Kurt Helin

NBA Free Agency Preview: Top five power forwards

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It’s become arguably the most in-demand position in the NBA — but you can’t just be a back-to-the-basket, hang inside the paint guy anymore. A modern NBA power forward better is able to stretch the floor out to the three-point line.

There are a handful of good power forwards on the market, but the quality drops off pretty quickly. This list does not include players such as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, who can play the four but function mostly as centers in today’s game. Here’s our list.

1) Al Horford. The second best free agent on the market this season after Kevin Durant, Horford is valuable because he can play the four or the five, and he does everything well on a basketball court. He can knock down threes or score inside, he’s a good passer and a quality defender. The Hawks will hope to retain him but it will take a five-year max offer (and they may ultimately regret the last year or two of that deal as he just turned 30), but he will have options as teams from Los Angeles through Boston would love the chance to pitch him and get him on their team. Does Horford take the money to be on a good but not contending team in the Hawks, or does he chase glory elsewhere?

2) Dirk Nowitzki. It was amusing that rumors of Nowitzki bolting Dallas to go to Golden State and chase a ring came up this week — that became a story despite the near zero percent chance it happens. Nowitzki has said if he didn’t have a ring already he may have chased one, but as he has that 2011 title he wants to stay put. Mark Cuban would give Nowitzki whatever he wants, but Dirk will take a deal that is best for the team.

3) Ryan Anderson. A prototypical stretch four, he can knock down threes but also put the ball on the floor and get boards. He hasn’t done that at the same rate in recent years due to injuries. A lot of teams looking for a stretch four — the Wizards, Kings, Lakers, among others — either already are or quickly will turn to Anderson. He’s just 28 and some team is going to pay him like the injuries are in his past. Just wait.

4) Jared Sullinger (restricted). The Celtics are reportedly willing to let him walk if a team comes in with a healthy offer, ending the annual training camp tradition in Boston of “how much does Sullinger weigh this year?” He’s a wide body inside, but he can space the floor out to the three-point line. He’s nobody’s first choice, but the offers will start to come in once teams miss out on their higher targets.

5) Jared Dudley. Dudley is an example of the evolution of the league — he came in as a wing player, a three, but is now used primarily as a stretch four. One of the best guys in the league (he’s great in the locker room), he’s a solid bench player who could help out a number of teams. Some team will come to him as likely their third choice, but that team will end up with a quality role player who helps them out.

Others of note: Nene, David West, Terrence Jones, Mirza Teletovic, Luis Scola.

Report: Nets shopping point guard Jarrett Jack, if can’t find partner will waive him

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Jarrett Jack‘s season ended last January with a torn ACL.

He’s worked hard in rehab to make his NBA comeback next season, but that will not be in Brooklyn — the Nets are trying to trade him, but if that doesn’t happen by Thursday they will waive him and make him a free agent, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

If the Nets are unable to find a trade for Jack before his contract guarantee date on Thursday, the franchise is planning to waive him, sources said.

Jack will be owed $500,000 of the $6.3 million on his 2016-17 contract if waived by Thursday. The move will deliver the Nets $44 million in salary-cap space for the free agency period starting on Friday.

Why would a team trade for Jack? To clear their own cap space — they could trade for him Wednesday and waive him Thursday, freeing up cap space. The Nets, in turn, would get a player they want as part of their roster next season. If not, Brooklyn will take the cap space and keep it.

Jack is a solid backup point who can get a team some buckets, he averaged 12.8 points and 7.4 assists per game last season. That said, he turns 33 right as next season starts and he’s coming off an ACL injury, the market for his services is not going to be robust, but after teams work through the top free agent point guards — Mike Conley, Jeremy Lin, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Matthew Dellavedova, etc. — Jack will get a call. And he’ll play well.

Report: Frustrated Dwyane Wade opens up bidding to teams other than Heat

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Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Dwyane Wade has taken pay cuts in the past to help the Miami Heat land other players, but now is tired of that and wants to be made whole. The Miami Heat are in a tight financial spot this season, trying to retain free agents such as Hassan Whiteside while going after Kevin Durant. Wade is a free agent and wants what he sees as his due, too — if not from Miami then from someone else.

So Wade has opened bidding beyond just Miami, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Wade’s representatives have made it known to multiple teams over the past several days that he will be on the market. Some teams have been skeptical, wondering whether Wade would seriously consider leaving the franchise where he has played 13 seasons and won three titles.

The Heat and Wade had several contentious weeks last year before they agreed on a one-year, $20 million deal for this past season.

PBT Podcast: Sean Deveney of Sporting News stops by for NBA free agency preview

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Friday starts the most unpredictable free agency period any of us have ever seen. There have been important, intense free agencies in recent years, but even when we were waiting for LeBron’s decisions we understood the basic structure and patterns of free agency.

Not this time around. Thanks to an unprecedented $24 million spike in the salary cap, we are just days away from the most unpredictable, head-scratching free agency in NBA history. It’s far more than just the summer of Kevin Durant.

Sean Deveney of The Sporting News stops by to break down free agency with Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. They talk Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, Hassan Whiteside, and the other big names available. Plus there are discussions of what teams from Golden State to Boston may do this summer.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Report: Dwight Howard has July 1 meetings with Boston, Atlanta

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Boston is in need of star players, even ones past their prime. At this point Danny Ainge will talk to anyone.

Atlanta is Dwight Howard‘s hometown.

The center is a free agent come July 1 and he is setting up meetings, too. The two on the list so far are named above, reports Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.

The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics are the first known teams to secure face-to-face recruiting meetings with free-agent big man Dwight Howard, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that Howard is likely to meet with as many as five teams in free agency, with a return to the Houston Rockets widely seen as unlikely after Howard declined his $23.2 million player option for next season.

Unlikely? That’s putting it kindly after the Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni as coach.

A number of other teams may look to talk to Howard once they lose out in the Hassan Whiteside sweepstakes — he is the much hotter target at center. Teams such as the Heat and Mavericks, among others, who are targeting Whiteside likely have Howard as a fallback.

Boston is going to go after every star on the market. Atlanta is more complicated, in the past Howard has been resistant to a return home (many players are leery of the off-the-court distractions and demands that come with playing in their hometown). However, Howard may be more open to the idea as his other options shrink.

Howard averaged 13.7 points a game on only 8.5 shot attempts per game, and added 11.8 rebounds a night. He played good defense, although not at the pre back surgery levels. Howard hopes to get a max contract, which will start at $30.8 million for him (with the projected salary cap of $94 million).

Teams will be hesitant to pay that much. However, more important to some than the money is the years — with Howard’s history of back issues, many teams are hesitant to offer a contract even three years in length.

However, as the options for other teams shrivel up in free agency more and more will take a second look at Howard. And when he signs a lot of people will shake their head at the contract.