Who is left on free agent market? Pickings getting slim but a few good players out there

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Free agency has been open for more than two weeks now and most of the big names are gone, not just Dwight Howard but also guys like Andrew Bynum, Mike Dunleavy, Al Jefferson, Andrei Kirilenko, Quentin Richardson, Nick young and more.

But there are a few name guys left on the market. Guys with flaws but guys who can help the right team.

Here’s a quick list of the big names.

• Brandon Jennings (restricted): The Bucks let the market set the price for Jennings — and with virtually every team now locked in at the starting point spot he doesn’t have the leverage to get the $12 million a year he thought he deserved. Jennings is a quick point guard who looks good in transition, a guy who can penetrate, but who shot a low percentage (40 percent last year), a guy who struggles to finish in the paint, and is a disinterested defender. Bottom line is he can put up points but teams are hesitant about his overall impact. The Bucks went hard and missed out on Jeff Teague, but that didn’t help the Bucks relationship with Jennings. The most likely outcome is a sign-and-trade, but other teams may have lowball offers and not want to send the Bucks much in return. It is possible he returns to the Bucks for another season.

• Metta World Peace: He was amnestied by the Lakers and while he’s not the defender or isolation scorer he was a few years ago he can still he certainly help a good team. He cleared waivers and is considered likely to sign with the Knicks (the front runners) or Clippers. Remember he can sign for the minimum for one year because the Lakers are still paying him.

• Kenyon Martin: He pushed his way into the starting lineup for a stretched, scored 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, then went on to play key minutes in the playoffs with a PER of 16.2. The Knicks are interested but there are more than a few teams out there that could use his inside presence.

• Lamar Odom: The former Sixth Man of the Year has been a mess the last two seasons — he averaged 4 points a game and shot 39.9 percent shooting last year. His PER the last couple seasons was 9.2 and 10.9. The Lakers and Clippers are reportedly interested but he’s only going to get one-year offers at the minimum.

• Nikola Pekovic (restricted): The Timberwolves want to keep him and the two sides are still negotiating (there were reports that the number was four years, $50 million, but the team pretty much laughed at that immediately). They need him to balance out Love and will reach a deal, but other teams are lurking.

• Gerald Henderson (restricted): His negotiations with the Bobcats were at an impasse, so both sides were looking at sign-and-trade options. Henderson would be a solid addition for a team; he scored 15.2 points a game for the Bobcats last year and had an above average PER of 16.2.

• Nate Robinson: He can light up the scoreboard off the bench… or shoot you right out of the game. Fans love his fearless style, coaches hate his defense. The Nuggets and Knicks are reportedly the front-runners.

Other names of note still available: Mo Williams, Gary Neal (restricted, but the Spurs most likely would not match an offer), Elton Brand, Antawn Jamison, Samuel Dalembert, Devin Harris, Daniel Gibson, and Richard Hamilton.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

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When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

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While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

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Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.