ProBasketballTalk's top 25 free agents tracker

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Free agency is almost over. LeBron is going to the Heat. Most of the top 25 are set, and the ones that aren’t will be soon.

So here is a little wrap up, with a few loose ends out there. What follows is a list of the top 25 free agents on the market (by our estimation), each with a little note about where they stand right now. Bookmark this post, because we will be updating it with the latest information you need, distilled and neatly compiled in one place. Why? Because we care about you and your time. Plus we like lists. They’re fun.

Last updated 8:30 am Eastern
1. LeBron James (Going to Miami): Miami is going to be a force in the East. You would guess that with the three-man super team of LeBron/Wade/Bosh. But it’s more than that.

The Cavaliers and Heat agreed to a sign-and-trade that sends picks and a massive $15 million trade exception to Cleveland for LeBron. However, LeBron did not sign the max deal — he took less. He took the six years but for less money. We don’t know how much yet. Wade and Bosh did the same. This will allow the Heat to put some talent around them, such as Mike Miller, and maybe long-time Heat mainstay Udonis Haslem.

2. Dwyane Wade (going to stay in Miami): He is staying home — and he is bringing his friends Chris and LeBron with him. Wade confirmed in an ESPN interview that he will sign a deal in Miami. He signed a six-year deal, but not for the maximum amount of money. We don’t know how much the deal is worth, but we know LeBron and Bosh did the same. They left money on the table so the Heat could put players around them.

3. Chris Bosh (going to Miami): He’s going to the Heat, to team up with Wade and LeBron to form the core of a powerhouse team. He was part of a sign-and-trade that sent picks to Toronto as well as giving the Raptors a huge trade exception (near $15 million, most likely). We don’t know what the contract for yet, but we know Bosh (and Wade and LeBron) left millions on the table so the Heat could add talent around them. 

4. Amare Stoudemire (Agreed to terms with New York): The Knicks have their first big signing of the summer — Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks agreed to terms Monday. It is a five year, $100 million deal. He tried hard to recruit LeBron, but that appears to have failed. Still, the Knicks get one of the best power forwards in the game, a guy who may have been the best player in the league after the All-Star Game last year. But they also get a guy who has had serious work on his knees in the past and won’t be getting fed by Steve Nash anymore.

5. Joe Johnson (Agreed to terms with Atlanta): Finally. After flirting one more time with the Knicks, he agreed to Atlanta’s max-deal offer of six years, $119 million. This is a contract the Hawks will regret come 2015 (and he’s not a real max deal player now) but both sides got what they wanted out of this.

6. Carlos Boozer (Agreed to terms with Chicago): He has agreed to a five year, $75 million deal with the Bulls. This is a great signing by Chicago. First, it puts them right in the mix for LeBron James, although he still seems set on Miami. But even if they don’t get LeBron, they have the money to add a top shooter like JJ Redick. A starting five of Rose/Redick/Deng/Boozer/Noah with Taj Gibson first off the bench is near the top of the East.

7. Rudy Gay (Agreed to terms with Memphis): Gay has accepted a five-year, $81.6 million offer from the Memphis Grizzlies. That may be overpaying him, but we said before free agency that someone was going to overpay for him. Might as well be Memphis. Now we’ll see if he wants to live up to the contract, or his focus gets worse because he’s comfortable. 

8. Dirk Nowitizki (Agreed to terms with Dallas): It was just a matter of time. Nowitzki agreed to a four year, $80 million deal with the Mavericks. He got a big deal that extends into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Mavericks got a little payroll flexibility because he took less money (a max deal would have been $96 million). Smiles everyone, smiles, smiles.

9. Paul Pierce (Agreed to terms with Boston): After tweaking the deal for several days, both sides finally agreed on Saturday night to a four-year, $61 million deal, with the fourth year only partially guaranteed (so they can buy him out). This deal would save the Celtics about $12 million next season when you factor in the luxury tax. This deal also means we will see the same old Celtics for one more year.

10. David Lee (agreed to terms with Golden State): Golden State has pulled off a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that will send Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to the Knicks for Lee. This could be a great landing spot for Lee — depending on who the owner is after the team is sold this summer. And who that owner brings in as GM. And who the GM brings in as coach.

11. John Salmons (Agreed to terms with Bucks): He has verbally agreed to a five-year, $39 million deal to stay in Milwaukee. He can’t sign it to July 8, like all free agents, and with Joe Johnson now a Hawk a couple teams may call and try to offer him more. He said he is not taking those calls.

12. Ray Allen (Agrees to terms with Boston): It’s official, the Celtics are going to ride the old timers for a little longer. Ray Allen has agreed to a two-year deal with Boston to reunite with Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers for one more run at a title. It is two years, at $10 million a year, with a player option the second year. Watch Doc Rivers rest all his key guys a lot in the regular season — and be willing to lose a few games to do so — in order to save them for one more playoff run. 

13. Udonis Haslem (not signed): How bad does he want to return to the Heat? Miami has been talking contract with him, but what they have left to offer is like $4 million a year or less. The Dallas Mavericks have talked to him about a deal for the full mid-level exception — three years at $5.8 million per year. What would you do? Could he leave like six million on the table?

14. JJ Redick (Offer from Chicago): The Chicago Bulls have made a three year, $20 million offer to Redick, which would be a fantastic pickup for Chicago. The question now is will Orlando match. That is a fair price for Redick, but will Orlando pay that for him to back up Vince Carter?

15. Brendan Haywood (Agreed to terms with Dallas): The Dallas Mavericks have made it a priority to bring him back — and they did. Six year deal worth $55 million dollars. He’s a solid big man who can score, rebound and defend, which makes him a great pairing with Dirk Nowitzki.

16. Luis Scola (restricted, not signed): About to get an offer from the Charlotte Bobcats. The New Jersey Nets are talking to him and may make an offer. The Rockets can match any offer, but they also are very willing to use him as part of any sign-and-trade.

17. Tyrus Thomas (Signed offer with Charlotte): The Bobcats and Thomas have agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal to keep him a Bobcat. Larry Brown has always been high on Thomas, now we’ll see if he can get Thomas to live up to his tremendous potential.

18. Shaquille O’Neal (not signed): Miami to join the big three has come up as a rumor, and Miami is confident they can get him. Not because they can offer more money, they can only offer about $4 million a year less than what Atlanta is rumored to have offered (two years at the mid-level exception of $5.8). But Miami knows Shaq likes to be in the spotlight, in the middle of the circus. Miami will be the circus next year.

19. Brad Miller (not signed): Boston has shown some aggressive interest in him and have started negotiations for him to take over the Sheed role. Things we can’t wait to see: KG’s reaction to Miller’s defensive rotations. Houston has had a sit-down with him as
well. He also has drawn int
erest from the Nuggets and Cavaliers.

20. Matt Barnes (not signed): He has been contacted by Miami, Cleveland, Washington and Dallas in recent days. Detroit has reached out to him, likely as a replacement if they trade Tayshaun Prince. Barnes says he wants to stay in Orlando, and they say they want to keep him. But they want to get him for the bi-annual exception of $1.92 million, and others may offer more.

21. Luke Ridnour (not signed): He has had serious talks with Minnesota, although they are overloaded at the point in everyone’s eyes except David Kahn (he loves him some point guards, can’t have enough). Minnesota is trying to trade Ramon Sessions to make room for Ridnour. Which strikes me as a lot of work just to get a backup for Brandon Jennings.

22. Mike Miller (Going to Miami): He has struck a deal with the Miami Heat to be the designated stretch-the-floor shooter for LeBron, Wade and Bosh. He likely will make about $5 million a year or so, but the financial details are still being finalized. Not a bad spot to land.

23. Steve Blake (signed with Lakers): Blake — a near perfect fit for the triangle offense — has agreed to a four year, $16 million deal with the Lakers. The two-time defending NBA champions just got better. And they got their coach back. Maybe it doesn’t matter where LeBron goes. 

24. Ronnie Brewer (not signed): Utah is looking at bringing him in, as are the Chicago Bulls. He will not be returning to Memphis after they signed Tony Allen.

25. Anthony Morrow (Offer from New Jersey): New Jersey has offered a three-year, $12 million contract to Morrow. Rumor is the Warriors will not match. Which is just idiocy. Morrow would be a good fit with the young and improving Jersey team.

NBA players, fans react to Damian Lillard’s series-ending shot

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Damian Lillard is the best Portland Trail Blazers player of all time. We’ve established that, it’s time to move on.

Lillard hit yet another game-winning, series-ending shot in the playoffs on Tuesday night as the Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 at Moda Center, 118-115.

Lillard hit a step-back 37-foot 3-point shot over Paul George to win the series at the buzzer. It was reminiscent of the shot Lillard hit in 2014 over Chandler Parsons to beat the Houston Rockets and send Portland to the second round.

Of course the league was watching as the game went down this track too late into the night on the West coast, and early in the morning on the East.

After Lillard hit the shot, NBA Twitter left into action. NBA players who were awake reacted as well, including Parsons, who was cavalier about the whole thing.

What an incredible night in the NBA.

Damian Lillard did it again

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Damian Lillard did it again.

On Tuesday night when the Portland Trail Blazers needed him most, Lillard came through. Things were tight between Portland the Oklahoma City Thunder late in Game 5 at Moda Center. Both Russell Westbrook and Paul George played with five fouls in the fourth quarter, and after an explosive first half where Lillard scored 34 points, things had slowed for Portland.

In the second half, Westbrook played the part of the bully against CJ McCollum, and George was fantastic, eventually scoring 36 points with nine rebounds and three assists.

But things seemed to turn around when Jusuf Nurkic, out with a broken leg, returned to the Blazers bench with three-and-a-half minutes left and Portland down by eight. Nurkic said he left his house with a few minutes to go in the third quarter, anticipating his team could use his good spirits. Indeed, Nurkic’s presence seemed to fuel Portland. When Nurkic showed up, the home team immediately went on an 8-0 run.

Then, Lillard did what he does best.

After hitting the two-for-one shot with 32 seconds left, Lillard found himself with the ball, the game tied, and the shot clock off. As time ticked down and with the game on the line, Lillard hit the biggest shot of the night, right as time expired.

It was the shot that won the series.

You wouldn’t be mistaken if you equated Tuesday night’s big shot to the one Lillard hit in 2013 to beat the Houston Rockets and send Portland into the second round of the playoffs. In fact, I was at that game and I can tell you it was a defining moment for the franchise over the past half-decade.

But this was so much more.

Lillard’s shot to beat the Thunder solidified several things, both about the team and about the star guard himself. The Blazers have been a squad that have relied on its bench and supporting cast all season long, even more so with Nurkic out with a broken leg. But when the Thunder played perhaps one of their best games of the postseason, it was Lillard’s 50-point performance that moved them forward.

Portland is a team’s team, but in the end, it was their star that they needed.

There’s no doubt that Portland and Lillard have had it their fair share of doubters over the past several years. The idea that they could — or should — have a team built on the backs of Lillard and McCollum has raised the eyebrows of many, including myself. But externally, and particularly after their playoff sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans last season, it appeared most were ready to write off this team altogether.

But this playoff series, and this team, is different. They’ve been different all season long, right down to the rotations and flexibility that head coach Terry Stotts has enabled this season. Stotts has gone deeper into his bench, and altered his Flow offense in a way that is helped Portland stay fresh after years of running the same old song and dance.

Guys like Jake Layman, Seth Curry, Zach Collins, and Enes Kanter have all stepped up over the course of the season to be able to contribute to a squad that is needed more than just Lillard and McCollum.

To that end, Portland rose again and again to the challenge. Despite some of their losses, the Thunder gave numerous gut punches to the Blazers that would have seen previous iterations of this team fold. But Portland has been stronger, both as a unit and as Lillard has solidified himself as a more complete two-way player.

The idea that Lillard came back stronger and as more of a leader, ready for adversity, is not a supposition. At this point, it’s fact. You can see how the rest of the team has banded behind him in support of his path forward. Hell, Kanter told reporters after the game on Tuesday that he separated his shoulder and had to have an injection at halftime. That’s how bad these Blazers wanted to win, and how much they wanted to push not just for themselves, but for Lillard.

Thanks to Lillard’s shot (and McCollum’s jumpers, and Maurice Harkless’ free throws) Portland beat the Thunder, 118-115. They advance to the second round, and Rip City will be buzzing all week long. They deserve it, and they’ll be real contenders to challenge for a Western Conference Finals berth.

But where does that leave us when we think about Lillard, and these Blazers? If his famous “0.9” shot from 2014 was the thing that put him on the map, Tuesday’s 37-foot step-back jumper over George was the thing that made Lillard a legend.

The impossibility of that jumper — and the sheer gal to take it — is what makes Damian Lillard who he is.

The greatest Blazer of all-time.

Nuggets have figured out Spurs, how to win, dominate Game 5 to take 3-2 lead

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The coach who made the adjustment that changed the series is not the Olympic team coach, not the “why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame already guy. Instead, it’s Michael Malone. He has been the Bobby Fischer.

Malone’s adjustment: Starting Torrey Craig. Exactly the move everyone expected before the series.

Defensively, Craig has used his length to slow DeMar DeRozan (as much as anyone is going to), while Gary Harris could focus on the young Derrick White and Jamal Murray could hide on Bryn Forbes.

Craig was supposed to drag down the Nuggets offense too much to play him, but he was 5-of-7 from three in Game 4, and in Game 5 it didn’t matter because the San Antonio had no answer for the Jamal Murray/Nikola Jokic pick-and-roll.

The result was a 108-90 Denver thumping of the Spurs, giving them a 3-2 series lead. Closing out the Spurs in San Antonio will be a tall order, but a Denver team that came into the series needing to learn how to win at playoff basketball looks like a team that has figured it out.

“They just outplayed us in every facet of the game,” Gregg Popovich said succinctly.

Murray had 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, plus dished out seven assists and was +33 on the night.

Murry and Jokic have developed a tremendous pick-and-roll chemistry that leads to easy buckets off cuts, rolls, or open threes. Jokic is going to be good — 16 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists — but when Murray is hitting shots too the duo is nearly impossible to stop.

More important than the offense has been how Denver has started to defend the Spurs well — something Craig helped bring to the table. The Nuggets were stepping in and blowing up pick-and-rolls, forcing the Spurs into dry stretches of offense that allowed Denver to pull away.

The Spurs at home cannot be written off, but their role players need to make more plays — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan each had 17 points, but the rest of the Spurs shot 38.7 percent on the night. Against this Denver offense, that’s not going to be good enough. Denver has figured out what it needs to do to win, the ball is in the Spurs court to adapt. And just make shots.

A bunch of players got ejected at the end of Sixers-Nets (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on to the second round. They beat the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, 122-100. They will meet in the Toronto Raptors in the next series after Kawhi Leonard & Co. took care of the Orlando Magic earlier in the evening.

Brooklyn was a spunky team, and they gave the Sixers some headaches. They also exposed some of Philadelphia’s more obvious flaws, which we will no doubt see Toronto try to exploit moving forward.

The Nets are a prideful team, and they weren’t too pleased about getting bumped out of the playoffs by Philadelphia. At the end of the game, a scuffle between Jonah Bolden and Rodions Kurucs resulted in the ejections of several players.

Via Twitter:

Greg Monroe and Dzanan Musa were also ejected.

It’s a bummer of a way to end the year for Brooklyn, but they should hold their heads high given they gave a championship-hopeful team in the Sixers a scare and cast some serious self-doubt in their hearts.