The new year brings a new crop of NBA rumors, especially as we're under six weeks from the Feb. 9 trade deadline.
Not all rumors are to be believed of course, as there's a continuous game of leverage being played by teams, agents, players and their camps.
As we enter trade season and even look ahead to an interesting 2023 free-agent class, it's time to separate fact from fiction with the latest collection of rumors.
Cavs to Go Wing Hunting at Trade Deadline
At 23-14 and in fourth place in the East, the Cavs are quite good but still look a few pieces away from being a championship contender.
The starting small forward position is still a weakness, as Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade have all taken turns filling in as the glue between Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Cleveland has shuffled through 16 different starting lineups already this season.
Unsurprisingly, the team's focus going into the trade deadline remains at small forward. Per ESPN's Zach Lowe, the Cavs are expected to pursue a "short-term wing option" around the deadline.
There should be a number of wings on expiring deals that become available between now and Feb. 9, a list that could include Eric Gordon, Jae Crowder, Josh Richardson, Kyle Kuzma, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Terrence Ross.
The Cavs are extremely limited on trade assets, as their 2023 first-round pick is owed to the Indiana Pacers in the deal for LeVert, while their other tradeable firsts (2025, 2027 and 2029) are owed to the Utah Jazz for Mitchell.
Okoro, the fifth overall pick in 2020, carries some value to a rebuilding team, and the Cavaliers have multiple second-rounders to include in a deal, including the most favorable of their and the Golden State Warriors' 2023 second-round selection.
After the deal for Mitchell, Cleveland doesn't have a ton to offer and won't be in the market for any stars who could become available. Expect a smaller deal for a player that, as Lowe stated, will only be around for the short term.
Fact or Fiction: Fact. The Cavs don't have the pieces to go star chasing, but upgrading the wing in any capacity is important for a playoff run.
Phoenix Suns Holding out for 'Certifiable Starter' in Jae Crowder Trade
Veteran forward Jae Crowder is still away from the Suns as Phoenix looks to find a suitable trade for him.
Swapping Crowder for a draft pick or young talent isn't the Suns' preference. According to Marc Stein via his Substack, "Phoenix is said to be holding out for a certifiable starter in a Crowder deal."
This is the message that the Suns should be sending out, at least for now.
The 32-year-old is on the last year of his contract, however, meaning if Phoenix doesn't end up trading Crowder before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, it will likely lose him for nothing in the offseason.
His $10.1 million contract will be easy to flip, and there's not a contender out there who couldn't use Crowder's defensive versatility, toughness, playoff experience and ability to knock down threes. Crowder averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, made 36.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes and improved the Suns by 4.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last season (77th percentile, via Cleaning the Glass).
Teams wanting to trade for Crowder will be playoff contenders not wanting to part with their own starting-caliber talent, however, which is probably why no deal has taken place thus far.
Phoenix understandably wants win-now talent, but losing Crowder as a free agent with nothing in return would be a huge mistake.
In the end, expect Crowder to be dealt for a lesser talent and more draft equity, likely to an Eastern Conference team so as not to hurt the Suns' own playoff run.
Fact or Fiction: Fact that Phoenix is holding out for now, fiction that the Suns actually get a starter back from a playoff contender for Crowder. They'll eventually settle on a package of younger talent and/or draft picks instead of losing him for nothing as a free agent.