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Thursday's trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls that sent Alex Caruso west and Josh Giddey north marked the unofficial beginning of trade season in the NBA. The draft is less than a week away, free agency will come soon after, and now teams are beginning to seriously engage on the moves that will ultimately set up the beginning of the 2024-25 season.

As they always are at this point on the calendar, the rumors have started to fly in. On Friday, Yahoo's Jake Fischer dropped a few bombs relating to players that we knew were available (Zach LaVine) and ones we didn't (Mitchell Robinson, Walker Kessler), so let's dive in on today's fresh batch of rumors.

Knicks shopping Mitchell Robinson?

The Knicks are in a difficult position when it comes to re-signing key center Isaiah Hartenstein. Because of his Early Bird Rights, New York can only offer him a 75% raise on his previous salary. That would take him to roughly $72.5 million over four years, a figure they'd be happy to pay, but one that opposing teams could top. At first, it looked like the Oklahoma City Thunder were prepared to do so, but now, after landing Alex Caruso, they have seemingly cooled on him. For now, it looks like Hartenstein will remain with the Knicks.

But New York's other primary center, Robinson, is now reportedly on the block. It makes sense financially for the Knicks. While Robinson's salary is relatively low, his injuries have made him somewhat unreliable, and if New York trusts Precious Achiuwa to serve as its backup center at a lower price, turning Robinson into value elsewhere could help the roster overall. The tag-team of Hartenstein and Robinson has been a major weapon for New York in recent years. They Knicks have frequently shifted minutes towards one or the other depending on matchup and who is playing well on a given night. Achiuwa doesn't merit that same treatment. He would firmly be a backup. But a healthy, affordable backup can sometimes be more valuable than a better, but more expensive and injury-prone player.

Jazz open to moving Walker Kessler?

The Jazz have spent the past few seasons vacillating between win-now and win-later mode. They've pursued veteran acquisitions like Jrue Holiday and Dejounte Murray without sealing the deal on any such players, but they've also sold off valuable players at the deadline for the sake of maximizing draft position. It still isn't clear what their long-term approach is, and Friday's news doesn't help. According to Fischer, Utah is open to moving young center Walker Kessler.

Kessler is one of the best young rim-protectors in basketball. He's still on a cheap rookie contract and will be for two more seasons. But the Jazz had their most success this season with Kessler coming off of the bench, as he doesn't fit next to another non-shooting big man in John Collins. Kessler should be able to fetch a strong return if the Jazz do attempt to trade him, and there will be multiple suitors even if we only account for all of the teams trying to trade up for the similar Donovan Clingan ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday. Players this young and this talented rarely get moved by teams that are rebuilding, so the Jazz may have something bigger up their sleeve.

Bulls struggling to move Zach LaVine

Chicago's Caruso trade was bizarre on several levels. Here's a notable one: Caruso was probably Chicago's best chance at moving Zach LaVine's bad contract. Some team without significant draft capital to trade might have been willing to take on LaVine if it meant getting Caruso on the cheap. Now Caruso is gone, and according to Fischer, the Bulls haven't yet been able to generate significant traction on a LaVine deal. It's unclear how they plan to move him without Caruso available as a sweetener.

One team that Fischer does mention as a possible LaVine fit is the Sacramento Kings, who signed him to an offer sheet in restricted free agency all the way back in 2018. The Kings have reportedly gone big-game hunting over the past year or so, and there could be a possible fit on a deal involving Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter. Sacramento did just re-sign Malik Monk to a four-year $78 million deal, though, so the need for an expensive shooting guard is minimal. A trade may materialize, but it's not going to be easy for the Bulls to move LaVine's contract. 

Paul George could opt-in and get traded?

On Thursday, it came out the 76ers had reportedly cooled on Paul George as an offseason target. This was an enormous blow to George's leverage with the Clippers, his incumbent team who are reportedly refusing to give him a four-year max deal thus far. The Orlando Magic or Oklahoma City Thunder could step into that void, but at the moment, there isn't an obvious cap space destination for him to hold over the Clippers during negotiations.

Of course, he might not need one. ESPN's Brian Windhorst proposed an alternative on Get Up Friday morning. "If Paul George changes teams, it's very likely going to be a situation where he opts into his contract and requests a trade," Windhorst said. George has a player option for $48.8 million next season, and there is a precedent of impending free agents using that option to get traded to a team without the space to sign them outright. Chris Paul did it to get to Houston in 2017, for instance, but it's risky. As James Harden found last offseason, there's a world in which you opt in and don't immediately get the move you want. George has a chance to get his last long-term deal right now. He might not have the same value in a year. This is a risky approach for George, but if someone else is willing to max him out, it's a path worth pursuing.

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