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NBA AM: The Pending Free Agent Watch List

Of the 239 players eligible for free agency next July, a handful may be available around the trade deadline.

Steve Kyler

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The Pending Free Agent Watch List

There are 239 NBA players who could become eligible for some type of free agency in July of 2017. Of those players, 25 hold a Player Option for next season and many will likely opt out. Thirty of those players are possible restricted free agents by way of a Qualifying Offer from their current team. Sixty-two of those players have a Team Option for next season, and many are likely to be free agents if they continue to underplay their deal. Two players – Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – hold an Early Termination Option.

While it’s unlikely that all 239 players actually hit the market, there are a couple of would-be free agents who are worth watching as the 2016-17 NBA season starts to gear up this month – mainly because all of them could walk away from their current team and leave them with nothing.

Jeff Teague – Indiana Pacers

The Pacers just got Teague into town in a draft-day trade and are hopeful he is the long-term answer at point guard for a team that’s very quietly become a sneaky contender in the Eastern Conference.

The problem for the Pacers is that, historically, players who have been traded the year before free agency tend to go shopping when it’s time for a new deal. That could get dicey for Indiana.

Teague is eligible to have his contract re-negotiated, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets did with James Harden. The issue there is that Paul George also becomes re-structure eligible on September 25. The Pacers are sitting on about $6 million in cap space – enough to get George to the current NBA max, but not enough to also sign Teague to a new deal.

Unless the Pacers opt to dump a contract and create more room, re-structuring Teague’s deal does not seem to be in the cards, which means a stroll through unrestricted free agency for the point guard and a ton of risk for Indiana.

The good news for the Pacers is that Teague is a hometown kid who has said he’s very excited about the long-term future in Indiana. The problem with that is there are no guarantees there and if Teague does flourish with the Pacers, will they play the game in a free-agent bidding war?

The Pacers could put an end to all of this with a new deal for Teague, but to get there they’d need to make a trade. At this point, the Pacers do not seem overly concerned about making one.

Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans made a strong run at free agent point guard Ty Lawson, and they also recently brought free agent Lance Stephenson in for a workout. Sources close to the situation say that the Pelicans are looking for backcourt depth and considering the long injury history of both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, it’s understandable that the Pelicans are not ready to bet their future on what they have.

Both Holiday and Evans are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and it’s a safe bet that one or both players aren’t back next season.

Holiday is the more intriguing of the two, mainly because when he has been healthy he’s been very productive on both end of the court. However, the stretches of good health have been too few and far between.

Here are the questions New Orleans has to ponder: How many games can Holiday really log this year? And at what point do the Pelicans face the inevitable that Holiday likely walks in July?

The Pelicans seem to be at least exploring what their options are now, which likely means that as the deadline gets closer and their season comes into better focus, making a deal around Holiday or Evans becomes a real option.

Considering Holiday has played in just 139 games in his three seasons in New Orleans, it’s hard to envision he returns a ton of value in trade. But for the Pelicans – who just got nothing for Ryan Anderson’s free agency – would letting another player (or two) walk for nothing really be smart?

The guard spots are absolutely something to watch in New Orleans. The Pelicans seem like they are open to ideas.

Rudy Gay – Sacramento Kings – $14.2 million Player Option

The Kings and Rudy Gay are headed toward a divorce; it’s only a matter of time. Gay holds a Player Option for next season and even though $14.2 million seems like the right number for Gay, even in this new bloated contract environment, he likely opts-out not for the first number, but the last number on his new deal.

It’s unlikely Gay fetches a deal more than $14 million annually as a free agent, but can he get a team to lock in two or three more contract years in the process? More importantly, opting out would allow him to choose his next team.

Gay’s option year makes consummating a trade tough. Some of the teams that like Gay (that’s you, Houston) don’t want the 2017-18 contract year. The teams that are interested in the contract year want Gay to opt-in and lock in that security, but it doesn’t seem he’s ready to commit to that.

The Kings are expected to open camp with the roster as it stands, but as things start to take shape, there is little doubt Gay is one of the odd guys out, especially if the fit is less than ideal.

Uncertainty is a problem in any transaction in the NBA, but as things get closer to the trade deadline and teams fail to meet their objectives, obtaining a versatile small forward who more than likely opts out is a viable possibility. Word is the Kings do not want a ton in return for him, so this one seems like a matter of when rather than if.

Zach Randolph – Memphis Grizzlies

If you follow the Grizzlies, you may feel that it’s hard to imagine Zach Randolph not finishing his career in Memphis. The question is, will the Grizzlies go the Tim Duncan route and give Randolph years on his next deal in exchange for a lower cap value? Or, do the Grizz cash Randolph out in trade and move into the future?

Even though the Grizz can exceed the cap to sign Randolph to any number they want in July, is it smart to make a longer-term or big-dollar investment in Randolph? It’s romantic to think that he would take a huge pay cut to stay in Memphis, but it’s not really practical to believe it happens.

The Grizzlies have to come to terms with what Zach is in the near-term as they enter training camp. If Randolph can bounce back to form in what will be his 16th season in the NBA, that’s good for the Grizzlies. But at some point, they are going to have to find minutes and a role not only for big free agent addition Chandler Parsons but also rookie Deyonta Davis. A case can be made that there is no better teacher and tutor for the new Grizz players than Randolph. That may very well be true, but should the Grizzlies really try to keep Zach beyond this year, especially with the new coaching staff and system coming in that’s expected to increase the tempo? That’s the real question; if the answer is no, there is little question he has trade value around the NBA.

Trading Randolph is not overly likely, but as the deadline gets closer and the Grizzlies have a sense of who they really are in the West, that could change.

Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks – $21.4 million Player Option

We have talked about Millsap in this space before and the story from Atlanta is that Millsap is a cornerstone to their season. Whether that’s true in the long-term remains to be seen, but in the short-term the Hawks see Millsap as the counterbalance to Dwight Howard and a focal point for their season.

Here’s the question: If the Hawks are not out of the gate world-beaters – if they are a middling team in the East – do they hang on to Millsap? Keep in mind, he can walk as a free agent.

League sources say the value of a would-be free agent diminishes the longer a team holds on to him, so if the Hawks are not sold Millsap will stay in his $21.4 million Player Option, can they really risk letting him potentially walk in July?

Sources close to the Hawks say the relationship between Millsap and management is actually pretty good, even despite the trade rumors around the draft. They say that there has been an honest, open dialogue about Millsap’s role and future in Atlanta.

But if the Hawks get out of the gate at 5-15, does all of that change?

Millsap is absolutely a name to watch as the trade deadline gets closer. But like many of the guys on this list, he’s not someone the Hawks would look to move today – if they looked at moving him at all.

Greg Monroe – Milwaukee Bucks – $17.8 million Player Option

The next month or so will be huge in understanding if Monroe has a long-term future in Milwaukee. To say the fit is less than an ideal is an understatement and given how the Bucks and Monroe constructed his contract, extracting value out of a trade is going to be tough if the fit does not improve.

Sometimes, a player and team reaches an agreement on a hard-to-trade contract structures as a sign of faith in the partnership. In Monroe’s case, he holds all the power.

To get value for Monroe, a team is going to want to know he’ll stay in his deal for next season because the value proposition on a Monroe rental is very different than if he’ll opt-in to his Player Option at $17.8 million.

The Bucks are not expected to make any bold changes before training camp opens; in fact, this is likely the squad that opens the regular season. The big unknown to all of it is at what point does Milwaukee cut their losses on Monroe? And how helpful will Monroe be in helping the Bucks get anything of substance in return for him?

If this past summer taught teams any lesson, it’s that home-court advantage is not much of an advantage when it comes to retaining free agents. With many of the names above, their home team may be unwilling to pay current market value to keep them beyond this season, meaning most (if not all) could be traded at some point before the trade deadline in February.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @OMaroneyNBA, @JabariDavisNBA, @Ben_Dowsett and @CodyTaylorNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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