The Top 10 NBA free agents still available

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The big names are off the board: Gordon Hayward is heading to Boston, Paul Millsap is going to Denver, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were never leaving Golden State, Blake Griffin is staying in Los Angeles, and Kyle Lowry will remain a Raptor. Even the best restricted free agent on the market has his deal in place — Otto Porter will sign a max offer sheet from the Nets, and Washington will match.

So who is left?

Here are the top 10 NBA free agents still on the board.

1) Kelly Olynyk. A casualty of Boston’s need to clear out cap space for Gordon Hayward, he is suddenly an unrestricted free agent and the best player available. Already Atlanta and Indiana have interest, but there will be a lot more teams lining up. Olynyk is a 7-footer who is mobile and shot 35.7 percent from three last season. He is a decent defender on the perimeter but struggles physically with strong players down on the block. Olynyk is a big who fits the direction the NBA game is evolving and he’s going to get paid handsomely by someone.

2) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Detroit all but flat-out said it would match any offer for KCP and that seems to have depressed the market for the restricted free agent. Still, after the Langston Galloway signing the Pistons are hard capped and would have to shed salary to match a max offer for Caldwell-Pope, it’s surprising no team has stepped up to force them to do that (and take a chance they can steal him). KCP is a long and athletic defensive wing who shot 35 percent from three last year and is working to become a more varied offensive threat. A lot of teams could use a guy like that.

3) Nerlens Noel. Dallas traded for the rangy, defensive-minded center at the deadline last season and see him as part of the future., other teams known that so nobody has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. It would be a waste of paperwork, the Mavs would match. With Dallas bidding against itself, the only question now is what price he re-signs for.

4) Pau Gasol. Not a lot of drama here. Gasol opted out of the $16 million he is owed next year to help the Spurs chase free agents (the Spurs have re-signed Patty Mills and are in the mix on other deals). When all that is done the Spurs will re-sign Gasol, certainly for less per year than before but for multiple years. Gasol is still a fundamentally solid big who can score inside, make smart passes, and defend the rim all with a high IQ. He’s past his prime but he’s still a quality NBA big man.

5) Tim Hardaway Jr. Another restricted free agent trying to land an offer and force his team’s hand. Hardaway has developed into a quality player at Hawks university and last year scored 14.5 points a game shooting 35.7 percent from three. He doesn’t provide much defense, but teams can always use shooting. Atlanta is heading into rebuilding mode and they want Hardaway to be part of that, the only question is the price point.

6) Dion Waiters. He played the best basketball of his career the second half of last season — when the Heat needed scoring he picked up the slack (not efficiently, but he was getting buckets). Waiters was always going to be in the second tier of free agents (when GMs strike out on better targets they come calling) and the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, and others have their eyes on him. However, with Miami striking out on Hayward and Griffin, expect them to jump into the mix and try to bring Waiters back.

7) Derrick Rose. In a shrinking point guard market, he may be the best choice teams now have. The Clippers reportedly are interested, and the Knicks have been in touch as well, other teams may jump in over the next 48 hours, too. Rose put up solid numbers last season, on paper he looked like an average NBA point guard, but he’s still a defensive liability and kind of only plays one style. The questions now are what teams come asking him to do — start or come off the bench — and at what price?

8) Rajon Rondo. After a rocky start, he played well for the Bulls the second half of last season — after the All-Star Break he averaged 10.8 points and 7.1 assists per game. The Lakers are interested, but they will only offer a one-year deal (they want to keep their 2018 cap space) and Rondo may hope another team will come in with a longer offer. The Clippers and Knicks have been mentioned as possibilities.

9) Rudy Gay. He’s an old-school volume scorer who was already slowing down before he suffered a ruptured Achilles last January (he should be good to go around the start of next season). Both Miami and Utah have become interested since missing out on Hayward. Gay reportedly would like to play for the Thunder, but if Miami/Utah/another team come in with a larger offer he likely will take the money.

10) Andre Roberson. A restricted free agent who almost certainly will end up back with the Thunder next season — he would fit perfectly right between Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and since they need to make both those guys happy so they re-sign in OKC, the Thunder will pay what it takes to keep Roberson. Other teams know that, which means he may not get a huge offer from the outside, nobody is going to poach him. Roberson is a lock-down defender — OKC should be elite defensively next season — who can score in transition but needs to improve his jumper to become a huge threat.

Rumor: Cavaliers trying to dump salary in Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cavaliers are reportedly prioritizing youth in a Kyrie Irving trade.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Another stated goal is to dump off some salary and reduce the luxury tax bill.

The Cavs – who reportedly lost more than $40 million last season – are on track to become the first team in NBA history to pay the luxury-tax repeater rate. They’ve led the league in payroll, racking up big luxury-tax bills, the last two seasons. They even pulled the rare feat of carving out max cap space (used on LeBron James) then getting about the luxury-tax line in the same season three years ago, finishing second to the Nets in spending that season.

Cleveland now faces a luxury-tax bill north of $78 million – which would eclipse its 2015-16 mark ($54 million) as the second highest tax payment ever, trailing just 2013-14 Brooklyn (nearly $91 million).

Most teams would never spend as much as the Cavaliers have the previous three seasons. Most teams would never approach Cleveland’s costs this year, which include $142 million in player salaries.

But most teams don’t have LeBron.

Remember, the Heat cutting corners on spending contributed to LeBron leaving Miami. And Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reportedly promised to spend unconditionally when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014.

Is cutting costs the message the Cavaliers want to send as LeBron enters a contract year?

If so, they have a few candidates for shedding:

  • Tristan Thompson – three years, $52,408,695 remaining
  • J.R. Smith – three years, $44,160,000 remaining (just $3.87 million of $15.68 million guaranteed final year)
  • Iman Shumpert – two years, $21,348,313 remaining
  • Channing Frye – one year, $7,420,912 remaining

All those players, roughly in order of salary, contribute to winning.

The Cavs should have little trouble unloading those contracts in an Irving trade. He’s so valuable, teams will incur a lopsided financial deal to get him. They’ll just send Cleveland less talent to compensate.

It’s the classic dilemma – money vs. on-court success. Teams evaluate this tradeoff every day.

For the Cavaliers, there’s just the additional pressure of LeBron’s looming free agency.

Just a reminder, Russell Westbrook has a max extension sitting out there

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Russell Westbrook is entering the final year of his contract, he can be a free agent in the summer of 2018.

On July 1 the Oklahoma City Thunder offered Westbrook a designated player “super max” contract extension of an expected $200 million, which would kick in after this coming season. It’s a massive offer that would lock Westbrook into the Thunder through his prime.

He has yet to sign it.

He may not sign it, he doesn’t lose much waiting it out. However, the Thunder remain optimistic he will sign, according to Fred Katz at the Norman Transcript.

The deadline for him to sign is the day before the regular season begins, Oct. 16.

 No other team could offer the same deal if Westbrook were to hit free agency. He could still receive a contract that starts at 35 percent of the cap if he chooses to become a free agent next summer but would receive only five percent raises per season and could sign for up to only four years.

Yet, the reigning MVP has made the Thunder wait almost a month, already. And it could end up being longer — maybe forever, though the organization remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects of Westbrook signing for the long term before the start of the season.

Why Westbrook should wait is that this contract doesn’t make him that much more money than simply waiting the season out, then studying his options next summer and signing a max deal next summer.

The Thunder can offer Westbrook 35 percent of the cap right now thanks to the new designated player provision (that deal would start at just under $35 million a year),  however, after this season Westbrook will have been in the NBA 10 years, which means every team can offer him that  same annual salary starting next summer. What OKC can offer are slightly larger raises and one more guaranteed year. That year is nice if Westbrook doesn’t think he can get maxed out in five years, but he likely can. So the real advantage is the larger raises, and that has not been enough to sway guys in the past because it’s not that much money.

Westbrook and Paul George should make the Thunder very interesting next season — this will be an elite defensive team trying to figure out the offense. If they do, this team becomes dangerous, but that is still a big “if.”

If Westbrook and George lift OKC deeper in the playoffs than expected, both could choose to stay in OKC. If, however, this doesn’t work out as planned, Westbrook has more options if he doesn’t sign the deal yet — he and George, also a free agent next summer, could leave together or go their separate ways. Also, not signing the keeps pressure on the Thunder ownership to keep spending and moving to make the team better now, rather than cut corners and save money.

Westbrook can make the Thunder feel good and sign this deal, but if he wants you can’t blame him.

Important news: Nick Young has gotten over his fear of dolphins

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Where NBA players really make improvements is over the summer. They can get in better shape, work on their jumper, improve their handles…

Or get over their fear of dolphins.

Which is what the new Wizards guard did this summer. Remember these tweets from Young’s then fiancée a couple of years ago?

He’s gotten past that fear.

I gave these dolphins another chance we cool now

A post shared by Nick Young (@swaggyp1) on

Next, just needs to pick up a right with Golden State and show that to the Dolphins — they respect titles.

Report: Mikhail Prokhorov ‘warmed’ to selling controlling stake of Nets

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Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets in 2010. A couple years ago, he tried to sell his stake, but decided to keep it. Then, he bought 100% of the franchise and its arena. After last season, he said he was selling 49% of the team.

Now?

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, while focused on selling a minority stake in the franchise, has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice of the team, sources close to the situation said.

The change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak — and with interest in the Houston Rockets sale heating up, one source said.

The Rockets’ sale could shake out potential Nets buyers, and Prokhorov selling a controlling stake could also help. It’d cost more money than the 49% he’s offering now, but people with the money to buy an NBA team tend to value control.

This might be a good time to sell for Prokhorov, who lost a ton of money as the team paid major luxury tax for an all-in championship pursuit that flopped spectacularly. The NBA’s popularity is rising, and the league is reaping huge revenue from its national-TV contracts.

However, he shouldn’t assume the Rockets’ sale price will predict the Nets’. Buyers might prefer a good team with James Harden and Chris Paul to a bad one short on young talent after years of mismanagement. At least Brooklyn’s payroll is now tolerably low.

The big loser here: Leslie Alexander, who’s trying to sell the Rockets. The supply of NBA teams now available might have just doubled, and unless there’s no overlap in demand for those franchises, that can only drive down Alexander’s eventual sale price.