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Beware of made-up trade rumors

There will be a lot of rumors out there this time of the year, some of which will be completely made up. Here's how to avoid them.

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These two won't likely be teammates any time soon
These two won't likely be teammates any time soon
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline approaching, we can expect trade rumors to start flying around. Spotting the ones that have credibility is always tricky because they can be driven by an interested party. An agent or an executive might leak something not entirely true to drum up interest for a player, a rival executive might deny the allegations that his team is interested in a trade only to get leverage, etc. In addition, some journalists might be a little too quick to post something in the rush to get a scoop. This is why we should always be a little skeptical when we first hear something.

To those traditional causes of uncertainty, we now need to add completely fabricated trade rumors that come from simple trade ideas that someone posted. Royce Young of Daily Thunder does a better job of explaining how this goes better than I could in the article that inspired this post:

Here's where it started: A Knicks fan, writing for Yahoo's "Contributor Network," which is a fancy way of saying, "Here's where anybody (unpaid) can sign up and write something and if we like it we'll promote it," wrote something about a trade he wanted to see happen for the Knicks. This particular person is named Del Pearson, who you can find here, with his 112 Twitter followers.

The website Latino Post - who was also responsible for fabricating the Thabo-for-Shumpert deal - picked up Pearson's post and presented more as if it were based in factual reporting.

"Knicks-Thunder Blockbuster Deal," the article has as a subtitle. "According to Yahoo Sports contributor Del Pearson, the Knicks' current woes are the product of an unhealthy frontline and inconsistency in their backcourt, particularly at the point guard spot." Yep, according to Del Pearson, the Knicks guy with 112 Twitter followers.

Then the website International Business Times went even further with it.

"According to Latino Post, the Thunder-Knicks deal will surely be the biggest trade this season, if both teams are going to be ‘bold' enough to pull it off."

That's right, they cited Latino Post, who cited Pearson, who was just speculating on his own speculation. But with an eye-catching headline, there was potential for it to spread.

Another site, Digital Journal, went with this headline: "NBA Trade Rumors: Russell Westbrook to NY Knicks?" Are you kidding me?

Something similar happened recently with two trade rumors involving the Spurs. First, a guy from a site called Sports World Report wrote a story on how the Spurs and Bulls could mutually benefit from a trade. The post includes Carlos Boozer as a potential target, so you know the author doesn't have a lot of insight on the Spurs or how the CBA works. But here's how it was titled: "San Antonio Spurs Trade Rumors: Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy For Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw Options For Chicago Bulls?"

Project Spurs picked it up and gave credence among Spurs fans to what basically amounted to a random blogger's post of a very unfocused trade idea. They run through a couple of scenarios about how the Spurs could go about making the trades, which, despite some erroneous concepts on how trade exceptions work, was a fun read if you are into trade fiction (I am). They also included a disclaimer at the bottom mentioning that the source had not been vetted. But that didn't stop people from actually thinking the rumor held some truth to it. After all, the only reason that post existed was in response to the trade rumor. I don't think Project Spurs attempted to mislead their readers, but it's very possible that's exactly what ended up happening.

Then we have an article by Latino Post, which seems to make a habit of writing misleading headlines, titled "NBA Trade Rumors 2014: Cleveland Cavaliers Could Trade Luol Deng To Mavericks, Bobcats, Spurs Before Deadline." That's technically true. The Cavs could trade Deng to one of those teams. But when you click on the story, you find that no one actually has linked the Spurs to Deng. It's just a story about how Deng is unhappy in Cleveland and how the Cavs might flip him at the deadline. Then the writer suggests that those teams would be good landing spots. That's it. Latino Post fabricated a trade rumor out of thin air.

Now we have a fanshot and a fanpost on the subject. The fanpost presents an interesting and somewhat realistic scenario in which the Spurs could land Deng. But the only reason that's even on the mind of some fans is because a site looking for page views disguised a trade idea as a trade rumor. That's why all of us should be mindful of each source's credibility. Back to Young for some advice:

Here's the simple rule of thumb to abide by: If you're not seeing it reported from Adrian Wojnarowski, or Marc Spears, or Sam Amick, or Marc Stein, or Chris Broussard, or Ken Berger, or Darnell Mayberry, or Howard Beck, or heck, even me, then it's nothing you should care about. If there's NBA news to be known about, those guys know it. Latino Post or International Business Times aren't beating them on a freaking trade involving Russell Westbrook.

These are guys with connections and sources, who usually do a great job or reporting on trade rumors that at least have some substance behind them. Again, we shouldn't take their words as gospel either, because there are a lot of people that leak things for their own benefit and franchises that are very secretive. That being said, there is a higher probability that there is something to the rumor when guys like those report it. They are also usually much more cautious in the way they do it. Here's how Sam Amick framed a potential interest by the Spurs on Evan Turner:

One rival executive mentioned the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Bobcats as possible destinations via trade, though both teams could also wait until the offseason to see if they could simply sign him then.

Amick made sure to mention the source of this info, so we know this is not coming from either a Spurs exec or the Sixers' front office. It's out there, but nothing is imminent. The Spurs might or might not be interested in Evan Turner. That's all we know, and that's fine. We can still discuss how Turner would fit with the Spurs and what the Spurs would likely have to give up to get him, but with the full understanding that this is not something that is bound to happen.

I think most people are savvy enough to know what to believe and whom to trust, but when it comes to trade rumors, we have a tendency to lower our standards because trade talks are so much fun to debate. To avoid getting our hopes up for nothing and to put the people that thrive on pedaling unsubstantiated drivel out of business, we have to resist that temptation.