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.

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.