Seven most intriguing impending free agents in NBA resumption

Grizzlies guard De'Anthony Melton and Nuggets forward Jerami Grant
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After a breakout season, Davis Bertans decided he’d done enough. Bertans chose not to join the Wizards for the NBA resumption at Disney World. He’ll bide his time before free agency, where he’ll almost certainly cash in.

Bertans stayed.

Many more impending free agents are hitting and trying not to bust.

NBA players seeking new contracts this offseason will face a tough environment. Economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will reduce revenue and owners’ discretionary spending. Even optimistic projections for next season have the salary cap remaining roughly flat (with greater salary withholding) – a disapointment after expected 5% growth.

With cap room dashed around the league, there will be greater importance in impending free agents impressing their own teams, which can re-sign players through Bird Rights. And, of course, there’s still value in creating leverage with the few teams that have cap space or are willing to spend the full mid-level exception.

For some players, the seeding games, potential play-in games and playoffs could be particularly important.

These are not the best impending free agents. Lakers star Anthony Davis will get max offers no matter what happens the rest of the season. Plenty of other impending free agents have already shown their level of play and are unlikely to swing their fortunes in this condensed finish.

Here are the impending free agents with the widest range of possible outcomes based on how the rest of the season goes:

Marcus Morris, forward, Clippers

The Clippers reportedly offered Morris a three-year, $41 million contract last summer. He instead signed a one-year deal with the Knicks (after initially committing to the Spurs)… then got traded to the Clippers. Obviously, L.A. has some interest. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer also has the deep pockets and winning desire to keep spending amid the economic downturn. As third forward behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Morris is more of a luxury. A luxury the Clippers are willing to pay big for? It probably depends how well Morris fits the rest of the way – and how far L.A. goes. The cap-space teams skew younger and might not have interest in the 30-year-old Morris. His most likely path, by far, to a contract above the mid-level exception is with the Clippers.

Jerami Grant, power forward, Nuggets

Paul Millsap, power forward, Nuggets

By trading a first-round pick for Grant last summer, Denver clearly signaled an intent to re-sign him. Grant has been solid at power forward. The 26-year-old could definitely make sense with the Nuggets long-term. But he hasn’t quite played well enough to absolutely seize the long-term job. At 35, Millsap remains steady, and his interior defense particularly covers well for Nikola Jokic. Millsap helps Denver win right now, and Denver is eager to win right now. But how long will he remain this good? How will expensive will he be? For that matter, how expensive will Grant be? Could Michael Porter Jr. or even Bol Bol be ready for larger roles sooner than later? Though the Nuggets will be allowed to re-sign both Grant and Millsap at any price based on salary-cap rules, the luxury-tax line (or lower) will likely serve as a hard cap. The playoffs could clarify which power forward Denver will pay.

Derrick Jones Jr., forward, Heat

Miami is clearly prioritizing 2021 free agency. That’s why – even if re-signing free agents like Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Meyers Leonard – the Heat are are unlikely to give multi-year guarantees. Jones could be the exception. He’s just 23, already helpful and still has clear areas for growth. Jones’ length and athleticism make him a defensive weapon, especially in Erik Spoelstra’s creative schemes. The reigning dunk contest champion, Jones is an excellent finisher with emerging shooting range. This is the time for him to convince Miami it’s important enough to keep him despite complications in 2021.

De'Anthony Melton, guard, Grizzlies

Ja Morant gets – and deserves – so much credit for lifting Memphis. But the Grizzlies have actually been outscored with him on the court. Make no mistake: There’s a lot of value in a rookie point guard who can lead a starting lineup to break nearly even against other starters. But the Grizzlies have really made their hay with their reserves – particularly Melton. He’s a menace defensively and good secondary ball-handler/passer. There are still plenty of rough edges with his game – outside shooting, turnovers (especially when playing point guard). But the 22-year-old will make for a compelling restricted free agent, particularly to the young teams with cap space. Melton is big enough to get an expanded role at Disney World with small forward Justise Winslow sidelined.

John Konchar, wing, Grizzlies

Konchar was incredibly productive in college. He shot 2-pointers efficiently. He shot 3-pointers efficiently. He rebounded. He defended. He passed. The only drawback: He was doing all that at IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne). So, he went undrafted last year. But after signing a two-way contract with Memphis, Konchar is playing similarly effectively – in the NBA! He has played just 167 minutes with the Grizzlies, so sample-size caveats obviously apply. But he had cracked the rotation when the season got suspended, and there’s plenty of interest in seeing more. With a strong finish, the impending restricted free agent could tempt a risk-taking team into an offer sheet Memphis would find difficult to match.

Mike D’Antoni, coach, Rockets

After an unfruitful summer of contract negotiations, D’Antoni coached the Rockets on the last year of his deal this season. And coached them well. His offensive creativity helped unlock a small-ball lineup that features, depending on your perspective, either P.J. Tucker or Russell Westbrook at center. But it’s still unclear whether Houston will keep D’Antoni. Most teams would’ve extended him by now. So, a breakup appears likely – unless D’Antoni forces the Rockets’ hand with a deep playoff run. Though moderate postseason success might not be enough to save his job in Houston, D’Antoni could gain interest from other teams. So much of his arguments about continuing to coach despite his age putting him at high risk of severe symptoms if he contracts coronavirus seem to be predicated on an underlying argument: He wants to keep coaching beyond this season.

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.