams face pivotal decisions, be it in free agency or the NBA Draft. There is still basketball to be played, and we should all strive to enjoy it to the fullest. But, once the Larry O'Brein trophy is hoisted in a couple months, the floodgates will open.

Here are the latest tidbits from the NBA rumor mill.

NBA rumors: Knicks' OG Anunoby expected to demand hefty contract in free agency

OG Anunoby's contract with the New York Knicks includes a player option for next season worth $19.9 million. Barring catastrophe, he is going to decline it and hit the open market, opening the door for competition as the Knicks strive to retain their splashy trade deadline acquisition.

When the trade went down, there was a belief that Anunoby could take a slight discount to play in New York. While injuries have limited Anunoby's exposure to the Knicks fanbase, the fit has been utterly seamless. In 20 games since the trade, Anunoby is averaging 14.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals on .493/.370/.825 splits in 35.0 minutes. He is the perfect Tom Thibodeau wing — a hard-nosed defensive stopper who doesn't mess around and plays within himself on offense.

That said, Anunoby's value around the league is extremely high. Most teams would love to have a perennial All-Defense wing that can bomb 3s, punish mismatches in the post, and shoulder an intense workload. The Athletic's Tim Cato asked an agent about Anunoby's baseline for contract negotiations this summer. That agent called four years and $150 million "the floor."

So, in short, Anunoby is going to demand a bag. He could still give the Knicks a discount, but generally, that is becoming less and less common. Anunoby is 27 years old and he may only get one chance to secure life-changing money. So, expect him to target a deal in the ballpark of $40 million annually, especially from other teams. New York has the advantage of market size and familiarity, but Anunoby will be free to pick a new team if a compelling offer comes across the table.

At the very least, Anunoby can use interest from teams around the league to force the Knicks' hand. He should have all the leverage, especially if New York makes noise in the playoffs.

NBA rumors: Celtics face 'risky' contract talks with Jrue Holiday

The Boston Celtics have been the best team in basketball by a country mile this season, currently 14 games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings. No team more successfully maneuvered the offseason, from the gutsy — and ultimately very successful — Kristaps Porzingis trade to the stunning acquisition of Jrue Holiday.

Holiday has adjusted beautifully to a smaller role in Boston, averaging 12.5 points and 4.9 assists on .481/.431/.833 splits in 32.9 minutes. He's attempting 5.3 fewer shots per game compared to his final season in Milwaukee, but Holiday is still integral to the Celtics' execution on both ends of the floor. He is a bonafide All-Defense candidate and a key table-setter in Joe Mazzulla's offense.

Still, there is uncertainty about what the future holds for Holiday and the Celtics. There is "mutual interest" in a contract extension, per NESN's Gio Rivera, but the particulars could get tricky. Holiday has a player option for $37.6 million next season. He could decline and enter free agency, or work out an extension to tack on extra years with Boston.

One NBA GM spoke to Heavy's Sean Deveney about the "risky" nature of the Holiday situation, as the wrong move could sink the Celtics' dynasty before it takes off.

"I think you need to see how things look in the playoffs. It’s risky because if they roll through to the Finals and win that easily, you’re under pressure to give him a big contract. But at the same time, you give Jrue Holiday a big deal now, and they flame out in the playoffs, lose in the second round, then where are you? The team is going to try for two years, he is going to want four. Maybe there’s middle ground, three with a mutual option. But that is going to be a big point of contention."

In the end, he expects Holiday to land a deal in the $100 million range. Holiday can earn a maximum of $51 million per season on his next contract, but that won't happen. The Celtics will surely look to maintain flexibility as Holiday ages — he'll be 34 next season — but if Boston isn't careful, Holiday has the power to opt out and look elsewhere. If a bidding war is sparked, the Celtics could quickly lose control of the situation.

There is incentive for both sides to get a deal done. Holiday won't find a better chance to compete for a championship and the Celtics don't want to lose Holiday's singular package of defensive spunk, offensive smarts, and winning experience. Still, it's always tough to gague the value for aging stars on the wrong side of their prime. With Holiday, the Celtics can't pay too much, but they also can't afford to lose him completely.

NBA rumors: GM speaks bluntly about Bronny James' NBA Draft outlook

Bronny James officially declared for the 2024 NBA Draft last week, but he also entered the transfer portal and maintained his college eligibility. It's unclear what the path forward is for LeBron James' oldest son. After beginning the season rehabbing from a cardiac arrest, James Jr. was never able to consistently impact winning for a subpar USC team. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on .366/.267/.676 splits in 19.3 minutes. Even the most optimistic scouts will have a difficult time justifying that output.

It's impossible to say with any certainty what the "best choice" is for James. He would surely benefit from another season in college, perhaps playing for his father's friend Dru Joyce III at Duquesne, where he would inherit a larger role. But, James would also benefit from G League reps and the attention of NBA coaches. That's not to say Bronny doesn't have access to the best training resources as LeBron's kid — duh — but there's a difference between college practice and NBA practice.

Over at The Ringer, Kevin O'Connor spoke to NBA personnel about the 19-year-old's outlook. A GM (who spoke anonymously) was unafraid to offer his blunt opinion.

"Bronny is nowhere near ready. He should go back to school to develop at his own pace or he risks getting lost in the shuffle, whether or not he’s playing with his dad... There are probably three rounds’ worth of prospects more talented than Bronny in this class. So picking Bronny is more about getting LeBron’s attention right now than it is about developing Bronny himself."

There will be varying opinions, of course, as the NBA Draft is very much an eye of the beholder event. James is the No. 55 prospect on FanSided's board due to his remarkable defensive instincts and high basketball I.Q. It's easy to forget how young James is. If he can start converting more 3s — and the jumper looks smooth — he has the ancilary tools to develop into a bankable, NBA-level role player.

That said, players rarely make the NBA leap after producing so sparsely in college. Unless James breaks the mold, or receives promises based on his father's upcoming free agency, we can probably expect him back in college basketball next season.

2024 NBA DRAFT BIG BOARD. Donovan Clingan, Zach Edey headline March Madness risers. Donovan Clingan, Zach Edey headline March Madness risers. dark