The Top 10 NBA free agents still available

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The big names are off the board: Gordon Hayward is heading to Boston, Paul Millsap is going to Denver, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were never leaving Golden State, Blake Griffin is staying in Los Angeles, and Kyle Lowry will remain a Raptor. Even the best restricted free agent on the market has his deal in place — Otto Porter will sign a max offer sheet from the Nets, and Washington will match.

So who is left?

Here are the top 10 NBA free agents still on the board.

1) Kelly Olynyk. A casualty of Boston’s need to clear out cap space for Gordon Hayward, he is suddenly an unrestricted free agent and the best player available. Already Atlanta and Indiana have interest, but there will be a lot more teams lining up. Olynyk is a 7-footer who is mobile and shot 35.7 percent from three last season. He is a decent defender on the perimeter but struggles physically with strong players down on the block. Olynyk is a big who fits the direction the NBA game is evolving and he’s going to get paid handsomely by someone.

2) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Detroit all but flat-out said it would match any offer for KCP and that seems to have depressed the market for the restricted free agent. Still, after the Langston Galloway signing the Pistons are hard capped and would have to shed salary to match a max offer for Caldwell-Pope, it’s surprising no team has stepped up to force them to do that (and take a chance they can steal him). KCP is a long and athletic defensive wing who shot 35 percent from three last year and is working to become a more varied offensive threat. A lot of teams could use a guy like that.

3) Nerlens Noel. Dallas traded for the rangy, defensive-minded center at the deadline last season and see him as part of the future., other teams known that so nobody has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. It would be a waste of paperwork, the Mavs would match. With Dallas bidding against itself, the only question now is what price he re-signs for.

4) Pau Gasol. Not a lot of drama here. Gasol opted out of the $16 million he is owed next year to help the Spurs chase free agents (the Spurs have re-signed Patty Mills and are in the mix on other deals). When all that is done the Spurs will re-sign Gasol, certainly for less per year than before but for multiple years. Gasol is still a fundamentally solid big who can score inside, make smart passes, and defend the rim all with a high IQ. He’s past his prime but he’s still a quality NBA big man.

5) Tim Hardaway Jr. Another restricted free agent trying to land an offer and force his team’s hand. Hardaway has developed into a quality player at Hawks university and last year scored 14.5 points a game shooting 35.7 percent from three. He doesn’t provide much defense, but teams can always use shooting. Atlanta is heading into rebuilding mode and they want Hardaway to be part of that, the only question is the price point.

6) Dion Waiters. He played the best basketball of his career the second half of last season — when the Heat needed scoring he picked up the slack (not efficiently, but he was getting buckets). Waiters was always going to be in the second tier of free agents (when GMs strike out on better targets they come calling) and the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, and others have their eyes on him. However, with Miami striking out on Hayward and Griffin, expect them to jump into the mix and try to bring Waiters back.

7) Derrick Rose. In a shrinking point guard market, he may be the best choice teams now have. The Clippers reportedly are interested, and the Knicks have been in touch as well, other teams may jump in over the next 48 hours, too. Rose put up solid numbers last season, on paper he looked like an average NBA point guard, but he’s still a defensive liability and kind of only plays one style. The questions now are what teams come asking him to do — start or come off the bench — and at what price?

8) Rajon Rondo. After a rocky start, he played well for the Bulls the second half of last season — after the All-Star Break he averaged 10.8 points and 7.1 assists per game. The Lakers are interested, but they will only offer a one-year deal (they want to keep their 2018 cap space) and Rondo may hope another team will come in with a longer offer. The Clippers and Knicks have been mentioned as possibilities.

9) Rudy Gay. He’s an old-school volume scorer who was already slowing down before he suffered a ruptured Achilles last January (he should be good to go around the start of next season). Both Miami and Utah have become interested since missing out on Hayward. Gay reportedly would like to play for the Thunder, but if Miami/Utah/another team come in with a larger offer he likely will take the money.

10) Andre Roberson. A restricted free agent who almost certainly will end up back with the Thunder next season — he would fit perfectly right between Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and since they need to make both those guys happy so they re-sign in OKC, the Thunder will pay what it takes to keep Roberson. Other teams know that, which means he may not get a huge offer from the outside, nobody is going to poach him. Roberson is a lock-down defender — OKC should be elite defensively next season — who can score in transition but needs to improve his jumper to become a huge threat.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: ‘If the superstars want to play together, then they will make it work’

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James Harden and Chris Paul worked reasonably well together on the court, but they played through a lot of tension.

Now, the Rockets are going to a new star backcourt that invites even more questions.

How will Harden and Russell Westbrook fit?

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni on The Woj Pod:

If the superstars want to play together, then they will make it work.

To be able to win a title now, you have to get superstars together – and whether it’s two or three or how many else you can get. And then it becomes a chemistry. Because everybody’s ball-dominant. When you’re a superstar, you’ve been the main guy for sure. Now, you’ve got to make it work. And sometimes personalities, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, it works for a while. Sometimes, it’s hard to manage, sometimes. Again, if they’re not on the same page totally 100 percent, I think the organization has to look and see what’s best for the organization.

D’Antoni was asked about Harden and Westbrook. (Best I can tell, D’Antoni never named Westbrook on the podcast, which should allow the coach to avoid a fine.) But D’Antoni could have easily been describing Harden and Paul.

It seems Harden and Paul no longer wanted to make it work. Those two played better together than most people realized. The Rockets were one of the NBA’s best teams each of the last two years, and they had an elite offense. But Harden and Paul clearly grated each other.

Now, Harden and Westbrook will get a fresh start together. They sound eager to re-join forces after beginning their careers together with the Thunder.

D’Antoni is correct: Harden’s and Westbrook’s desire to make this work will go a long way.

But Harden and Paul were once enthusiastic about pairing, and that went south. An initial commitment to teaming up is important. It can also wane quickly.

It also can’t overcome every fit issue. Sometimes, stars just don’t match, no matter their intentions.

D’Antoni is also right about super teams generally require ball-dominant stars to sacrifice for the greater good. There are always diminishing returns on grouping stars.

But other situations have included stars with more complementary skills. So much of what Harden and Westbrook provide involves having the ball in their hands. The diminishment of returns will likely be greater in Houston.

Harden’s and Westbrook’s talent give the Rockets a huge leg up. Those two wanting to play together will push each to do his best to make it work.

It’s still far more complicated than that.

Report: Ben Simmons contract extension allows him to hit super-max triggers

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Ben Simmons signed a max contract extension with the 76ers.

It could turn into a super-max contract extension.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The exact value of Simmons’ contract extension won’t be determined until the salary cap set next year. That’s when the extension kicks in. The current projection has it worth about $170 million over five years.

If Simmons makes an All-NBA team next season, it could be worth 20% more – bringing the projected total to about $204 million.

Whether Simmons gets the full bump if he makes an All-NBA team was a matter of negotiation between him and Philadelphia. They could have agreed to pay different amounts depending whether he makes the first, second or third team. (Simmons could also trigger the super max by winning Most Valuable Player or Defensive Player of the Year next season, again contingent on the terms of the extension.)

We don’t yet know the specifics of Simmons’ super-max eligibility. But they’re in his contract now.

There will be a lot riding on his performance next season. We’ll eventually learn how much

The 76ers did well to avoid a player option in the deal. That was likely an advantage of signing Simmons to an extension now rather than forcing him to wait until restricted free agency next summer. Simmons is just 22. He should provide positive value to his team six seasons from now.

Simmons’ trade kicker won’t matter now. A trade kicker can’t take a player above his max salary, and Simmons is starting at his max. But if he struggles to fit with franchise player Joel Embiid, Simmons could be in line for a nice bonus if traded in a few years.

Report: Before Paul George trade, Thunder were already preparing to trade Russell Westbrook next year

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The Thunder are starting over in an unprecedented way.

By sending Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets, Oklahoma City is becoming the first team ever to trade two reigning All-NBA players in the same offseason. The Thunder are the first team in decades to trade even two reigning All-Stars in the same offseason.

The sequence appears clear: George requested a trade. Oklahoma City granted it. With one star gone, the Thunder had less ability to win with Westbrook. So, they dealt him, too.

But if George didn’t request a trade this summer, Westbrook might have been moved soon, anyway.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

The clock was already ticking loudly on the Westbrook era, with team officials quietly preparing to hit the reset button next summer, per sources, after one more run.

George’s trade request was a blessing in disguise for the Thunder. They got a massive haul from the Clippers and clearance to trade Westbrook, a franchise icon. The Westbrook trade netted even more draft strong draft considerations from Houston. Oklahoma City has a great head start on its rebuild.

The Thunder had probably peaked. They’ve been good the last few years, but not good enough to win a playoff series. The supporting cast was expensive, and further upgrades would’ve likely been too costly. Westbrook is too good to tank. The four years and $171,139,920 remaining on his contract are a major liability.

However, Westbrook has meant so much to Oklahoma City. His loyalty after Kevin Durant left was so huge.

It would have been difficult to handle the politics of trading him if George didn’t ask out first. That made it so Westbrook was ready to leave. Thunder fans seem supportive of both Westbrook and the organization.

I believe Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti believes he would’ve traded Westbrook soon, regardless. That was clearly the right move for getting past this era of stagnation.

But it’s another thing to pull the trigger on moving such a beloved player. It wouldn’t have necessarily happened, especially not smoothly.

Canada’s FIBA World Cup training camp features 17 NBA players

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No Andrew Wiggins, no problem.

The disconnect between Wiggins and Canada Basketball seemed like a big deal when Wiggins looked like a budding star from a country without much basketball pedigree. But Wiggins has stagnated. Canada, on the other hand, looks like a rising international power.

Canada Basketball announced its training-camp invitations for the FIBA World Cup. The list includes a whop 17 NBA players:

Though the Nuggets clearly expect Murray to reach the next level, this group is short on star power right now. Don’t expect Canada rival Team USA. But this is a deep pool of solid players. They should be competitive in the tournament this fall in China.

This group is also pretty young. Players like Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, Barrett, Alexander-Walker and Clarke could take Canada to an even higher level in years to come.

And then the generation that’s growing up idolizing the championship Raptors will come through. Expect Canada’s climb to continue.

The other 12 players invited to Canada Basketball’s training camp: Aaron Best, Aaron Doornekamp, Andrew Nembhard, Andy Rautins, Brady Heslip, Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, Melvin Ejim, Naz Mitrou-Long, Oshae Brissett, Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb.