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.

Paolo Banchero, Scoot Henderson highlight player pool for Rising Stars during All-Star weekend

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
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The big winner in last year’s All-Star Friday night Rising Stars game was the new format (and Cade Cunningham). The new setup saw players onto four teams of seven, with those four teams going into a tournament bracket. The games were not timed, but players competed to a target score — something that actually had the young stars defending and playing hard. Things too often lacking All-Star weekend.

That format is back, and an impressive crop of players is involved: Rookie of the Year favorite Paolo Banchero, last year’s ROY Scottie Barnes, and expected No.2 pick in the upcoming draft Scoot Henderson of the G-League Ignite. Here is a complete list of the players competing (the rookies and sophomores will be drafted into three teams of seven players each, and the G-League players will make up their own team).

Rookies

Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Jalen Duren (Detroit Pistons)
AJ Griffin (Atlanta Hawks)
Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons)
Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz)
Bennedict Mathurin (Indiana Pacers)
Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings)
Andrew Nembhard (Indiana Pacers)
Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets)
Jeremy Sochan (San Antonio Spurs)
Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Sophomores

Jose Alvarado (New Orleans Pelicans)
Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors)
Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jalen Green (Houston Rockets)
Quentin Grimes (New York Knicks)
Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets)
Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Trey Murphy III (New Orleans Pelicans)
Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets)
Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic)

The G-League team will consist of:

Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite)
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)
Mojave King (G League Ignite)
Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Memphis Hustle)
Mac McClung (Deleware Blue Coats)
Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)
Scotty Pippen Jr. (South Bay Lakers)

There are former NBA stars to coach each of the teams: Former All-Stars Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will coach the three Rising Stars teams, while former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

There will be three games Friday night during the Rising Stars challenge, with each game played to a target score of 40. If it’s anything like last year, it’s worth tuning in.

Needing defense, Kings reportedly eyeing 76ers Thybulle for trade

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings
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At 28-21, the Sacramento Kings sit as the No.3 seed in the West with the second-best offense in the league — they seemed destined to break their 16-year playoff drought and very well could even host a first-round playoff series.

However, their 23rd-ranked defense (using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers) will undo them come the playoffs.

That has the Kings looking for some defensive help and they are eyeing Sixers wing Matisse Thybullereports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.

Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.

Thybulle has lived in the rumor mill for a while, this is nothing new. However, those rumors carry more weight because Thybulle’s role in Philadelphia has shrunk considerably with the additions of De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker as defensive-minded forwards who can provide more offense than Thybulle. Doc Rivers also leans into Georges Niang more off the bench because of his shooting.

Thybulle is in the final year of his contract and is headed for restricted free agency, the Kings might be interested in re-signing him (depending on the price and his fit with the roster). The Kings can match salaries easily enough with Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis or Alex Len, the question is who will the 76ers want back, and will the Kings need to throw in a second-round pick?

There’s some logic to this trade getting done in some form, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

 

Nets reportedly in no rush to sign Kyrie Irving to contract extension

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets
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Kyrie Irving wanted a contract extension with the Nets this past summer, but that went nowhere (as did his looking around for a new home). Now, Irving’s representative again wants to talk contract extension with the Nets.

The Nets are in no rush, partly because they feel they have all the leverage, reports Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

Irving hopes to sign a contract extension with the Nets — but substantive talks between the sides have yet to begin. Some league observers have posited that this could be by design on Brooklyn’s part, with the Nets apparently convinced that they are under no pressure to move swiftly on the extension front when Irving would likely need their help via sign-and-trade to relocate in the offseason to any other team he likes.

The teams with potential cap space next summer are the Spurs, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Hornets, Pacers and Thunder (a few teams, like the Lakers, can create some cap space but not at the max money Irving would seek). It’s a list of teams that may take a step forward toward the play-in, but there is not a contender in the mix.

If Irving wants out of Brooklyn to get to the Lakers or another team he sees as a threat to win it all, it will come via an off-season sign-and-trade. Irving will have to work with the Nets, one way or another.

There is a growing sense around the league that ultimately Irving will re-sign in Brooklyn if the team’s recent run of strong play continues into the playoffs. For all the tension between Irving and Nets’ ownership in recent years, he fits well there on the court and likes playing with Kevin Durant. He likes being in Brooklyn. This can still be a fit that works for everyone.

The interesting part with Irving’s next contract will be the years — would any team lock into him for four fully-guaranteed years? He may not get more than a couple of years, at least from any team he would want to play for.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken at home against the Thunder.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• After sitting out against the Nets on Monday, LeBron is officially questionable to play Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks and will be a game-time decision. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said LeBron has “really significant soreness” in his left foot (after playing 44 minutes against Boston). LeBron and the medical staff will speak after LeBron starts to warm up Tuesday to determine if LeBron can play in Madison Square Garden, a game he hates to miss because he loves playing in that venue.

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”