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.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.