Gary Neal

Who are the best free agents left on the board? Here are seven.


There’s not much left out there. By this point in the summer the guys left as free agents are flawed and are still free agents for a reason.

That said, there are still quality players out there who could help teams. Guys with skill sets that if used properly can bring real value to a team — and at this point you can get them at a good price.

Here are my seven best players left in free agency.

• Gary Neal (restricted, San Antonio Spurs guard). The Spurs gave Neal a qualifying offer but are reportedly about to pull it. If that happens someone will quickly snap up the guy who is the best three point threat still out there and who showed on the NBA Finals stage that he can really play. Last season he averaged 9.5 points a game, can knock down threes, can shoot off the dribble or the catch, and he plays smart defense.

• Mo Williams (Utah Jazz point guard). Williams isn’t great but he’s pretty solid — 12.9 points and 6.2 assists a game last season, plus he shot 38 percent from three. With the need for solid point guards around the league, it’s a surprise he is still on the market.

• Gerald Henderson (restricted, Charlotte Bobcats guard). Another guy who has shown he can play — he scored 15.5 points a game for the Bobcats last season — and play efficiently. There are a number of teams that could use him but nobody is putting in an offer, so the Bobcats may get him back at a steal of a price.

• Brandon Jennings (restricted, Milwaukee Bucks point guard). We’ve broken down his game before — he gets you a lot of points but he over dribbles, takes bad shots and isn’t much of a defender. While we’ve pointed to his flaws he can still play and it’s a surprise someone hadn’t found an offer he would accept (Jennings has long overvalued his own contributions, that may be part if it). Looks like he could be headed back to Milwaukee on the $4.5 million qualifying offer for one year in what would be a forced marriage neither side will be happy about.

• Nikola Pekovic (restricted, Minnesota Timberwolves center). This is a case of the restricted tag working against a player a lot of teams like — no offers came in like he expected because other teams expected (rightfully) the Timberwolves would just match. So now Minnesota and Pekovic are trying to hammer out a deal. It is possible he will just play for the $6.1 million qualifying offer for this year and be an unrestricted free agent next season. But the Timberwolves would like to keep him as the big next to Kevin Love doing all the dirty work, it’s just a question of if they can afford him.

• Kenyon Martin (New York Knicks, forward). For the second straight year Martin is sitting out on the market and someone is going to get him at a steal of a price. Last season with the Knicks he shot 60 percent from the field (only taking smart shots) and was a great big man paint defender. He likely ends up back with the Knicks.

• Mike Miller (Miami Heat forward). When he’s on the court he is a great stretch player who can knock down threes, make smart passes and play solid defense. He’s also banged up so the question is how much he can really give a team (he has played in 60 percent of his teams’ games the last three seasons). The Miami Heat used the amnesty on him and the buzz is Oklahoma City and Memphis — two teams that could use shooting — are going for him the hardest.

Kristaps Porzingis envelops Victor Oladipo’s dunk attempt (video)

Nikola Vucevic, Kristaps Porzingis
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Scott Skiles moved Victor Oladipo to the bench, because the Magic coach wanted to give Oladipo a chance to be more aggressive.

It worked.

Oladipo scored a season-high 24 points in the Magic’s 100-91 win over the Knicks.

But Oladipo’s aggressiveness also produced this fantastic Kristaps Porzingis block:

John Wall: Wizards shouldn’t have rested me and Bradley Beal together

Bradley Beal, John Wall
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The Wizards scored just six fourth-quarter points in their loss to the Hornets last night.

John Wall and Bradley Beal rested for the first 4:42 of that final period.

Wall, via Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:

“I feel like we can’t have me and Brad sitting,” said Wall, who finished with 14 points on 6 for 18 shooting, with six assists, five rebounds and four turnovers. “That’s just my opinion. Coach makes the decision he feels is best for us. I just feel like one of us has to be in in that situation because when you’re on the road, this is the time when you can step on them.

“I just feel like one of us has to be in. I don’t know. It’s just my opinion because our second unit was just so stagnant. And I’m not saying they lost the game. [Shoot], we all lost the game. We didn’t make shots. We were 1 for 20, right? I think we were just so stagnant. We really didn’t have anybody penetrating and creating.”

First of all, this is how you disagree with a coach. Wall made clear that he respects Randy Wittman’s authority to set the rotation. Two adults should be allowed to acknowledge their differing opinions without it being labeled a feud.

But is Wall right?

Per nbawowy!, here are Washington’s offensive/defensive/net ratings with:

  • Wall and Beal: 103.0/105.0/-2.0 in 224 minutes
  • Wall without Beal: 110.0/111.2/-1.2 in 134 minutes
  • Beal without Wall: 80.2/116.8/-36.6 in 48 minutes
  • Neither Wall nor Beal: 105.2/101.6/+3.6 in 123 minutes

The Wizards have been much better with neither player on the court this season. They’ve also been a disaster when Beal plays without Wall.

But this is a relatively small sample. Let’s look back to last season.

  • Wall and Beal: 108.5/101.5/+7.0 in 1,715 minutes
  • Wall without Beal: 103.0/102.0/+1.0 in 1,123 minutes
  • Beal without Wall: 103.2/110.9/-7.7 in 384 minutes
  • Neither Wall nor Beal: 97.0/107.0/-10.0 in 768 minutes

Washington was – by far – at its best when Wall and Beal shared the court. They just complement each other so well. The Wizards were also fine with just Wall, bad with just Beal and even worse with neither.

If I were the Wizards, I’d generally chance resting Wall and Beal simultaneously so they can play more together. If I’m using just one, it’s Wall. Beal is not a creator I trust to run the offense, and Wall’s defense is important.

But there’s a limit on how much Wall (and Beal) can play. Wall got 36 minutes against Charlotte, and Beal played 38.

To the point, Wall and Beal played the final 7:18 – and the Wizards didn’t make a single basket in that span. They scored just two points on free throws. So, it’s hard to argue Wall and Beal were the answer.

Wittman blamed the players more than his substitutions.

Wittman, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“We don’t have guys that are making plays right now. Again, good looks but until we quit feeling sorry,” said Wittman, who could’ve gone this road after a 123-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday but didn’t. “When things go bad like that I had to twice in timeouts and tell them to lift their heads up. There’s plenty of time left. We’re up nine during this whole thing.  We start feeling sorry, start pouting putting our heads down and it becomes a snowball. We got to grow up in that aspect of it. If the shot doesn’t go in, it doesn’t go in.

“Makes, misses, that’s the game. You never give in. We haven’t gotten over that. That’s been that way for the last couple of years. Guys don’t play well, put their heads down and we pout, feel sorry for ourselves.”

When Wittman previously called out a player publicly, Marcin Gortat didn’t take it well. I’m not sure this will go any better.


When confronted with Wittman’s words, Bradley Beal only would shake his head before giving this retort: “I’m not going to comment on that.”

It’s uncharacteristic of the fourth-year shooting guard, who’ll usually give some sort of answer and shrug it off. By saying nothing, he’s staying plenty.

The Wizards, who entered the season a contender for the Eastern Conference finals, are 6-6. They’ve lost two straight, by 17 and 14 – and the end of their last defeat was historically dreadful.

Is this a team in turmoil?

Michael provides plenty of context to that question.

Chris Paul drops Rudy Gobert with stepback (and Gobert says why)

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When Chris Paul recognized he got matched up with Rudy Gobert in transition, he slowed it down and set it up for an isolation — then used his step back to drop him to the ground and drain the open midrange. It’s one of the better highlight plays from the Clippers this season (and they have more than a few in Lob City).

Did CP3 push off on Gobert? Of course. Welcome to the NBA, every player who drives pushes off (including Gordon Hayward). It looked like to be Gobert tried to sell the contact and didn’t get the call he wanted.

However, after the game Gobert tweeted it was something else entirely.

Either way the Jazz got the win Wednesday night, 102-91, snapping a 13-game losing streak to the Clippers. The Jazz are .500 on the season with the win (7-7), while the Clippers drop back to below .500 (7-8) with some issues to sort out still.