Top seven free agents still on the market

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LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony finally got around to making their decisions and when they did the flood gates opened and the NBA free agent market exploded with a rash of signings. It seemed like everyone signed in the coming few days.

Well, not everyone.

There are still some quality free agents on the market — guys who can help your team win games from the opening tip next fall. Understand, if they are still on the market there is a reason — maybe a basketball reason, maybe a market reason — but here are the seven best guys still out there.

• Eric Bledsoe (restricted free agent). He’s an All-Star caliber point guard who is incredibly athletic, can score in transition, attacks the rim, plus is tenacious on defense. His play isn’t the reason he’s still available — he wants a max offer sheet and Suns GM Ryan McDonough has said they will match any offer — and remember he traded for Bledsoe, he’s not letting him go. So no offers. The problem for Bledsoe is he lacks leverage, the Sixers are the only team with max cap space left and they are not interested in making an offer. Suns offering four years, $48 million, he wants full max of five years, $80 million. He could play for the qualifying offer ($3.7 million) and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but for a guy with his injury history that is a huge risk.

[RELATED: Lakers considered a bid for Bledsoe?]

• Greg Monroe (restricted free agent). Another guy who has fans around the league in front offices but teams expect the Pistons would match pretty much any offer. Monroe is a potential future All-Star big man with a versatile offensive game — he can pass or score from both the elbow and the post, plus runs the floor well. Stan Van Gundy still has to figure out how to resolve the Monroe/Andre Drummond/Josh Smith conundrum but he’s not going to give up a promising young big easily.

[RELATED: Suns considering signing Monroe to an offer sheet]

• Andray Blatche (unrestricted free agent). There are a lot of teams looking for a big to come off their bench and Blatche did that last year in Brooklyn. He scored 11 points a game with a pretty average true shooting percentage of .532. And he’s not a great defender. Look at his history and there are questions, but he played pretty well last season and for a couple million a year would make a value signing.

• Ray Allen (unrestricted fee agent). Does he want to play again? If he does want to play again, would he want to do that in Cleveland or somewhere warmer? Teams (including the Cavaliers) have reached out and are waiting for him to decide. He’s still in great shape, still the consummate professional and still can knock down the corner three.

[MORE: Summer League observations]

• Shawn Marion (unrestricted free agent). Dallas wanted to keep him but with Chandler Parsons and other moves Marion is on the market now. He is a solid reserve with the ability to hit the three, drive inside and score (or post up smaller players) and he’s a decent defender. Being age 36 is not helping his prospect.

• Evan Turner (restricted free agent). That he is still on the market tells you how far the perception of him around the league has fallen. He put up raw numbers in Philly where he was asked to shoot but when forced to blend into the Pacers team concept he could not. Some team will bring him in on a minimum deal and if you need a guy to put up shots on a bad team he could be your guy.

[RELATED: Is Minnesota interested in Turner?]

• Jameer Nelson (unrestricted). One of a few good, veteran backup point guards still on the market (Ramon Sessions is another). Nelson was stuck on a Magic team going young (and bad) last season but still averaged 12.1 points and 7 assists a game. He’s still a quality shooter and good at running the pick-and-roll, he would be a solid addition to a number of teams.

Enraged Jason Smith restrained from Mario Chalmers (video)

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During the Wizards’ win over the Grizzlies last night, Mario Chalmers tried to stop Jason Smith from shooting after Smith had been called for travelling. It’s a fairly common tactic, one pioneered by Kevin Garnett. Players don’t want their opponents to gain confidence by seeing the ball go through the net, even after play stops.

But Chalmers held onto Smith’s arm, and Smith took umbrage.

NBC Sports Washington:

I think it’s more likely, after halting Smith’s shot, Chalmers was trying to hold up Smith rather than yank him down. But I can’t know Chalmers’ intentions, and holding up a falling person by his arm isn’t very effective.

The double technical foul called seems about fair.

PBT Extra: Two months from trade deadline watch DeAndre Jordan and… Paul George?

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The NBA trade deadline got moved up this season to Feb. 8 so the league can avoid the spectacle of DeMarcus Cousins being traded during the All-Star Game and then doing an uncomfortable press interview afterward where he had to be told of the situation.

That means we are less than two months away from the trade deadline, and in this PBT Extra I look at the big names that could be on the market.

The Clippers seem likely to move DeAndre Jordan, the only questions are where and what will they get back? But three other teams have big decisions to make about their stars: Oklahoma City with Paul George, New Orleans with DeMarcus Cousins, and Memphis with Marc Gasol. Right now none of those guys are on the market, but that could change.

Trey Lyles dunks on Jayson Tatum then disrespects him far worse (video)

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Trey Lyles made a nice play in the Nuggets’ loss to the Celtics last night, driving by Jayson Tatum then dunking on him.

On the other hand, that swirl around Tatum’s head was not very nice at all.

Three Things to Know: Paul George returns to Indiana, gets bailed out by OKC defense

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Paul George returns to Indiana, gets booed, and gets win… thanks to Thunder defense. Russell Westbrook got his triple-double (10 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists). Paul George got some measure of satisfaction with a win on a night he returned to Indiana and was booed mercilessly by the Pacer faithful.

But George didn’t earn them this win, at least on the offensive end. This was a typical Thunder win because it was their elite defense bailing out an unimpressive offense. Again. The Thunder’s big trio of Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony remained in an offensive funk they cannot shoot their way out of, going a combined 10-of-45 from the floor Wednesday, or 22.2 percent.

What the Thunder can fall back on is their defense — second best in the NBA this season (100.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). Indiana came into the game with a top-10 offense and OKC held them in check. The Pacers scored 7.7 points per 100 less than they have averaged for the season. Victor Oladipo, who had been destroying teams for a week, shot 9-of-26 on the night with George as the primary defender on him most of the game. However, Oladipo did lead a charge from 11 down with just more than 5 minutes to go to make it a game late. Then came the big play of the game: Down three with 10 seconds to go, the Pacers tried to get the ball to Oladipo, but it was George who tipped and stole the inbounds pass, followed by hit two free throws after being fouled, to ice the game.

The Thunder got a huge performance from Steven Adams, who had 23 points but more importantly nine offensive rebounds — Oklahoma City grabbed the offensive board and got a second chance on 35.4 percent of their missed shots, and that was the difference in this game.

This didn’t feel like a game where the Thunder turned any corners, but it’s a win on the road and the Thunder will take that without asking any questions.

2) Rockets have yet to lose since Chris Paul returned, win streak reaches 11 after beating Charlotte. It’s not as simple as “Chris Paul came back and Houston can’t lose.” First off, they were winning a lot before he came back. Second, if you’re going to credit something credit the Houston defense, which has been the best in the NBA over the last 11 games (allowing 100.5 points per 100 possessions).

That said, Chris Paul dropped 31 points and 11 assists on Charlotte, torched the Hornet defense, and did it effortlessly as always.

It’s this simple: Houston is a legit contender and the team best poised to knock off Golden State this postseason. How they match up with the Warriors in a series is a question left for late May. We’re a long way from there. But that big question is not going to be answered until then, and the Rockets have answered all the other ones thrown at them so far.

3) Gordon Hayward got his boot off. Celtics’ fans fever dreams of Gordon Hayward returning from his horrific dislocated ankle injury in time for the playoffs — giving Boston a better shot at dethroning LeBron James and the Cavaliers — got a boost on Wednesday.

Hayward is out of his walking boot.

Not to put a damper on those dreams (well, kind of actually) Hayward himself said if things don’t progress he will be back in the boot, and there remains no official timetable for his return. Hayward, his agent, and the Celtics have all said not to expect him back this season… but if you’re a dreaming Celtics fan that just sounds like a PR statement, a managing of expectations so butts are covered if he’s not back.

Hayward is reportedly working hard on his rehab. He talked to Kobe Bryant and Paul George early in the process, guys who know about bouncing back from injury, and both told him to go at rehab hard every day like it was preparing for a game. Do everything the doctors and trainers say. There would be good days, bad days, but work the process. By all accounts, Hayward is doing just that.

And that still doesn’t mean he will be back for these playoffs. We all saw that injury, right? If he’s not back this season, nobody should blink. That was nasty. But he is out of his boot and walking normally, and that’s a good sign because what everyone wants to see is him back on the court. Whenever it happens.