The NBA’s next mega-trade candidate plus the Shohei Ohtani debate

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Good morning! It’s transaction day.

Imminent threats

Joel Embiid is your next trade candidate

In the Superstar Trade era of the NBA, assets are everything. How many valuable role players do you have? What about the young? Expiring contracts? Draft choice? It used to be cap space, but now we spend our offseasons looking at who could actually acquire the next superstar on the market.

The current prize: Damian Lillard, even though he only wants to play for another team, Miami. So who’s next? Karl-Anthony Towns is ready for a move, but that’s not moving many needles right now. James Harden technically qualifies, but no one seems to want him that much. However, there is one name that dominates the whispers: Joel Embiid.

Wait what? The reigning MVP has not requested a trade, to be clear. But he is 29 years old, in his prime and with a team that is largely in disarray. Time is running out for Embiid, who has made it abundantly clear this offseason that he wants to win — in Philly or “anywhere else.”

Is this real or just leverage? It feels real to me. I don’t know what other leverage Embiid can achieve. Sam Amick wrote a smart column about the whole situation yesterday. In it, he repeats the report that Harden has no intention of staying on. Sixers GM Daryl Morey is already as aggressive as they come. What other step can he take? Lillard has no interest in Philadelphia, although, ahem, the Sixers absolutely have the assets to acquire him.

So who is waiting to get hold of Embiid? The Knicks are everyone’s top pick. They have the draft capital and young players to make the move. If the Heat miss out on Lillard, they are also the top contenders. Every team — maybe outside of Denver — with a chance to acquire Embiid will try.

Is this something happening tomorrow? No. But if Harden gets his wish and the Sixers start next season poorly? It’s getting real, fast. Zach Harper has a deeper analysis in today’s Bounce, out later this morning.


Running backs lose again

Year after year, trend after trend, we are reminded of the ultimate downward spiral in the NFL: the value of running backs. Like quarterbacks, they are arguably most valuable during their rookie deals when salaries are low and production is high. Unlike quarterbacks, the position is so physically demanding that they rarely make it to second or third contracts.

Yesterday’s franchise mark deadline was a stark reminder:

  • The Giants and Saquon Barkley, 26, disagreed on a long-term deal before the deadline, meaning the two-time Pro Bowler will make $10.1 million (less than half of what elite wide receivers, offensive linemen and defensive players make, but near the top of the running back market backs) while playing under the franchise tag.
  • pAme applies to Josh Jacobs, 25, and the Raiders. Jacobs might be the biggest surprise here after leading the NFL with 1,653 yards last season.
  • Tony Pollard, also 26, joined them when he and the Cowboys failed to agree on a long-term deal.

Pollard has already signed his tag so he will play without protest. However, Jacobs and Barkley were able to hold out, and both have made no secret of their displeasure.

Reminder that Dalvin Cook, 27, is still unemployed despite having another productive year last year. Ezekiel Elliott, also 27, actually signed a long-term deal in 2019 (worth $15 million per year) and is also out of a job, largely because of the big contract.

This is how the league works right now. Sorry, running backs. Let’s check in with Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor, who was tight-lipped about his position’s predicament yesterday:


NU players hire a lawyer
Eight former Northwestern football players plan to file a lawsuit against the school, according to a statement from a law firm representing the players. The group said more players — from multiple sports — are expected to join the suit and “will expose extreme and abusive hazing” at the school. Read more about the development history here.

49ers take over Leeds
49ers Enterprises, the investment arm of the NFL team, has completed a takeover of Leeds United, becoming the latest US-owned company to buy an English football club. It also comes at an odd time when Leeds are in turmoil.

Pulse polls

Would you trade Shohei?

Last night, Shohei Ohtani was busy hitting a game-tying home run — in a game they actually won, no less — last night and producing this NSFW bat flip:

He wasn’t thinking about a trade, at least not at the moment. But for the next two weeks, prepare to be inundated with more Shohei Ohtani trade talk than you can handle. I have expressed my feelings about this. Logic says this is an easy pick: You trade the hugely valuable player before he walks away for nothing.

But I’m not the one making those calls. That brings us to our next Pulse Poll: What do you do if you’re Angels owner Arte Moreno and general manager Perry Minasian? The choice is simple, but heavy. Do you:

  • Trade Ohtani for a large ransom, but forever be known as the team that traded the most talented player of all time? Or:
  • Keep himand tell yourself you never gave up on him when he leaves your team incredibly worse off?

I will admit that becoming the 1920 Red Sox, aka The Team That Sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, is not enviable. I would put the craft papers through, but I would cringe along the way.

Make your voice heard here.

Jim Bowden agrees with option 1 and already has a list of possible trade partners ready to go. Sam Blum reports live from the clubhouse, where players not named Shohei Ohtani can’t avoid the media storm — or their role in it.

Pulse selection

Soon-to-be Commanders owner Josh Harris green-lit The Process as Sixers owner. What does the process look like in the NFL? Ben Standig explains.

Dane Brugler evaluates next year’s receiver class, including Marvin Harrison Jr., who he calls one of the best WR prospects he’s ever seen.

The NBA Summer League ended last night and the Cavs are your new champions. John Hollinger picked his standouts here.

Add Oklahoma’s Brent Venables to the list of coaches rejecting Deion Sanders.

As part of our week-long (and lifelong, really) conference restructuring series, Nicole Auerbach has five realistic ideas about which restructuring trends are coming down the drain. Worth reading.

Meanwhile, David Ubben has a good companion: What if common sense ruled conference realignment? I support all these ideas.

I also enjoyed Justin Williams’ inside story on Cincinnati’s long road to the Big 12, which still feels like a strange sentence to write.

Cristiano Ronaldo believes the Saudi Professional League is “much better” than MLS. Commissioner Don Garber had a great line.

(Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

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