Where do we stand with NBA’s top 50 free agents? An update.

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We are just four days into free agency now and it has started to feel like the lightning round. Everything came quickly.

That may slow down a little for a few days. Until the top two guys on this list make their decisions things will bottleneck a little, teams looking at the second tier of players will wait. Just in case. Some role players will agree to terms, but the top guys and the teams chasing them will wait.

Let’s use this little pause and the Fourth of July to take stock of where we stand. Below is an update on our top 50 free agents list, and where each guy stands right now.

1. LeBron James: Unsigned. His agent has conducted meetings (Cavaliers, Rockets, Mavericks, Suns, Lakers) but LeBron has been on vacation. Nobody really thinks he leaves Miami, but if Pat Riley can’t get some help fairly soon… things could get interesting.

2. Carmelo Anthony: Unsigned. Met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks. He wanted to be wanted, he got that. He’s expected to make his decision early next week (and most observers think he stays in New York).

3. Chris Bosh: Unsigned. Expected to take a pay cut to stay in Miami, but if LeBron bolts he has options.

4. Dirk Nowitzki: Reached three-year, $30 million deal with Mavericks. As expected, he took the Tim Duncan discount deal.

5. Eric Bledsoe: Unsigned. Remember he’s a restricted free agent, no offers trying to poach him from Phoenix. Yet.

6. Kyle Lowry: Reached four-year, $48 million deal with Raptors. The Raptors came at him hard to keep him and showed how much they wanted him with cash. That’s always nice.

7. Greg Monroe: Unsigned. He’s a restricted free agent, no offers yet, that is likely to change once the LeBron/‘Melo signings happen.

8. Chandler Parsons: Unsigned. Same as above, he’s a restricted free agent, no offers yet, that is likely to change once the LeBron/‘Melo signings happen.

9. Lance Stephenson: Unsigned. The Pacers offered him five-years, $44 million, and he thought that too low. But nobody else has yet stepped up to beat it. Stephenson is learning how much those antics during the playoffs cost him.

10. Dwyane Wade: Unsigned. Also willing to take a pay cut in Miami but no deal yet as the we all wait for the LeBron domino to fall.

11. Gordon Hayward: Unsigned. He met with the Cavaliers and is hoping someone signs him to an offer sheet — he’s a restricted free agent and the Jazz are expected to match any offer.

12. Luol Deng: Unsigned. Another guy with multiple suitors — Atlanta, the Clippers would like to talk to him — but it may be after Anthony signs that his interest from teams really picks up on

13. Marcin Gortat: Reached five-year, $60 million deal with Washington Wizards. The money isn’t out of line with what other big men get in the NBA, but the full five years was a surprise.

14. Pau Gasol: Unsigned. Interest is warming up for him from the teams missing out on ‘Melo. The Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Spurs, Thunder all have interest in him.

15. Channing Frye: Unsigned.

16. Isaiah Thomas: Unsigned. With Kings signing Darren Collison it appears Thomas is on his way out of Sacramento.

17. Trevor Ariza: Unsigned. Wizards considered the frontrunners but interest is heating up.

18. Avery Bradley: Reached four years, $32 million deal with Celtics. He’s staying in Boston.

19. Paul Pierce: Unsigned. Clippers pitched Nets a sign-and-trade, that died quickly.

20. Boris Diaw: Unsigned.

21. Andray Blatche: Unsigned.

22. Nick Young: Unsigned.

23. Shaun Livingston: Reached three year, $16.6 million deal with Golden State Warriors. He’ll come off the bench behind Stephen Curry but he will get lots of minutes.

24. Vince Carter: Unsigned.

24. Rodney Stuckey: Unsigned.

26. Darren Collison: Reached three three-year, $16 million with Kings. The Kings didn’t want to overpay Isaiah Thomas so they went out and got another point guard.

27. Greivis Vasquez: Unsigned.

28. Josh McRoberts: Unsigned.

29. Ray Allen: Unsigned.

30. Shawn Marion: Unsigned.

31. Anthony Morrow: Unsigned. Miami and Oklahoma City among the teams interested.

32. Spencer Hawes: Agreed to four-year, $23 million deal with Los Angeles Clippers. He is a huge upgrade for the Clippers off the bench (remember Ryan Hollins and Glen Davis were their bigs off the bench last season).

33. Chris Andersen: Unsigned.

34. Thabo Sefolosha: Reaches three-year, $12 million deal with Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta sees him as a Spurs-style reclamation project — if they can help get his three point shot back they have a “3 and D” guy to plug in.

35. Glen Davis: Unsigned.

36. Danny Granger: Unsigned.

37. Marvin Williams: Unsigned.

38. Patty Mills: Reached three-year, $12 million deal with San Antonio. He is out until January (at least) following shoulder surgery, but the Spurs wanted to keep the Australian pint guard.

39. Jodie Meeks: Reached three-year, $18 million deal with Detroit. One of the surprises of free agency, not that the Pistons picked him up (they could use his shooting), but at that price? That is over-paying Meeks.

40. P.J. Tucker: Unsigned.

41. Evan Turner: Unsigned.

42. Mario Chalmers: Unsigned.

43. Xavier Henry: Unsigned.

44. Jerryd Bayless: Unsigned.

45. Ramon Sessions: Unsigned.

46. Steve Blake: Unsigned.

47. C.J. Miles: Reached four-year, $18 million deal with Indiana. The Pacers have been trying to add shooting, they got it.

48. Mike Miller: Unsigned.

49. Jordan Hill: Unsigned.

50. Caron Butler: Unsigned.

Warriors post longest playoff home winning streak in NBA history

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You remember the Warriors’ last home playoff loss.

Golden State hasn’t lost a playoff game in Oakland since signing Kevin Durant. The Warriors went 9-0 at home last year and are 7-0 at home this year. Their Game 3 win over the Rockets last night gave Golden State a record-breaking postseason home winning streak.

The Bulls (1990-91) previously held the record. The leaderboard:

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Are the Warriors atypically good at home? The more accurate answer is they’re just atypically good.

They’re 10-4 on the road the last two postseasons, an incredible mark in its own right. Like most teams, they’re better at home.

That presents a tough challenge for Houston with Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday in Oakland.

Backed into must-win Game 4, here are three things Rockets must do to even series

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Three years ago, the Houston Rockets came back from 3-1 down in a playoff series to defeat a Los Angeles Clippers (and give that franchise a punch to the gut from which it has not recovered). It was one of the great Rockets’ moments of the last decade.

Houston is not going to be able to do that against these Golden State Warriors. Go down 3-1 after Game 4 Tuesday at Oracle and the series is all but over.

Which means after the Rockets’ blowout loss in Game 3 Sunday night, Houston finds itself in the same must-win spot it did after Game 1. And unlike Game 2, the Rockets will not get helped out by an arrogant Warriors team not playing at its peak — the Rockets are going to need a near perfect game to beat a full-force Warriors team on Tuesday.

Here are the three key areas the Rockets must improve to win Game 4:

1) Just shoot better — finish shots at the rim and hit some threes. It’s rather obvious and simplistic, but it’s the reality: Houston just has to shoot better in Game 4.

The Rockets took a full one-third of their shots at the rim in the restricted area in Game 3, but they struggled with those making just 13-of-27 (48.1 percent). The Rockets took 42 percent of their shot attempts from three but hit just 11-of-34, and they were 7-of-25 on above the break threes. That’s not good enough, the Rockets are going to need at least 15 made threes in a game to win.

“Those are double whammies,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said of the missed shots at the rim. “It’s like we missed layups first half especially and they go down and score. So in transition, you’ve got to keep them out of transition, you’ve got to make layups. We didn’t do that. When they did miss, we didn’t box out all the time, and then we turned it over 20 times. It’s a formula for losing, and for us to correct that, we can’t turn it over. Got to make layups for shots, and get back.”

To be fair, the Warriors contested shooters well all game, especially guys driving the basket, but still, the Rockets need to knock down more of their shots contested or not. It’s the most basic premise of basketball.

2) Houston has to play faster. D’Antoni said it above, the Rockets and their missed shots let the Warriors get out in transition and control the pace. It’s also a simple fact that the team that controls the pace — the team that gets transition opportunities and gets into its offense earlier in the shot clock — will win the games.

Golden State had 26 transition opportunities to 12 for the Rockets, according to the Synergy Sports stats breakdown.

Or, look at it this way (via Cleaning the Glass), in Game 3, Houston started just10.4 percent of their possessions in transition (and scored a dreadful 0.89 points per possession on those plays). For comparison, in their Game 2 win, the Rockets started 18.7 percent of their possessions in transition. On Sunday night in Game 3 Warriors started 19.8 percent of their plays in transition, nearly one in five trips down the court, and they scored 1.44 points per possession on those plays.

The Rockets need to make more shots and then, even when they miss, get back in transition and not let the Warriors get rolling early in the clock. Houston also needs to defend better and force more Warriors misses, which will allow them to run. It’s all tied together, the Warriors were making shots so the Rockets were taking the ball out of the basket and coming up against set defenses; the Rockets were missing shots that let the Warriors come up fast and forcing the Rockets to scramble on defense (Golden State tears apart teams in those situations). It’s a holistic thing, but the evidence it’s working is which team controls the pace, and the Rockets need to do that in Game 4.

3) Houston needs more out of Chris Paul. It’s easy to point to the Stephen Curry eruption in the third quarter as the time the Warriors ended the game, and there is truth to that. Golden State started the third on a 10-0 run (where Curry had five of those points) and the fire was lit, then Curry started hitting 30-foot threes and quickly the game was out of reach. Those Warriors runs are crushers.

However, to me the turning point in the game was when James Harden went to the bench for his usual rest with 2:46 left in the first quarter — the Warriors outscored the Rockets by nine before the quarter was up (part of an 11-0 run to end the quarter). By the time Harden returned with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 10, a hole they never could get out of (they were down 11 at the half).

CP3 has to be better in that stretch. The Warriors threw bigger, switchable guards at him on defense — Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, and then Andre Iguodala — and Paul couldn’t get separation and make plays against them. Without Harden, the Rockets offense stalled out, and doing that led to the Warriors getting to push the pace and get their transition buckets. Paul looked slowed at points, reaching on defense and not as explosive as we’ve seen.

This isn’t the Utah Jazz. Harden was off in Game 5 against Utah, but Paul picked up the slack (his 41-point, 10 assist game) and Houston got the win. Against Golden State, both Paul and Harden must have good games for Houston to have a chance. The Warriors are too good, too deep, there is no margin for error anymore.

The Rockets have an elite game in them — we saw the blueprint of what they have to do in Game 2. Houston can do that again. The only question is can they do it in the face of Golden State’s pressure, because the sharks on the Warriors smell blood in the water and will be coming hard in Game 4.

Shaun Livingston crossed James Harden so hard it made Greg Anthony mispronounce “meme” (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Stephen Curry scored 35 points, didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter, and helped the Warriors win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead by a margin of 41 points.

Not too shabby.

But it wasn’t just Curry who turned the Rockets into shrinking violets. Shaun Livingston, who added 11 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-4, took his turn putting Houston to task.

During one play, Livingston crossed up James Harden on his way to a wide-open dunk. Livingston’s crafty dribble moves also shook commentator Greg Anthony’s brain up a little bit, so much so that Anthony forgot how to say the word “meme”.

Via Twitter:

Even during a 41-point decimation the NBA is still the funniest league on the planet.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.