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Top 20 free agents still on the market

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There wasn’t much money available in the free agent market this season, and that message got through to players — they were grabbing the cash in a Piranha-like feeding frenzy starting on July 1. More than 50 players agreed to contracts in the first five days of free agency, and more than half of those were one-year contracts.

That’s bad news for anyone without a chair as the music stops — there is not much money out there for the guys still on the free agent market. Restricted free agents, in particular, have found the market dry and now have almost no leverage (every player can’t use the Kings as leverage, although they may try).

Those restricted free agents dominate the top of our list of the 20 best players still available as of Friday morning. If your team is looking to round out their roster, these are they guys they are considering, and most are going to sign for a lot less than they expected.

1. Clint Capela (Houston Rockets). He’s a max or near max player but there have been no offers for the restricted free agent because Rockets GM Daryl Morey made it clear he will match any offer and bring Capela back. That has left Capela with no leverage. Capela averaged 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game last season (with a 24.5 PER), plus was a crucial part of the Rockets starting lineup and switching defense (because he can handle himself on the perimeter fairly well, plus protect the rim). The Rockets were 4 points per 100 better with him on the floor, and he was a big part of their playoff run. Houston needs to make a fair offer, low-ball him and he can play for the qualifying offer then walk as a free agent in a year.

2. Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics). He’s frustrated that no offers sheets have come in that would force the Celtics to match (he’s a restricted free agent), and “hurt and disgusted” by the fact the Celtics have not not made a big bid (the two sides, have talked, despite reports). Boston is letting the market set the price, and Smart isn’t seeing what he expected. Smart is one of the better defensive two guards in the league who can guard one through three. He can switch, he plays with a high motor and gets loose balls, he can get steals. But on the other end of the court, you can help off him and not guard him on the perimeter, daring him to shoot. He wanted more than the $12 million a year or so the Celtics had offered, now he’s likely going to take a lot less.

3. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls). UPDATE: He was the one restricted free agent able to use the Sacramento Kings as leverage — he signed a four-year, $80 million offer sheet with the Kings. The Bulls decided to match it, so he remains in Chicago. LaVine has a world of potential, but his game is based on athleticism and he is coming off an ACL surgery, then had to be shut down last season with knee tendonitis. It’s a concern, but if healthy he has the tools to be a quality two guard in the NBA.

4. Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks). Coming off two ACL surgeries, interest in Parker has been lukewarm (the Kings reportedly have had talks, but nothing came of them yet). He’s a versatile scorer who was a 20-point-a-game guy before the second surgery. That scoring made up for his poor defense in the past. Expect the Bucks to keep him, the only question is at what price and for how many years (Parker may want a short contract to prove himself and get back out on the market).

5. Isaiah Thomas (Los Angeles Lakers). His fall from near max player to today has been hard to watch (or imagine from when he was with the Celtics). However, the combination of his hip injury that sidelined him for the first half of last season, and perceived attitude problems in Cleveland that helped lead to a trade, has teams hesitant. He likely will have to take a one-year deal for a few million — maybe the minimum — and prove he deserves more money.

6. Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers). UPDATE: Nurkic has reached terms on a four-year, $48 million contract to stay in Portland. He’s a solid big man who averaged 14.3 points, and 9 rebounds a game with a very efficient 19.2 PER. While teams have moved away from more traditional centers he provides the inside balance, scoring, defense, and rebounding to allow Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum work on the perimeter. They needed to keep him.

7. Wayne Ellington (Miami Heat). Every team could use more shooting, and Ellington shot 39.2 percent from three last season, so it’s a surprise he’s still on the board. Ellington doesn’t bring much defense, rebounding, or anything else, but if a team is looking for a sniper Ellington can be their guy.

8. Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets). The switchable wing defender was a key part of the Rockets’ regular season defensive success — the team was 4.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court last season. Plus he shot 36.4 percent from three. It’s a little surprising there have been no offers, the Rockets would like to bring him back.

9. Kyle Anderson (San Antonio Spurs). The Spurs want to bring him back, but they have a lot of other balls in the air right now, and no other team has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. “Slo-mo” is a crafty pick-and-roll ball handler and a long, switchable defender, he’s got an unorthodox game that fits well with what the Spurs will do, but would it work as well with another team? He averaged 8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists this past season.

10. Jamal Crawford (Minnesota Timberwolves). Even at age 38, he can still get buckets. Not as efficiently as he once did, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year can still score the rock. He’s also good in the locker room. He opted out in Minnesota and some team is going to get him to bolster their bench (the Warriors have long been rumored with a minimum deal, Crawford is waiting to see if anyone else will offer more).

11. Rodney Hood (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another player (like Isaiah Thomas) who saw his stock fall — went into last season as the expected go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz, and by the end of the season couldn’t get off the bench in Cleveland.He’s 6’8” wing who can get buckets, more than a few teams could use that. Is Cleveland one of them?

12. Brook Lopez (Los Angeles Lakers). He has some versatility, he can shoot the three (34.5 percent) and took 41 percent of his shots from deep last season. Plus, he’s an efficient scorer around the basket, hits the boards hard, and uses his size and length to defend the paint. A lot of teams are not looking for his style of traditional center, but a lot of teams could use him for depth off the bench.

13. Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers). This may be too low for him on this list. L.A. liked Harrell, a restricted free agent who found his scoring touch last season and averaged 11 a game for the team. He was very efficient with a PER of 24.7 for the Clippers. Other teams have not made an offer on the restricted free agent because it is assumed the Los Angeles would just match, but he may choose to play for the qualifying offer then hit the open market in a year.

14. Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs). UPDATE: It’s hard to picture, but Parker will be wearing teal on the court next season after reaching a two-year, $10 million deal with Charlotte. Parker admitted it was hard to leave San Antonio, where he has played for 17 seasons, but with the franchise in a state of change he went to the East where he felt wanted and where he could play a bigger role on a team gunning for the playoffs. Parker will backup Kemba Walker (unless Walker gets traded, then…).

15. Michael Beasley (New York Knicks). The man can still get buckets — he averaged 13.2 points per game and shot better than 50 percent overall, plus 39.5 percent from three. He’s not the most focused guy, not much of a defender, but for a mid-level or near-minimum contract coming off the bench he could help a lot of teams.

16. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat). The real question here is does he retire? If not, if Wade returns, it will be to the Miami Heat for one more season. He’s not chasing a ring with LeBron James (not that the Lakers are winning one next season anyway) or anyone else, he’ll play for the Heat until he hangs it up.

17. Greg Monroe (Boston Celtics). Monroe has game — a below-the-rim game where he can score in the post efficiently and get some boards. Problem is, that’s not what teams want in a center now. He had some value for Boston last season (after falling out of the rotation in Milwaukee) but his style of play has him limited. New Orleans has been rumored, another team could jump in.

18. Kyle O’Quinn (New York Knicks). UPDATE: Literally as this story was going live online, O’Quinn messed it up by accepting a one-year, $4.4 million deal with the Pacers (they are using their room exception, so he got more than the $4.2 million he opted out of with the Knicks. He averaged 7.1 points per game for the Knicks last season, plays within himself, can hit midrange jumpers and can pass.

19. Shabazz Napier (Portland Trail Blazers). The unrestricted free agent had a strong first half of last season and looked like he and his game had grown up, but he struggled after the All-Star break and slid out of the rotation. With Seth Curry in house a return to Portland is unlikely. He should land a deal as a bench point guard somewhere, but for the minimum.

20. Dante Cunningham (Brooklyn Nets). The veteran forward gave Brooklyn and before that New Orleans about minutes and some points (5.7 average) a night last season. He’s not a classic shooter but he can hit a three and will keep defenses honest. Can provide solid depth for a team and a fair price.

Report: Timberwolves pull Nemanja Bjelica’s qualifying offer, signing Anthony Tolliver for $5M-$6M

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In a surprise to nobody, a team run by Tom Thibodeau could use better cohesion and 3-point shooting.

Anthony Tolliver will help with both – though at the cost of Nemanja Bjelica.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Depending on the exact terms of Tolliver’s contract, the Timberwolves might now be in line to pay the luxury tax. However, they have until the final day of the regular season to trim salary. Whatever their willingness to spend, they clearly didn’t want Bjelica accepting his $4,937,499 qualifying offer and adding to their payroll.

The 33-year-old Tolliver is better than Bjelica, and that’s what drove this. Tolliver is a good 3-point shooter with an improved ability to attack closeouts. He defends hard, though his mediocre athleticism limits him on that. He’ll take Bjelica’s place as Minnesota’s stretch four behind Taj Gibson.

Tolliver will also provide a unifying voice in what can be a tense locker room that just lost Jamal Crawford and Cole Aldrich. Tolliver is well-respected by his peers, and that’s part of his value.

Bjelica should find suitors on the open market. He’s a capable stretch four with a decent all-around game. After just three seasons in the NBA, he’s already 30, though.

The best part of this sequence: A chance to post this video of Michael Beasley rubbing the wrong knee – Tolliver’s – during Tolliver’s first stint with the Timberwolves:

Thibodeau reportedly bringing Derrick Rose back to Timberwolves on one-year deal

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In NBA free agency, there really are no terrible one-year contracts. Well, unless you’re Tyus Jones in Minnesota and you just want some playing time.

Tom Thibodeau loves his veterans and is loyal, and he is running it back with Derrick Rose for one more year, according to multiple reports.

For Rose, this is a much bigger financial deal than just his salary.

Rose played nine games and a total of 112 minutes for the Timberwolves, scoring 5.8 points a game when he did get on the court. When he was on the court, he played as more of a two-guard, off the ball next to Jones (who should get more run) and he had a couple of good games (against Houston and Memphis) and some disastrous ones as well. In the playoffs he shot 50.9 percent, hit 7-of-10 from three and was at the very worst solid.

That’s not to say there are no issues. He’s had series of injuries (he missed six games with Minnesota after a sprained ankle) and the fact he left his team in the middle of both of the past seasons to attend to personal matters.

With Jamal Crawford likely gone as a free agent, Rose may absorb some of his minutes, but he is not the scorer Crawford is. Can Rose sustain what he showed in the playoffs? I seriously doubt it. Will Tom Thibodeau keep playing him anyway? Probably. If that starts to take away minutes from more effective and efficient players, that’s not good.

But one year at basically the minimum, that’s not a bad deal, either.

Report: Warriors will take longshot chance to recruit DeAndre Jordan

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DeAndre Jordan did not pick up his option year with the Clippers, he is an unrestricted free agent. Most sources have him landing with the Dallas Mavericks, who tried to sign him three years ago, tried to trade for him days ago, and is clearing out cap space to land him.

But one suitor is going to make a longshot bid — the Golden State Warriors. From Marc Stein of the New York Times.

If you’re the Warriors, you take your shot. Why not?

While Golden State will not land Jordan, that $5.3 taxpayer midlevel is going to net them somebody of quality in what is a tight market. After the handful of big names at the top of the board getting max deals (LeBron James, Paul George, Chris Paul, etc.) there are a lot of good players on the market who are not going to get the money they expect — not that many teams have cap space, and a number don’t even have the full $9 million mid-level exception because they are too close to the tax line. For a good role player who can’t find the payday they hoped for, the Warriors are a chance to win and raise your profile.

One name I have heard tied to them: Jamal Crawford. That could even be for a league minimum deal, leaving the tax-payer midlevel for Golden State to add even more depth to their roster.

Rumor: Jamal Crawford could take minimum deal to join Warriors

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We are all waiting for the big pieces in this summer’s free agent period to choose their destinations. Destinations for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are up in the air, not to mention LeBron James.

But separate from the elite are the guys who are going to help fill out rosters, especially for championship-contending teams. The salary cap crunch many teams find themselves in thanks to outrageous spending during the summer of 2016 has tempered our expectations for what might happen come the end of the moratorium on July 6th.

The mid-level exception and taxpayer mid-level exception will be important weapons as teams try to round out their rotations heading into 2018-19. Then again, some players might just take a huge discount. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, one player who might be willing to take a pay cut is Jamal Crawford.

The former Minnesota Timberwolves bench scorer recently opted out of his $4.5 million contract and is free to sign where he likes this summer. Crawford, 38, is a veteran hunting for his first ring, and apparently could head to the champion Golden State Warriors on a league minimum deal.

Via ESPN:

There is some mutual interest between the Warriors and Jamal Crawford in a potential minimum deal, sources say. He might want more than the minimum. It’s unclear if the Warriors will use their mini-midlevel exception, but if they do, it likely will not be on Crawford.

Crawford is a good fit for Golden State’s system, and perhaps would bring a more dynamic and intelligent offensive punch then former wing backups like Nick Young. The Seattle native played in 80 games last year for Tom Thibodeau, and his advanced numbers are still relatively in line with his career averages.

If you are thinking that the beginning of free agency will be boring, it’s probably best to look at minutiae — like a potential Crawford deal — to get yourself into understanding just how this summer will shape this season and the one after.