Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

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.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.

Watch Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant make every shot they take for 75 seconds

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) poses for photos during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Here’s the thing that should make teams nervous — this doesn’t even include the best shooter in the game today. Stephen Curry was on the other end of the court working on something else.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson exchanged shots at the Golden State Warriors practice and didn’t miss one for more than a minute, closer to 75 seconds. No, they were not being guarded, and this was just some light shooting at the end of practice. Still.

From Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s going to take at least until Thanksgiving and maybe closer to Christmas for the Warriors to figure out how to play together, what the rotations will look like, and just become comfortable with what is largely a new team. But once they do, the firepower on this squad is insane.