NBA Free Agency Preview: Top five shooting guards

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Maybe the hardest part of making this list was deciding if certain players were a shooting guard or a small forward — for many players in today’s NBA they are interchangeable. For example, you don’t see Nicolas Batum on this list because I see him as a three, but he could play as a two depending on where he lands. It doesn’t change what they do on the court, but the better designation might simply be wing player.

Unlike the thin point guard spot, there is a deeper crop out on the wing, and with teams looking for shooting these players will be in demand. Here is our list of the top five shooting guards.

1) DeMar DeRozan. The Toronto Raptors has said he wants to stay in Toronto and is only going to meet with the Raptors. The only way another team gets a shot at him is if the Raptors low ball him in negotiations, and that’s not going to happen. DeRozan can get to the rim with the best of them and was an All-Star last season scoring 23.5 points per game. However, his lack of a three-point shot hurts him in the playoffs and against good defensive teams, it would make it difficult for him to be a No. 1 option anywhere.

2) Bradley Beal (restricted). Go ahead and start practicing your outrage now —”Beal isn’t a max player, what are the Wizards doing?” Guess what, Beal is going to be a max player. And the Wizards are going to pay it. The question isn’t his game — he averaged 17.4 points per game last season and is a career 39.7 percent shooter from three — but rather his health, where a stress fracture in his right leg has kept him out of  46 games the past two seasons and is a lingering problem. He’s going to be on a minutes restriction the rest of his career to deal with that stress issue. But if teams are willing to pay you the max (and there are several, which Washington would just match), then you’re a max player, and Beal will be that come early July.

3) Dwayne Wade. There will be a cat-and-mouse game with Wade and the Miami Heat again — he will push for the biggest deal possible noting he has taken less in the past to help the team and its cap situation, the Heat will ask him to take less to help the team and because of his age. Eventually, the two sides will reach a deal. Wade averaged 19 points a game last season and, as we saw in the playoffs, still can become a dominant force for a stretch of games.

4) Kent Bazemore. I’m listing him here, but he genuinely could be a two or a three depending on the team and how you wish to define his role. He had a breakout season in Atlanta and is at the peak of his skills at age 27, plus we know from the past couple free agent periods that top “3&D” guys get PAID. Of the top players on this list, Bazemore is the guy most likely to switch teams, which means he will have a lot of interest from a variety of suitors.

5) J.R. Smith. In Cleveland, away from the clubs of New York and with LeBron James as his mentor, Smith has developed into a solid, reliable catch-and-shoot specialist who brings real value to a team (not just streaky bad shot making). Expect a number of teams to make a run at him, but as long as LeBron is in Cleveland I would be surprised if he landed anywhere else.

Others free agent shooting guards of note: Jamal Crawford, Dion Waiters (restricted), Evan Fournier (restricted), Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon, Arron Afflalo, Allen Crabbe (restricted)

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores career-high 44, dedicates game to father

Associated Press
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — After scoring a career-high 44 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo wrote a note on the game ball.

“This is for daddy. We got a win tonight,” the 22-year-old Milwaukee Bucks player said, remembering his father, Charles, who died last month at age 54.

Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk that put Milwaukee ahead 111-110 with 11 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Damian Lillard found Jusuf Nurkic running open down the lane, but Antetokounmpo blocked his shot at the basket, sending the 7-foot center crashing to the floor.

Antetokounmpo, starting his fifth NBA season, made 17 of 23 shots with eight rebounds and four assists as Milwaukee kept pace with a Portland team that had dominated its first two opponents. The Bucks star is averaging 38.3 points through three games, up from 22.9 last year, 16.9 in 2015-16 and 12.7 in 2014-15.

“Seventy-nine more. This is just the beginning,” he said, thinking about how many regular-season games remain.

After Nurkic was rejected at the basket, Khris Middleton was fouled and made both free throws.

“They committed two guys to Dame, so somebody was going to be open,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said, referring to Lillard. “Turned out to be Nurk but they made a really good defensive play.”

Lillard scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum also scored 26, and Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Snell scored 17 points and Middleton added 16 for Milwaukee.

 

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant ejected at end of loss to Grizzlies

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Stephen Curry is going to get fined for this.

The former MVP was frustrated, his team losing and thinking he was fouled by Mike Conley as he attacked the rim late in the Warriors loss in Memphis Saturday night. Curry threw his mouthpiece at the referee, which deservedly got him ejected instantly.

Durant followed him to the locker room, making a gesture that will earn him a fine as well.

The Warriors are 1-2 to start the season and there are a lot of factors at play. The China trip does this to teams, and throw in three straight trips to the Finals on top of it and it has an impact. The team is a little banged up. However, the biggest issue is their defense is a mess right now.

The Warriors will straighten it out eventually, but the start of the season could be a rough one for them.

Pacers owner says team not for sale, will not be moved from Indianapolis

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There are more than a few NBA owners who are seeing the prices teams are being sold for — the Rockets just sold for a record $2.2 billion — and considering their options. Some other billionaires are looking for teams, several with the goal of packing up the franchise and moving it to their respected hometowns.

Those billionaires need not call Herb Simon. The Pacers owner said the team is not going anywhere, speaking to Gregg Doyel of the IndyStar.

“I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82. He told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads.

“If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis.

Good. That is as it should be.

Indiana is part of America’s basketball heartland, and it should have a team. Pacers fans are smart and loyal, and the team has a long history going back to the ABA, running from Mel Daniels and George McGinnis through Reggie Miller and up to Myles Turner (hopefully he can be on the level of the rest of them someday). They play in the coolest basketball building in the league, one with the history of the sport wolven in.

Indy is the nation’s 27th largest television market, bigger than San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and other successful NBA franchises. There is no reason the Pacers cannot thrive, so long as ownership is committed.

They are. Which is excellent news for Pacers’ fans.

Stan Van Gundy speaks out again in support of protesting athletes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy used his team’s trip to Washington to again voice his support for athletes who kneel during the national anthem and his opposition to President Donald Trump.

Van Gundy was asked before Friday night’s game against the Wizards what he hoped would result from the president’s criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and the resulting national dialogue about political activism by professional athletes.

“I don’t know what good can come out of anything the president has said,” Van Gundy said. “As far as the athletes’ protest, I hope people would pay attention to the issues that caused the protest in the first place and realize that we have problem disproportionately with police brutality towards men of color.”

Van Gundy also criticized fans who have booed those athletes because they believe the gesture is disrespectful to the United States military.

“I thought that one of the things the military is fighting for is the American way of life and our values, which I think starts with freedom of speech,” Van Gundy said. “Our country was founded on protest. Otherwise, we would still be a colony of England. You would think people would appreciate non-violent protests that will be made.

“If you don’t stand for freedom of speech and you don’t think those players have the right to freedom of speech, what American values are you for?”

It was not the first time Van Gundy has spoken out on these issues. When Trump was elected last November, Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press it was the first time he had been “ashamed” of his country.

Last month on the team’s media day, he read a prepared statement in support of athletes who use their visibility for political purposes, including protests during the anthem. The NBA has a policy requiring that players stand for the anthem.

The Pistons’ visit to Washington was their first since Jan. 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration.

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