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.

LeBron James, Doc Rivers, others around NBA react to, participate in protests

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The NBA family spoke out loudly and quickly in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer.

Protests have erupted nationwide following Floyd’s death, and the NBA family is commenting on — and in the case of some players, participating in — those protests. That includes the biggest name in the sport today, LeBron James.

Pistons’ coach Dwane Casey made a powerful statement recently, and on Sunday Doc Rivers released this statement through the Clippers.

A number of players have been involved in the protest, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie of the Timberwolves, who were with former NBA player Stephen Jackson — a childhood friend of Floyd’s — during a protest in Minnesota.

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to help lead a peaceful protest that started at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. He was joined by the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon.

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Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a brilliant op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times that talked about where the rage of the riots comes from in the black community.

“Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

“So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.”

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg of involvement of the NBA family, just like the protests are the tip of the iceberg of the frustration felt in black communities around the nation.

Jonas Valanciunas on return: “It’s kind of like coming back from the summer”

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Memphis is in when the NBA returns, and in whatever form it returns. The Grizzlies had earned the eighth seed in the West behind the standout play of rookie Ja Morant, and if the NBA goes with a play-in format for the final playoff seeds (as expected), there will be teams gunning for that slot.

Memphis’ veteran big man Jonas Valanciunas will be ready, he told Michael Wallace at the team’s official website. Valanciunas spent time in Memphis and Miami during the lockdown, checking in with family back in Lithuania, but is back in the gym getting up shots. He described the return process this way.

“It’s kind of like coming back from the summer. We’ve had two-and-a-half months off. But then again, I play with the (Lithuania) National Team every summer, so it’s not like you always have so much time off every summer. So it’s sort of like coming back and getting ready for training camp again, to get back in shape and into game rhythm. It’s unusual, with guys wearing masks and stuff, but it is sort of like getting yourself ready for training camp right now.

A lot of players feel the same way, that this was sort of like an offseason (just one where they couldn’t get in the gym and work on a specific skill or weakness). Now things are ramping up again. This is why players want a handful of games before the playoffs (or play-in tournament) start, to get their legs under them.

Memphis will have strong teams, and more veteran units, coming for their playoff spot in the form of Portland and New Orleans. Valanciunas says the Grizzlies will be ready.

We’re really motivated. We don’t need to find extra motivation. We’re young. We want to establish our names and build as a unit.

It’s going to be a unique format when the NBA returns, in what has been a season turned upside down. That, however, can be a bonding experience for this young Grizzlies team, something that makes them better faster.

Some NBA players reportedly expect families can’t come to Orlando until September

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Nothing is set in stone until the owners vote on Thursday, but the NBA’s return likely will have teams reporting to the “bubble” (or campus, or whatever term of art the league ends up using) in Orlando in mid-July. Games would start July 31 and run into late September and maybe even October.

For players, that’s a long time to be stuck in a hotel without seeing family or loved ones, so families joining the players has long been part of the plan. Except, now comes a note from Tim Reynolds at the AP that some players think their families may not be able to join them until deep into the postseason.

The smaller the bubble, the easier it is to maintain with extensive testing, which is why not all 30 teams are expected to be invited and the size of team traveling parties will be smaller. It has been expected that families wouldn’t be invited to join players at least until after the first round of the playoffs (when a lot of players left).

However, if games start July 31 and the league plans to play a couple of weeks of regular-season games, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot, then it will be September by the time the NBA gets to a final eight teams. Which will have players separated from their families for a couple of months.

It’s easy to understand the players’ frustrations with that. No matter what direction Adam Silver goes with this restart, there are going to be some unhappy teams and players.

 

Sixers head into playoffs with healthy Ben Simmons but new, untested starting five

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Philadelphia heads into the NBA’s restart — in whatever format it takes — as a team that, on the surface, benefits some from the break.

Ben Simmons was expected to return from his back issues in time for the playoffs, but it was going to be close, and he wouldn’t be fully rested and ready. Now, the All-Star is healthy and not the only player trying to shake off the rust from a long break. That’s 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists a game, and some strong defense back in the lineup.

But that lineup has never really fit together this season in Philadelphia, which is why heading into the restart playoffs the Sixers will have a new one.

Philly is expected to roll out a starting five of Simmons, Shake Milton, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris, reports The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. That lineup has played zero minutes together this season (Milton hit his groove with the team late and by that point Embiid and Simmons were battling injuries). Learning chemistry on the fly in what will be, at best, a shortened and condensed regular season before the playoffs start, is a tough way to go.

It’s also the right move, Milton brings the shooting and floor spacing this roster needs. Philly had envisioned Al Horford as a floor-spacing four (who could spell Embiid at the five), but it hasn’t worked out. When Simmons, Embiid and Horford have been on the court this season, the team has scored less than a point per possession (defensively, they also gave up less than a point per possession, the Sixers basically played their opponents even in those minutes). It hasn’t meshed.

When Milton, Simmons, and Embiid have played together this season — in limited minutes and different situations than the one proposed — the offense has been only slightly better and the defense has been a mess. That’s likely not the case with Richardson and Harris on the court, but nobody knows exactly how this will work. It looks good on paper, but we’ve thought that all season about the 76ers.

Which makes Philadephia one of the most interesting teams to watch when games restart. All season long this team has not lived up to expectations (for which coach Brett Brown’s seat is very hot, even if blame for the roster issues should go higher up the ladder). Now comes a real test. If the 76ers suddenly get it together they become a real threat to the Bucks in the East (if the league keeps an East/West format). Or, this could be the latest Sixers lineup to fall short.

Either way, they become must-watch television.