NBA trade tracker: Rumors, reported trades ahead of free agency

NBA trade rumors have flown around before, during and after Thursday’s draft. Two of the top three picks in the 2017 NBA Draft have changed hands; the Sixers got the No. 1 overall pick from the Celtics to select Markelle Fultz. Also, the Lakers are reportedly clearing cap space in a trade with the Nets in order to make a run at Paul George, and maybe LeBron James next summer.

That situation made it imperative to target a wideout in the draft, and it just happened be a more explosive Buckeye in second-rounder Curtis Samuel. Samuel’s size (5-11, 196 pounds) and quickness suggest he’ll see heavy slot duty as a rookie. But the Panthers can also benefit from his ability to line up and stretch the field outside. With his hybrid rushing skills, he also can cause matchup nightmares when lining up in the backfield along with McCaffrey. It makes sense for Samuel to both step into what Ginn and Brown did vertically and zip across the field. Newton will appreciate having control of that joystick.

Game Mens Clay Matthews Jersey Don’t sleep on the Panthers’ other notable pickup at the position. Former Buccaneer Russell Shepard was signed to a three-year, $10.5 million deal mainly for his ace special teams work as a gunner. But he proved in Tampa Bay he can be a viable wideout when needed. He’ll get his chances to stretch the field, too, when the Panthers spread the field. He was a sneaky intradivison steal.

Game Mens Craig Smith Jersey Going back to Benjamin, having Samuel, McCaffrey and Shepard around now with Olsen takes the pressure off No. 13 to perform like a typical No. 1 receiver. His initial goal is to get in shape and build on the good things he was able to do in his first two seasons to become a more complete target. Funchess will need to fight through his durability issues and inconsistency to carve out more than a blip of a role.

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