Who is left: The 10 best NBA free agents still on the board.

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Unlike a year ago, the 2015 NBA free agency period was front loaded — starting with Anthony Davis in just minutes after midnight July 1, it seemed like everyone made a quick decision. Even if they later changed their mind and went another direction.

Now almost three weeks into free agency, who is left on the free agent board?

Most teams either have their roster set or are just looking to add one or two last players to round it out (and those are the guys at the end of the bench). Still, there are some interesting free agents available — a few of them tied to Cleveland.

Here’s our list of the 10 best.

1) Tristan Thompson — The Cavaliers and Thompson have yet to agree on a number. Reportedly Thompson (who has the same agent as LeBron James) wants Draymond Green money, which the Cavaliers are rightfully finding amusing. Thompson is a restricted free agent but the problem for him is only three teams — Philadelphia, Utah and Portland — have the cap space to give him the kind of offer he would want, and none of them are likely to do it. With no other good options (read: leverage) Thompson may have to take a number lower than he wants.

2) J.R. Smith — I wrote about him yesterday, he should have opted in for the $6.4 million he was owed, but he became a free agent and now is about to take a pay cut. The Cavaliers are deep into the luxury tax (especially once they make a deal with Thompson) and they want Smith to take a below-market, one-year deal. The problem for Smith is no other teams are stepping up, so he lacks leverage.

3) Jason Terry — In the wake of the Ty Lawson trade (where Houston sent out a few guards), expect the Rockets to reach a deal with Terry to provide depth off the bench. He did shoot 39 percent from three last year and he provides a some value.

4) Carlos Boozer — There are holes in his game, but Boozer still scored 11.8 points a game shooting nearly 50 percent last year. He has some value as a rotation big man. The Clippers, Spurs, Mavs, Pelicans, and Raptors reportedly have some level of interest.

5) Matthew Dellavedova — He’s one of the most popular Cavaliers on the roster, and Cleveland wants him to provide depth behind Kyrie Irving, it’s just a question of for how much money. Delly reportedly wants around $4 million a year, which would bring another $14 million in luxury taxes down on the Cavs, so they understandably want a lower number. He is a restricted free agent, but no other team has signed him to an offer sheet (most assume the Cavaliers would match, and they don’t want to pay Dellavedova what he’s asking either).

6) Dorell Wright — He’s one of the better floor-spacing shooters still out there — more than half his attempts came from three last season, and he hit 38 percent of them. Coming off hand surgery, there hasn’t been much of a market for him as of yet.

7) Kevin Seraphin — He wanted to find a place he could be a starter, but that ship has now sailed. There reportedly was interest with the Lakers and Mavericks, plus the Wizards still want to bring him back. The question is where can he get the most run and the most money? He’s not going to find as much of either of those as he hoped.

8) Darrell Arthur — Denver wants to bring him back, and reportedly the Clippers have some interest, too. Arthur is a solid defender who mostly plays a smart game. As a reserve at the four he makes a lot of sense.

9) Andre Miller — It’s a little surprising to see a quality, veteran point guard like Miller still on the market. The Kings had some discussions with him, but nothing has come to fruition. He’s not young, but he can still give a team quality minutes nightly.

10) Norris Cole — He’s a restricted free agent who played pretty well for the Pelicans at the end of last season. New Orleans wants to bring him back, but Cole is looking for more money. He reportedly has had talks with the Sixers.

Phoenix Suns perfect 4-0 in bubble, growing, thinking playoffs

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The last time Devin Booker walked off the court as a winner in four consecutive games, these were the opponents: Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

That is, until now.

Booker and the Phoenix Suns – the team that came to the NBA restart at Walt Disney World with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record of the 22 teams in the field – are perhaps the best story of the bubble.

They’re 4-0 at Disney, breathing real life into playoff hopes that basically were nonexistent when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. It’s the team’s first four-game winning streak since December 2018; Booker missed one of those games, so it’s his first run of four wins in a row since helping Kentucky make its Final Four run in 2015.

“It definitely feels like a tournament, a big AAU tournament, the March Madness tournament,” Phoenix’s Cameron Payne said Friday. “That’s something I never even got a chance to be in, but hey, I’ll take this.”

The Suns started their bubble run with a win over Washington and followed that with victories against three playoff-bound teams – first Dallas, then the Los Angeles Clippers (both of those games being 117-115 finals, the win over the Clippers sealed by a Booker buzzer-beater) and next a 114-99 victory Thursday over Indiana.

A team that had a stretch of four wins in 20 games during November and December, then a run of four wins in 15 games during January and February, got to the bubble and are now 4-for-4.

The Suns are riding a 10-year playoff drought, the second-longest current one in the NBA, but now they’re thinking big and for good reason.

“Well, you know, this is in the fledgling stages, for sure,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. And there’s a process that we’ve kind of gotten ourselves involved in and we’re going to stick to that. So, fun? I don’t have time to have fun right now. It’s always good to win, but I’m working right now. And I want guys to understand, it’s fun when you win – but then you’ve got to turn the page and get right back to work.”

Williams understands the reality for the Suns right now. They entered Friday 1-1/2 games out of ninth place and the play-in series that will decide the last postseason berth in the West. And while the 4-0 start has been noteworthy, even an 8-0 mark in the seeding games wouldn’t guarantee the Suns a trip to that play-in round.

The Suns play Miami on Saturday, then finish the regular season against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“I’ve been in five years now and haven’t had that much success,” Booker said. “But, you know, I’m working hard every day to turn that narrative and change that narrative. We have a good bunch in here to do it. A lot of young players mixed with some veteran presence and it’s a good look for us. So, we’re going to keep our head down, keep working.

“I don’t think anybody here is worried about 4-0. We still have plans and goals for this team to reach and 4-0 wasn’t it.”

Booker is averaging 28 points in the four games. Deandre Ayton, another big piece of the young Suns’ core, is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. There are six players averaging double figures in all, including Payne, who is shooting 53% from 3-point range in his first four games with the Suns.

“We definitely feel good,” Payne said. “We’re not here for no reason.”

 

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.