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NBA draft, trade rumors roundup: Beal talking to teams, Hornets prefer Ingram to Zion?

Dan Patrick reacts to the news of Ja Morant receiving a suspension from the NBA that's reported to be 25 games.

With less than a week to go until the NBA draft, rumors are flying around the league — but be careful what you buy into. There is more smoke in the air than at a Cypress Hill concert.

Let’s sort out fact from fiction by rounding up rumors from around the NBA.

• Beal given permission to talk to teams he wants to join.

This report from Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report/TNT is both true and obvious. Beal is the only player in the NBA with a no-trade clause, he has to sign off on any potential trade, so of course he and his agent will want to talk to said teams.

• What teams do we know are interested, or not interested, in Beal?

The Miami Heat remain the clear frontrunner — Beal has expressed interest in joining the Heat in the past, and the Heat are star-hunting to try and get more firepower next to Jimmy Butler. It’s also relatively easy to construct a trade between the teams that sends a pick or two (depending on protections) plus Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and maybe one more minimum contract to the nation’s capital.

The Kings have been reported as interested (Charania plus Sam Amick of The Athletic), but it’s difficult to construct a trade that gets Washington the retooling pieces they would want (this assumes Beal wants to go there, which reportedly he is open to). The Milwaukee Bucks have been mentioned, but that also is highly unlikely and would have to involve Khris Middleton opting into his $40.4 million for this season and working out an extend-and-trade... and why would the Bucks do that? Beal is not better than Middleton now, certainly not as a two-way player.

There seems some logic on paper to the 76ers having an interest in Beal if James Harden goes to Houston, but that is not the case according to a couple of reports. The 76ers are not in the mix. Which is why everything comes back around to Miami.

• Charlotte would prefer Brandon Ingram to Zion Williamson in a trade for the No. 2 pick

Take this one with a huge grain of salt, starting with one key reason: Ownership is changing in Charlotte.

We know the Pelicans are high on landing Scoot Henderson, which would require them to trade up from No. 14 in the draft with Charlotte for the No. 2 pick or, maybe, the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 3 pick. The Hornets may be more interested in Brandon Ingram than Zion Williamson, reports The Athletic’s Charania.

Charlotte’s soon-to-be new owners and the front office need to decide whether they think they would be best with Zion, Ingram, or just drafting Henderson or Brandon Miller (the buzz in league circles is the Hornets lean Miller — a wing and a more natural fit next to LaMelo Ball — over Henderson, if they keep the pick). Zion is the superior player to Ingram when he’s on the court, but has played in just 114 games over four seasons and is entering into a five-year, $194 million contract. Ingram does not have Zion’s ceiling, and he missed almost half of last season with a toe injury, but he is an All-Star-level wing with just two years remaining on his contract (at a total of $69.9 million), making him less of a risk.

Portland has little interest in Ingram, they would want Zion, Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report said on today’s PBT Podcast.

• Wizards, Raptors also exploring jumping up into the top three picks

This is very likely true, especially since the report from Kevin O’Conner from The Ringer uses the word “exploring.” A lot of teams are exploring the idea on some level. Toronto could actually get in the discussion if they were willing to include Pascal Siakam and/or OG Anunoby in the trade, although it’s unclear what direction Masai Ujiri plans to take the roster. He believes in this core (it’s why he kept them together after the trade deadline), but maybe his mind has shifted. Washington wanting to move up is a sign that the rebuild is coming (Beal to the Trail Blazers doesn’t make a lot of sense).

• Pistons interested in Cameron Johnson, but Nets would just match offer

The Detroit Pistons were able to bid their way to a new coach in Monty Williams, but that tactic may not work with their top free agent target. The Pistons are very interested in Cameron Johnson with the Nets, reports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter. It makes sense, Johnson was with Williams in Phoenix until he was traded to Brooklyn as part of the Kevin Durant trade, and now Williams is in Detroit and wants his guy. However, Brooklyn has been anything but subtle about their intention to match any offer for Johnson. This seems more fact than fiction, but expect Johnson to be a net next season.

• Two other draft picks that could be on the move: Pacers’ No. 7, Mavericks’ No. 10

It’s no secret that Dallas is looking for depth to put around Luka Dončić next season and they would be more than willing to trade their No. 10 pick to do so. They have been shopping looking for offers.

However, TNT’s Haynes brings fresh light to the Pacers, saying the team is looking for a starting caliber with wing. The No. 7 pick alone may not be enough to land someone of quality at the highest demand position in the league, but the Pacers have options.

• Suns finding trade market for DeAndre Ayton “lean”

As their playoff loss to the eventual champion Denver showed, Phoenix desperately needs to put depth around Kevin Durant and Devin Booker (to be fair, the Suns were the only team to take two games off the Nuggets all postseason). With limited assets, the one way that was expected to happen was by trading center Deandre Ayton for two or three quality role players. However, that’s not how the market is shaking out, ESPN’s Wojnarowski told Ryen Russillo.

“I think the hard part for Phoenix right now is DeAndre Ayton’s market is lean. They have to be prepared that they’re going to have Deandre Ayton back.”

The market for traditional centers is limited — save for the handful of elite guys like Nikola Jokić or Joel Embiid — and while Ayton is a quality big man, he is owed $102 million over three more fully guaranteed seasons, and teams look at that and think they can get enough production for a fraction of the cost and are not interested. (Look at it this way, would you rather have the Clippers’ Ivica Zubac at $10.9 million or Ayton at $34.5 million?)

• Mavericks not bringing back Christian Wood

Remember when some tried to sell the idea that Christian Wood could help fill in the offensive production that Dallas lost when Jalen Bruson headed to New York? Heady times. Wood had moments for the Mavericks this season averaging 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, but Stein confirms what had been pretty common knowledge around the league, Dallas is ready to move on. He says Dallas is looking to remake its center position. Wood could be a solid, offensive-minded backup five for the right team.