Here are the top five NBA free agents still available

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More than 50 players have agreed to contracts since free agency opened Friday evening, from Fred VanVleet taking the money to stay put in Toronto to Gordon Hayward taking Charlotte’s money to get out of Boston.

However, there are still some big names out on the board — including the biggest name of all. Beyond that, there are players that can impact winning, especially in the right setting. There is also value still out there.

Here are the top five free agents still available as of Sunday morning (Nov. 22):

1) Anthony Davis

He has always been the best free agent in this class — and it’s not close — yet he still hasn’t put pen to paper. And, Davis is going to take his time, likely not inking anything until after Thanksgiving. At the same time, there is no question where he is going to play next season. Davis will remain a Laker and chase another title with LeBron James and an improved supporting cast (Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell). Also, nobody is questioning if the First Team All-NBA big man who averaged 26.1 points and 9.3 points a game while playing defense at a Defensive Player of the Year level is worthy of the max.

The only question is years. His salary for the 2021-22 season will start at $32.7 million, and there will be 8% raises each season — both the maximum allowed under the CBA. Davis could sign a two year contract with a player option the second year (a 1+1 contract) for $68 million, lining his contract timing up with LeBron James. Most people around the league expect Davis to sign a three-year contract with a player option (a 2+1) worth $106 million. After those two years, Davis will have 10 years of service in the NBA, allowing him to re-sign for 35% of the salary cap, not 30%.

2) Brandon Ingram

Like Davis, there are no questions about what is going to happen. The All-Star, who took a big step forward last season with an improved jump shot, will get a max extension to his rookie contract from the New Orleans Pelicans, and he will take it. Ingram is a restricted free agent, so another team could have tried to sign him, but the Pelicans just would have matched (so nobody bothered). Ingram averaged 23.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, he shot 39.1% from three, and he proved he could play well next to Zion Williamson. We could quibble about whether Ingram is truly a max player, but considering the market, the team’s need to retain him, and his fit as a key part of a franchise on the rise in the West, there’s no doubt he gets paid.

3) Bogdan Bogdanovic

He almost wasn’t on this list because a sign-and-trade sending him from Sacramento to Milwaukee was worked out, but Bogdanovic himself helped scuttle that, and now he is the best player on the market likely to change teams. Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent and the Kings would usually match any offer, except he plays the same position as Buddy Hield, whose $88 million extension kicks in this season. So Bogdanovic will be on the move. Somewhere.

Bogdanovic averaged 15.1 points a game last season, shot 37.2% from three, and can work well as a secondary shot creator. A lot of teams could use him with the Lakers, Hawks, and Knicks mentioned as potential landing spots (the Lakers, after their moves the last 24 hours, seem unlikely). Bogdanovic most likely gets moved in a sign-and-trade, but where remains a question.

UPDATE: Bogdanovic signed a four-year, $72 million offer sheet with Atlanta, the Kings can either match or let him walk.

4) Marc Gasol

Whether or not you think he’s one of the best free agents available, he is one of the most in demand. Toronto is trying to convince the veteran big man to remain with them (and play in Tampa Bay) this season, but the Warriors have entered the mix for the Spanish big man, and the Lakers are reportedly interested as well but they only can offer minimum contracts at this point (the Clippers had been but landed Serge Ibaka). Without Ibaka, the Raptors need to bring Gasol back, and they have his Bird rights so they can offer more money than other teams (or at least more than other teams are willing to pay). The hangup appears to be years: Gasol, 35, wants multiple years and the Raptors, eyeing the 2021 free-agent market, want a one-year deal. Would the Warriors or Lakers give him multiple years at this point in his career?

5) Hassan Whiteside

Whiteside put up impressive, starter-quality numbers in Portland last season — 15.5 points and 13.5 rebounds a game — but with the return of Jusuf Nurkic his role shrunk, and in the playoffs Whiteside was not putting up near the same stats or impacting games. There isn’t a roster spot for him in the Pacific Northwest with Portland trading for Enes Kanter. Whiteside is the best big man still on the market in terms of talent (outside of Davis), he could help a few NBA teams. Whiteside’s reputation around the league as a stat hunter and spotty defender have teams holding off, and at age 31 it will be difficult for him to land a long-term deal. The Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested.

 

 

Suns update: Ayton blames Sarver for contract, Crowder conflict, Johnson to start

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Phoenix went to the NBA Finals two seasons ago and had the most wins in the NBA last season, yet dark clouds seem to be blocking out the Suns heading into this NBA season.

Here’s the latest on three situations with the Suns: Deandre Ayton‘s contract frustration, why Jae Crowder is asking out, and who starts at the four now.

• Ayton ended up signing a four-year, $132.9 max contract and will be back with the Suns to start this season, but the road to get there was rocky. The Suns would not offer Ayton a max five-year contract extension, his name kept coming up in Kevin Durant trade rumors, so Ayton went out and got a four-year max offer from the Pacers — which the Suns instantly matched. Phoenix saved $40 million and a guaranteed year, but the process left Ayton a little bitter.

Ayton blames outgoing owner Robert Sarver — a notorious penny pincher as an owner (among other, much worse things) — Marc Spears and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN discussed on NBA Today (hat tip Real GM).

“That is certainly something that caused the ire of him,” said Marc J. Spears. “I was told that it was Robert Sarver who didn’t want to give him that fifth year, who wanted to save the money.”

“My understanding from talking to people close to Deandre is that he thinks this was Robert Sarver’s decision as well. And Robert Sarver’s not going to be the owner anymore. So there is some healing that can happen there. But I know there were some hurt feelings over that contract and how that played out.

“If they were going to instantly match an offer sheet that he signed, why not just give him the max contract? Yes, it saved them a year and $40 million but as somebody close to Deandre told me ‘There’s a karma to this. Why do that to your No. 1 overall pick?'”

Shelburne hit the nail on the head — the NBA is a business, but it’s a business of relationships. Not only did the Suns sour theirs with Ayton, but you can also be sure every other agent around the league noticed how that was handled. It doesn’t help when recruiting players. The eventual new owner, whoever it ends up being, has a lot of work to change the franchise’s perception.

• Jae Crowder remains away from the Suns during training camp awaiting a trade (which reportedly will not be to Dallas). Crowder started 109 games for the Suns during the past two seasons and was a key part of their run to the NBA Finals, so how did things deteriorate so quickly? Marc Stein lays it out in his latest Substack newsletter.

Entering the final season of his current contract at $10.2 million, Jae Crowder let the Suns know that he was seeking a contract extension. League sources say that the Suns’ messaging, in response, was to let Crowder know that, at 32, he was no longer assured of starting or finishing games ahead of Cam Johnson. That gulf between the parties led Crowder to seek an exit from the desert that has landed him on indefinite mutual leave from the team until Phoenix can find a trade for him.

While Miami gets mentioned as a suitor a lot, it’s next to impossible to put together a trade that works for both sides right now (at the trade deadline, maybe, but Crowder isn’t going to be with the Suns that long). Cleveland is currently the hot name in league circles when talking Crowder trades, and Stein also mentions the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been looking for a P.J. Tucker-like replacement for P.J Tucker. But, do any of these teams want to extend Crowder at age 32?

• Suns coach Monty Williams confirmed what Crowder heard — Cameron Johnson will start at the four for the Suns this season.

Johnson brings better shooting to the table — 42.5% last season on 3-pointers — and is more athletic at this point, but Crowder brings better defense, toughness, and veteran savvy that can be trusted in the playoffs. The Suns may miss that when it matters, but Johnson will get the chance to prove us all wrong.

Blake Griffin agrees to join Boston Celtics on one-year deal

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Blake Griffin has agreed to join the Boston Celtics on a one-year contract which will be fully guaranteed.

The Celtics were desperate for frontcourt depth following injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams, as Luke Kornet was even getting some run with the starting group at training camp.

You do have to wonder just how much the 33-year-old Griffin has left in the tank though. Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin only managed to play 17.1 minutes per game and his 3-point percentage dropped like a stone to 26%. He was also a major liability on defense, and the Celtics surely know that after Jaylen Brown drove by him with ease time and time again during the postseason.

Griffin was still an effective playmaker and that may make him a good fit with the second unit alongside the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Grant Williams with all of these capable of handling the ball. Injuries and Father Time have zapped Griffin’s athleticism, but if anyone can squeeze the last bit of value out of him, I’d bet on Brad Stevens and the Celtics.

Highlights from Japan Game: Hachimura and Wiseman put on show, plus Suga and Curry

Golden State Warriors v Washington Wizards - NBA Japan Games
Jun Sato/WireImage
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The NBA preseason is officially here — and it started in Japan. The Golden State Warriors faced the Washington Wizards in front of a sold-out crowd at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo. In case you didn’t wake up at 6 am Eastern to watch a meaningless preseason NBA game (and if you did, we’re worried about you), here are a few highlights and notes from the night.

• The Wizards were there because they have the biggest Japanese star in the NBA, Rui Hachimura, and he was given a chance to shine. The crowd erupted when he did anything.

• The leading scorer on the night was the Warriors James Wiseman with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, plus nine boards.

• Dunk of the game goes to Kyle Kuzma.

Stephen Curry was doing Stephen Curry things.

• Stephen Curry also met Suga of BTS and gave him some game-worn kicks. This will win Twitter for the day.

• Oh, by the way, the Warriors won 96-87. As for the level of basketball, it looked like the first preseason game after a flight halfway around the world. The teams combined to shoot 11-of-47 in the first quarter (23.4%) and both were under 40% for the game.

Klay Thompson is sitting out both Warriors games in Japan.

TRIVIA TIME: Can you name the other two players currently in the NBA born in Japan?

Cam Thomas (Yokosuka) and Yuta Watanabe (Yokohama), both of the Brooklyn Nets (Watanabe is on a training camp deal and is not expected to make the roster). Both were raised much of their lives and went to high school and college in the United States.

Thunder rookie Holmgren trying to focus on learning NBA during rehab

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is experiencing the rehab process for the first time.

The No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA draft suffered a right foot injury during a pro-am game in August while defending as LeBron James drove to the basket on a fast break. He had surgery, and the Thunder declared him out for the season.

“I’ve never had a serious injury in my life, so I didn’t really know, I had nothing to base it off of and compare to,” Holmgren said Thursday. “So when it happened, I had to get it looked at and see how serious it was. I didn’t imagine anything like this.”

Holmgren, a versatile 7-footer who had great moments during summer league, is dealing with being sidelined as the Thunder start training camp this week.

“Definitely something that I really had to put my mind to and spend some time to think on,” he said. “And kind of come to some conclusions on things and really settle my mind so I could kind of stop focusing on what happened and focus in on what’s going to happen, what I’ve got to do to get where I need to be.”

Even without practicing, he has already left an impression on his teammates.

“He’s a great guy,” guard Lu Dort said. “I can already feel a connection with me and the rest of the team. He’s a pretty vocal guy, too. He talks a lot, and that’s good for the team.”

Holmgren said his only workout limitation is that he can’t put weight on the injured foot. So, that forces him to focus on other aspects of the game. Coach Mark Daigneault said Holmgren has been working hard on film study.

“It just comes down to putting my mental energy towards it, learning how to really be a professional in areas off the court,” Holmgren said. “I’ve dedicated so much time to really hustling at my craft on the court. Now, this event is making me step back and kind of rework how how I do things. And one of those ways is to become professional with watching film and speaking with coaches, trying to learn, watching what’s happening and really being engaged, in trying to get better with different avenues.”

Holmgren has spoken with Joel Embiid about his injury. Embiid, the reigning NBA scoring champion, was the No. 3 pick in 2014 before missing his first two seasons with foot issues.

Holmgren hopes he can recover as well as Embiid.

“What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Holmgren is expected to be ready for the start of next season. He said he’s trying to keep his thoughts positive.

“It all comes down to keeping a level head because there’s so many ups and downs,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a down. But I’ve got to keep my head level and focus on getting better. And no matter what the circumstances are, that’s the goal.”

Daigneault believes Holmgren’s mindset will net positive results.

“We’d like him to be out here,” Daigneault said. “But since he’s not, we’re certainly going to make a lot of investments, and the thing that makes me the most optimistic about that is the approach that he takes.”