Top 10 NBA free agents still available: Leonard, Schroder, more


There have been a few changes since the last time we put together this list, so it was time for an update.

John Collins, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kelly Oubre, and others got their deals put together, and with them took a lot of the available cap space. Outside of a sign-and-trade — and a few players are hoping for that — the most money available now is either the mid-level exception ($9.5 million) or something in that range.

So who is left on the market? Here are the top 10 free agents heading into Friday in NBA free agency.

1) Kawhi Leonard

The longer this drags out — with the cap space dried up from the teams that would have pursued him — the more likely it appears Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Clippers. Eventually. At the start of free agency, there was the report he would listen to offers from other teams, but the teams that would have made a max offer — the Knicks, Heat, Mavericks, among others — moved on with other plans.

It’s still radio silence out of Leonard’s camp, and nobody is exactly sure what he is thinking. At this point, it would take a sign-and-trade to get Leonard a max deal with another team, and the return to the Clippers in that case would be Harden-esque. Despite the offseason ACL surgery that will cost him most, if not all, of next season, Leonard is a clear max player with a salary that would start at $39.3 million (other teams could offer up to four-years $176.2 million in a sign-and-trade).

So we wait, expecting a deal with the Clippers. But nobody knows what Leonard is really thinking.

2) Dennis Schroder

Schroder has become this year’s cautionary tale about overplaying your hand. If you’re going to reject a four-year, $84 million extension offer, as Schroder did with the Lakers, you better know exactly which team is lined up to offer the $100 million contract you think is coming. Schroder thought that money was out there for him, but it never was, and especially not after a lackluster playoff performance.

With the Hornets using their remaining cap space on Kelly Oubre, it looks more like the $9.5 million mid-level exception (or something in that range) is what’s left, and it’s not exactly clear what team is stepping up with that offer. Schroder’s best option may be a short-term deal (1+1 probably) and the chance to play his way into a bigger payday in a summer or two.

3) Josh Hart (restricted)

More than a few teams could use Hart’s skills as a backup wing — he averaged 9.2 points and eight boards a game last season, shooting 32.6% from 3 — but considering the Pelicans have his rights and will likely match any offer, the deals have not been forthcoming. The Cavaliers and Pelicans had some talk about a sign-and-trade, but nothing concrete has come from that so far. A team may jump into the mix, but the smart bet is he winds up back in the Big Easy for another season.

4) Reggie Jackson

Jackson hit the market at the best possible time, coming off an impressive playoff run — he averaged 20.3 points a game against the Suns in the Western Conference Finals — and while that certainly generated interest around the league, that interest has yet to become a contract for the 10-year NBA veteran. The Clippers are at the top of the list and want to bring him back — he is still working out with the team — but other teams are still in the mix, including the Pelicans, who have the most buzz right now. Which one of those teams will step up with the most cash for the backup point guard? Probably the Clippers. Still, his strong postseason didn’t end up leading to the windfall Jackson might have hoped.

5) Lauri Markkanen (restricted)

There had been talks between Markkanen and the Hornets, but they spent their money on Kelly Oubre, leaving few options for the Finnish stretch four. Remember, the Bulls have the rights to match any offer for him, so teams need to negotiate a sign-and-trade, and that just has not come together as teams are not looking to give up an asset to land Markkanen. He was hoping for more money and a larger role than the one he had in Chicago — a role that shrank with the arrival of Nikola Vucevic — but market interest has been tepid, especially at the prices Markkanen thought were out there for him. The latest buzz was about him in Minnesota (Jaden McDaniels is the current starting four), but that has not generated a deal yet.

6) Andre Iguodala

Iguodala has reportedly narrowed his choices down to three teams: The Nets, Lakers, and Warriors. While Iguodala struggled on the court last season in Miami — 4.4 points per game, 38.3% shooting overall, and 33% from 3 — he could help those contenders in a limited role. The question is money (and leaking that he was down to three teams was likely a push to get one of those teams to dip into their mid-level exception to make an offer above the league minimum). Will any of those teams step up with extra cash?

Most speculation from league sources has Iguodala ending up back in Golden State, but wherever he lands, he will be chasing a ring.

7) Paul Millsap

Paul Millsap is not returning to Denver — he’s even selling his home there — but it’s unclear where the 36-year-old will play next season. There was some buzz about a return to the Hawks, or going to the Warriors for their mid-level exception, but nothing has come to pass so far. Because of his age, Millsap likely only gets a one-year deal, but he still brings real value — he averaged 9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game last season in Denver, plays solid defense, and shot 34.3% from 3. A lot of teams could use a guy like that.

8) Hamidou Diallo (restricted)

It’s a bit of a surprise he is still available, but this is the trap of restricted free agency — teams know the Pistons will match any reasonable offer, and nobody is coming in over the top for the athletic wing who still needs refinement. Diallo is 23 and took a big step forward last season, shooting 34.1% from 3 (39% after being traded to Detroit) and averaging 11.6 points a game. He can slash to the rim and draw fouls, and while he needs to finish better and shoot better from the free throw line (64% last season). His off-the-charts athleticism makes his upside interesting. He’d be a smart pickup on a two-or-three year deal for more $4-$5 million a season, but will another team make that offer only to watch the Pistons match? So far, no team has.

9) J.J. Redick

A veteran shooter who teams can trust in clutch moments on the court and who is good in the locker room is going to land a new contract — likely a one-year deal at age 37, but a new contract nonetheless. Redick struggled last season in large part due to injuries — 7.4 points per game, 37.1% from three — but could regain his form in a limited role and really help a contender. It feels like a team with title aspirations will step up soon for Redick, but at this point the focus is more on his podcast than the offers coming in.

10) Justise Winslow

The challenge for Winslow is he is a wing who can’t shoot well from the outside — 18.5% from 3 last season, and he basically struggles with any shot outside 10 feet — and while he’s a decent defender and secondary playmaker, the lack of shooting limits his role. It’s why the Grizzlies chose not to pick up his $13 million option for this season, but his athleticism and potential make him a good roll of the dice as a backup by a team rounding out its roster with smaller contracts. A return to the Grizzlies is not out of the question.

Philadelphia 76ers reportedly hire Nick Nurse as new head coach

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics
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Doc Rivers could not take a contender in the Philadelphia 76ers — a roster with the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid and a former one in James Harden — past the second round. Again. As good as the Sixers have been in the regular season the past few years, it has not translated to playoff success.

Now Nick Nurse will get the chance.

Nurse will be hired as the 76ers’ new head coach, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The buzz around Nurse to Philadephia spiked in the last 24 hours after Milwaukee announced hiring Adrian Griffin as their coach. Wojnarowski says Nurse chose Philadelphia over the Phoenix Suns, although it’s unclear if Phoenix made any kind of formal offer to Nurse (he did interview for the job, where assistant Kevin Young is rumored to have the momentum to land the gig).

Nurse makes sense for the 76ers as a coach who is unafraid of unorthodox, out-of-the-box strategies, which is part of the reason he was able to lead the Raptors to the 2019 NBA title. His defenses in Toronto were aggressive and tried to force turnovers, then the Raptors ran off that. He is considered a more creative Xs and Os person than Doc Rivers, the man he replaces in Philly.

Nurse also has a connection to Philadelphia president/GM Daryl Morey, who hired Nurse to coach the Houston Rockets’ G-League team the Rio Grand Valley Vipers back in 2011 (when Morey was running the Rockets). That connection was another reason the league sources thought of Nurse as the frontrunner in Philly.

The question is what the roster Nurse will coach looks like. James Harden is a free agent with persistent rumors he might return to Houston, does bringing in Nurse influence his decision?

Philadelphia will be in win-now mode with MVP Embiid, rising star Tyrese Maxey (who will have to shoulder much more responsibility if Harden leaves), plus quality players such as Tobias Harris, De'Anthony Melton, Shake Milton and others. However, expect changes over the summer.

Nurse walks in the door facing high expectations but with a roster capable of reaching them.

NBA investigating if referee Eric Lewis had burner Twitter account defending himself

2023 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

About the last place an NBA referee should want to spend time is Twitter — pictures of puppies and ice cream can draw dark and cruel reactions in that social media space. One can only imagine fans’ reactions to the people making calls against their team (the legitimacy of those calls is moot).

Yet the NBA is investigating if referee Eric Lewis had a Twitter burner account where he defended himself, something first reported by Marc Stein. The account — now deleted — had the username “Blair Cuttliff” with the handle @CuttliffBlair.

The NBA has a rule that referees cannot comment on officiating publicly (outside of specific, authorized moments).

There was some commentary on Twitter that Lewis’ brother, Mark, ran this account, not Eric. That will be part of the league’s investigation.

Lewis has been an NBA official for 19 seasons and is highly rated by the league, having worked an NBA Finals game along with numerous playoff games. The last game he officiated was Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets on May 16.

This is not the first time the league investigated a Twitter burner account. In 2018, then 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo stepped down after Twitter burner accounts — linked to him and his wife — criticized 76ers players and more. Kevin Durant has admitted to having Twitter burner accounts in the past (which is not a violation for players).

Three things to watch in Game 7 between Miami Heat, Boston Celtics


After three games, the Boston Celtics looked done — not only did they get blown out in Game 3, they dropped the rope. They quit. This looked over. But Boston found their pride and won Game 4, then won Game 5 at home, and finally came the insane Derrick White Game and a Game 6 win to become only the third team ever to go down 0-3 and force a Game 7.

Miami was in control of this series, but some cold shooting nights — particularly from their stars — and a lot of turnovers opened the door for the Celtics. Miami and its vaunted culture, find itself in the exact place it was a year ago, having to win a Game 7 against these Celtics to advance to the Finals — if Jimmy Butler hit an open 3-pointer late a year ago the Heat would have advanced. Can they take that one more step now?

Game 7. The sweetest two words in sports, and we get one Monday night from the TD Garden.

Here are a couple of things worth watching, plus some betting advice from Vaughn Dalzell of NBC Sports Edge.

1) Butler/Adebayo or Tatum/Brown? Which stars show up?

The last time we saw Jayson Tatum in a Game 7 was just two weeks ago, when he dropped a record 51 points on the 76ers in that deciding game. A season ago in a Game 7 against these same Heat, Tatum scored 26 points and hit 4-of-7 from 3, while Jaylen Brown added 24 points.

This item really isn’t about them. While the Celtics’ stars have to have good games, it’s reasonable to expect them to.

This is all about Jimmy Butler, and to a lesser extent Bam Adebayo. For the first 43 minutes of Game 6 these two shot a combined 7-of-35 and were not good enough. Butler had 14 points and was a non-factor in Game 5. For the last three games he has looked tired, he’s lacked some of his explosion, and he has struggled with the Celtics length as they have packed the paint and taken away his easy shots inside for buckets.

“Like I told the guys on the bench, I told the guys in the locker room, that if I play better, we’re not even in this position, honestly speaking,” Butler said after the Game 6 loss. “And I will be better. That’s what makes me smile, because those guys follow my lead. So when I’m playing better, I think we’re playing better as a whole.”

Butler turned things around in the final minutes of Game 6 — sparking a 15-4 run — mainly by attacking and drawing fouls, although he hit a 3-pointer in there as well. That Butler needs to show up Monday night in Boston, they need his points and they need his defense (he will draw Brown or Tatum as his assignment for much of the game).

If Miami is going to win, Butler has to be the best player on the floor. It’s that simple. If he struggles again, the rest will not matter.

2) Are the Celtics hitting their 3-pointers

Among the many ways the Heat have to feel they let a great opportunity slip away in Game 6 was this: Boston shot 7-of-35 from 3. The Celtics’ offense this season has been much more dependent on the 3-pointer, and the Heat did not take advantage of a bad 3-point shooting night from the Celtics.

Boston’s shooters — particularly role players such as Grant Williams and Derrick White — tend to be more comfortable 3-point shooters at home, and if this team gets rolling and hits 15 or more 3s and is shooting 40% or better on those, it’s lights out. Especially if they are breakMiami, even on a good Butler day, will have trouble keeping up.

It’s simplistic to say it’s a make-or-miss league, but when it comes to the Celtics shooting from beyond the arc it applies

3) Vaughn Dalzell’s betting recommendation for Game 7

In the last 16 Game 7’s when the total moved at least five points lower than the previous Game 6 total, the Under is on a 14-2 winning streak (87.5%), which is in play here. The total for Game 6 opened at 213.5 and closed at 209.5. Game 7 opened at 206.5 and is down to 203.5, so the trend is in effect with a 10-point or 6.0 point-move depending on how you look at it.

(Check out more from Dalzell and the team at NBC Sports Edge.)

NBA says Horford foul on Butler correct call, as was added time


While Game 6 will be remembered as the Derrick White game, a series of controversial moments on the previous play set the stage for the winning shot.

There was the Heat’s Jimmy Butler driving left, getting bumped by Al Horford and fumbling the ball, recovering it and starting to dribble again (which appeared close to earning a double-dribble call). Then Butler drew a shooting foul on Horford initially called inside the arc with :02.1 seconds left, but after Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla challenged and it was ruled a 3-point attempt (it clearly was) at the :03 second mark. The referees added 0.9 seconds to the clock, ultimately enabling White to get the game-winning putback with O.1 left.

The referees got all that right, the NBA said in its Last Two Minute Report from Game 6. The report found just two incorrect calls in the final five minutes:

Caleb Martin should have been called for a lane violation on Jaylen Brown‘s missed free throw with 1:01 left in the game.
Gabe Vincent should have been called for a foul on Jayson Tatum‘s stumbling layup attempt with :31 remaining.

None of that changes the results, the Celtics escape Miami with a 104-103 win to force a Game 7 on Monday night. Even though that is a Game 7, it will be hard for that game to surpass the drama of Game 6.