Who is left: 15 best free agents still on the board

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In less than a week, more than 60 players have found their home for next season — NBA free agency moved fast this summer. The owners were handing out multi-year deals like mini-Snickers bars on Halloween.

But there are still some guys out on the board that could help a team.

Below are who I have ranked as the 15 best players still available as of Monday morning. A few of them — specifically, the top three — are free agents in name only, we know where they are going to land. The race for others is wide open.

The best guys still on the board are:

LeBron James — He’s not leaving the Cavaliers; he’s just trying to use his free agency to get his boy Tristan Thompson a bigger deal. Those talks have stalled, so LeBron isn’t talking. He also isn’t leaving Cleveland.

Marc Gasol — It’s interesting that a deal isn’t done here yet, the Grizzlies’ owner was in Spain July 1 and there isn’t much to talk about as he is a max player. Whatever the reason for the delay, there is no rumbling around the league that he is suddenly available.

Tristan Thompson — He is going to be a Cavalier, the two sides reportedly were close to a deal but have not been able to close the final gap. Still, the restricted free agent isn’t talking to anyone else; he will remain a Cavalier. Once he signs, LeBron will start his negotiations.

David West — He will turn 35, but he’s still a rock solid power forward who can knock down the midrange shot for a team. He turned down $12 million from Indiana and is going to take a steep pay cut to go to a contender. The Cavaliers are considered the front-runners, but the Spurs and Clippers have interest as well.

Josh Smith — The power forward with the love of the three pointer (even though he shouldn’t take them so much) wanted to return to Houston, but they don’t have the money to offer what he wants. There have been talks with the Sacramento Kings, but those have been slow.

J.R. Smith — The Cavaliers have interest in the streaky two guard, but only at a price to their liking. Which may not be a price that Smith likes. There have not been reports of talks with other teams that are going to offer him more.

Enes Kanter — The Thunder are expected to retain Kanter’s rights, he gives them some offensive punch up front they need to balance out Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But no deal yet, and there are rumors the Knicks and Blazers may try to swoop in with offer sheets (which the Thunder could match).

Jeremy Lin — Dallas has been in talks with Lin about helping to fill in their hole at the point, and that may end up being a sign-and-trade with the Lakers to make the money work. If that doesn’t work out a number of other teams could be lurking including the Pacers, Bulls, Clippers, Spurs, and Lakers.

Mo Williams — There were reports early on that he wants to return to the Cavaliers, but they have other issues to take care of first (see the top of this list). Memphis has interest in him as well, and there could be a sign-and-trade with Charlotte. Wherever he lands, the team will get a solid, veteran backup point guard.

Gerald Green — The backup two guard who isn’t afraid to shoot drew interest from a few teams, but the top tiers of free agency still need to shake out before a deal for him falls in place.

Jason Terry — He wanted to stay with the Rockets, they were not so sure about this idea. Eventually someone will pick him up — he did shoot 39 percent from three last season — but there are no reports of serious interest for him right now.

Alan Anderson — Unlike the player above him on this list, there is a lot of interest in the 32-year-old shooting guard, Yahoo Sports says he is a popular target for teams looking to add to their bench. The Nets want to keep him, but if Anderson wants to be on a team that actually wins games, he will have a lot of options.

Jordan Hill — The Lakers overpaid him last year to be a trade chip, that didn’t work out, but he showed he can be a decent reserve big man. Given real structure and a role off the bench he can be useful. When teams strike out on their other big man options he will get calls.

Dorell Wright — You want shooting? He’s got shooting. More than half his attempts came from three last season, and he hit 38 percent of them. Portland initially wanted to retain him, but with the shake-ups there he could be on the move. No serious offers for him yet.

Matthew Dellavedova — The Cavaliers can’t let him go, he’s one of the most popular players on the team plus provides some feistiness on the court. He and the Cavs were reportedly getting close to a deal, but nothing is official yet.

Here’s a bonus 16th guy, just for fun:

Darrell Arthur — He’s a solid defender that a lot of teams might want to add at the four spot, plus he plays a smart game (well, except for taking more jumpers than he should). Talks with him should start to heat up as teams miss on other targets.

Report: John Paxson to remain in power with Bulls

Bulls executive John Paxson
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The Bulls are reportedly looking for a general manager to replace Gar Forman.

But the other half of GarPax – Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson – apparently isn’t going anywhere. And of course neither is president/CEO Michael Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A source familiar with the situation told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that there could be multiple people hired, as the power structure is still being determined.

Paxson and Reinsdorf are still running the show, with Paxson still considered to have a valuable seat at the table no matter what title they come up for him.

Even if it appears that Paxson will be taking a background approach, the source said don’t believe it. The Reinsdorfs still have 100 percent faith in him leading the direction of this organization.

Evaluating individual members of a front office can be extremely difficult from the outside.

But Paxson didn’t cover himself in glory when he effectively declared the Bulls, after going 27-55 in 2017-18, were done tanking. Chicago went 22-60 last season and is 19-36 this season.

The Bulls need an honest assessment of where they are. They’re not good and probably not that close to being good. They have a few interesting young players – Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. But even with a high pick in this year’s draft, Chicago’s young core isn’t strong enough to assume it will rise into a quality team.

Though Paxson has supported Jim Boylen, the Bulls could probably use a new coach.

More importantly, they must understand that remaining at the bottom and securing more high picks is their best path forward. Drafting well would accelerate the process, but drafting is hard. Sometimes, you need more bites at the apple.

Of course, that will require a patience Chicago has rarely shown.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

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There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.

Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry will play this season once healthy

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“What’s the point? The Warriors have 12 wins, the worst record in the NBA, and are not sniffing the playoffs this season, so why bring Stephen Curry back this season at all? Why risk the injury? Why not tank?”

Steve Kerr has no use for that attitude.

Curry started practicing with the Warriors again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated the first week of March and could return to play soon after — and Kerr wants that. He wants Andrew Wiggins to get used to playing with Curry. Kerr defended the idea at Warriors practice on Wednesday (quotes via Monte Poole at NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league…

“He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”

Kerr wants to build some familiarity and some momentum heading into next season. They might win a few more games, but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not going to hurt the Warriors in terms of position. Beyond that, this is a down draft — in our podcast last week, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons — so Warriors fans may want to temper expectations about how much help this draft can provide.

Curry wants to play, he’s healthy, he should play. Load management has a role in the league, but this is not it.

Target score ending likely returns to All-Star Game next year

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It seemed obvious this is the direction the NBA would go after the most competitive All-Star Game in recent memory, after it generated an incredibly positive buzz. Now we have some confirmation.

A league executive told Zach Lowe of ESPN that yes, it’s highly likely the target score idea will be back next All-Star Game.

It is a “good assumption” the NBA will use a target score to end next season’s All-Star Game after experimenting with the concept for the first time Sunday, Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, told ESPN on Wednesday in New York…

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in…”

If the NBA uses the target score at next season’s All Star Game, they may tinker with the rules so that the game cannot end on a free throw, Spruell said. They have already discussed taking points away from any team that commits a shooting foul on a potential winning shot instead of awarding free throws, Spruell said. They could also force that team to remove the player who committed the foul and replace him with someone else for a certain number of possessions, Spruell said.

If this were used in a regular-season NBA game, then essentially sending a player to the “penalty box” after a foul on a game-winning attempt would have some impact. In the All-Star Game, not so much. For example, if Kyle Lowry had been sent to the bench after fouling Anthony Davis, then Nick Nurse could have replaced him with Jimmy Butler or Trae Young or some other elite player. It’s not that damaging.

Removing points makes more sense.

While the Elam-style ending was a success in the All-Star Game (and next season they may bump the point total up from 24, even though it took 15 minutes of game time to play the quarter, because that is an outlier for the All-Star Game), it’s not coming to the NBA. Which means it’s not coming to the G-League either, Lowe was told. A discussion about Summer League doesn’t seem to be on the table, either.

Where could the target score ending pop up? If/when the NBA starts playing a mid-season tournament, Lowe was told — and those playoff games could be just 40 minutes. Also, the G-League showcase every December makes some sense, Lowe was told.

The target score ending was a huge hit in the All-Star Game, it only makes sense to bring it back. But for the NBA, it will remain more special occasion gimmick than a daily part of the league.