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Five free agents still available for teams willing to roll the dice

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At this point, NBA teams have almost completely filled out their rosters. Most teams have 14-15 roster spots filled, plus they have some partial-guaranteed deals for guys who will get a look but most likely are just there for training camp fodder.

Still, there are veteran free agents out there, looking for a landing spot.

Let’s be clear, if a guy is still a free agent, there’s a reason. That said, these are names you know. These are guys that very well may get a chance when a team realizes they need help at a position (or suffer an injury that creates a need). Here are the five best free agents still on the market.

1) Lance Stephenson. He couldn’t blend in with the Clippers’ team system last year, but did put up numbers when he went to an injury-ravaged Grizzlies team that needed scoring: 14.2 points a game on 47.4 percent shooting. As a ball-handling forward who can help a second unit put up points, Stephenson has value on paper. But concerns about locker room chemistry, and if he can buy into and play within a team system, have kept him without a contract. Expect some GM will roll the dice on him at some point during the season.

2) Josh Smith. Like Stephenson, he started the season with the Clippers as part of what Doc Rivers thought would be an improved bench, and by the middle of the season he was in Houston, where he played a limited role. While he showed flashes last season (19 points against the Heat, or in Game 2 of the playoffs vs. Golden State), he struggled to hit the three or defend well enough to stay on the court. Like with Stephenson, GMs will have concerns about how he impacts the locker room. It looked like his game has faded, but some team may give him a shot.

3) J.J. Hickson. Statistically, he’s the best guy on this list considering last season. Denver bought him out and he bounced over to Washington, where he provided a little scoring off the bench with 4.3 points per game while shooting 54.6 percent. He hustled on the glass, rolled to the rim, missed free throws (44.7 percent last season), and he doesn’t bring much on the defensive end of the floor. Still, as a reserve big teams could do worse, and he will get a shot somewhere.

4) Ty Lawson. He started last season in Houston, finished it in Indiana, and was a disappointment in both on the court. After two DUIs in a six month span and a team executive saying he showed up to practice with alcohol on his breath in Denver, there are concerns about his drinking. Lawson defended himself from those charges and said the team lands him will get a deal. Hopefully, he has his personal life in order, but he’s going to need to prove he can be better running and offense and setting up teammates than he was last year to stick with a team.

5) Kevin Martin. He bounced between the Timberwolves and the Spurs last season, and while his skills have diminished over the years he can still shoot the rock and that is always valuable. Last season he shot 36 percent from three overall, although he never found the same groove in San Antonio, certainly not like both sides had hoped. Some team that needs shooting — and there are plenty of them — will bring him in at age 33 to see if he still has anything left in the tank.

NBA Championship odds: Lakers, Bucks favorites as NBA plans restart

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It’s all about LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

At least for the gambling public. With the return of the NBA set for July in a 22-team format, the NBA futures odds to win the title have gone up at sportsbooks. Not surprisingly, LeBron and the Lakers, and Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, are the betting favorites. Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are close behind, with a considerable drop off after that.

Here are the current odds (with money won on a $100 bet):

TEAM CAESARS FAN DUAL
Los Angeles Lakers +200 +270
Milwaukee Bucks +275 +240
Los Angeles Clippers +325 +340
Houston Rockets +1500 +1200
Boston Celtics +1500 +2000
Toronto Raptors +1700 +2400
Denver Nuggets +2200 +2500
Miami Heat +4000 +2700
Philadelphia 76ers +2500 +2700
Utah Jazz +6000 +2900
Dallas Mavericks +3500 +3600
Brooklyn Nets +6000 +6000
Indiana Pacers +12500 +10000
Oklahoma City Thunder +6000 +10000
New Orleans Pelicans N/A +12000
Memphis Grizzlies +50000 +21000
Portland Trail Blazers +7500 +21000
San Antonio Spurs +100000 +21000
Orlando Magic +75000 +25000
Phoenix Suns +50000 +25000
Sacramento Kings +200000 +25000
Washington Wizards +100000 +25000

A few quick thoughts:

• Brooklyn is only at 60/1 odds because of Kevin Durant‘s possible return to the court — except that’s not happening. Even if he could, Kyrie Irving is not recovered from his March surgery yet, and no way KD is coming back without Irving.

• Along those same lines, John Wall is not returning for the Wizards this season.

• The best bet on the board? I would say the Clippers.

• If I had to bet who will end up with the eighth seed in the West, I would take Portland. New Orleans and Memphis both have a legitimate shot, but Portland gets Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins both back, and that was a 50+ win team with those two the season before.

• I’m basing my thoughts on what happened before March 11, and all of that feels somewhat irrelevant heading into this unprecedented situation.

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.