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NBA Saturday: Best Free Agents Still Available

Most sought after free agents have already signed new contracts, but there are still some notable players available.

Jesse Blancarte

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As we move into August, several NBA teams are still finalizing their respective rosters for the upcoming season. While most of the top-level free agents have already signed new contracts, there are still a few notable players on the market.

While LeBron James technically is still a free agent, he has already stated that he will re-sign with the Cavaliers, so he isn’t included on this list. A few of the players listed here are very likely to return to their most recent teams, but are technically available should another team decide to make a strong push to sign them. Other players on this list have proven themselves in the past, but are coming off injuries or poor seasons.

Whatever their circumstances may be, here are some of the most notable free agents that are still available.

J.R. Smith (Unrestricted)

Last season, Smith averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals, while shooting 41.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. At age 30, Smith is still one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the league and was a valuable contributor to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship run last season. In fact, Smith, for the most part, maintained his season averages during the postseason, but he bumped his three-point shooting up to 43 percent on 7.2 attempts per game.

Coming off a successful season and entering a lucrative free agency period, it wasn’t unreasonable for Smith to be looking for a significant contract from the Cavaliers. This is especially true when players like Timofey Mozgov, Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson are landing huge deals that they likely would not be able to get in a more typical offseason. However, these three players locked in their deals when teams still had a ton of money to spend.

Teams have used the majority of their collective spending power so Smith isn’t able to go to another team to secure a big deal to force the Cavaliers’ hand. At this point it seems to be a holding pattern to determine just how much Cleveland is willing to pay to retain one of its most important contributors.

Donatas Motiejunas (Restricted)

Motiejunas put together his best NBA season in 2014-15, averaging 12 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists, while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range. Motiejunas was establishing himself as an up-and-coming stretch-four with a nice overall skill set.

Unfortunately, along with the rest of the Houston Rockets franchise, Motiejunas had a down season in 2015-16. He was limited to 37 games because of a significant back injury. In fact, the Rockets agreed to trade Motiejunas to the Detroit Pistons in a three-team deal that the Pistons nixed after Motiejunas failed his physical.

Now Motiejunas is left in limbo since most teams have already spent the bulk of their money and Motiejunas is a restricted free agent, which means the Rockets will likely match any offer sheet that is relatively reasonable.

Ty Lawson (Unrestricted)

It’s hard to believe that in the 2014-15 NBA season, Lawson averaged 15.2 points, 9.6 assists. 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 34.1 from distance. The once-speedy point guard used to consistently be one of the league’s best passers and playmakers, but has regressed into an on-court disaster.

Lawson’s decline started with his repeated off-court issues involving alcohol. Those incidents led the Denver Nuggets to trade Lawson to the Rockets for pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, Lawson was nearly unplayable in Houston, was ultimately bought out by the Rockets and signed on with the Indiana Pacers. Lawson’s play was still underwhelming with the Pacers, who traded George Hill this offseason to acquire point guard Jeff Teague.

The fact that Lawson is still available even in a dried up free agency market speaks volumes to the fact that NBA teams are not convinced he will have a bounce back season this upcoming campaign. However, if a team signs him on a small deal and he somehow finds his old game, he could be a steal.

Josh Smith (Unrestricted)

Last offseason the Los Angeles Clippers signed Smith to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal. Smith reportedly took less money than he could have for a more defined role and a shot at a championship. However, Smith never proved to be an effective fit with the Clippers and ultimately was traded back to the Rockets.

While Smith still has a lot of talent, his inability to streamline his shot selection and play within a more defined role has limited his ability to be a positive-impact player. The NBA values stretch-fours like Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love, but Smith is a career 28.5 percent three-point shooter. Smith can hit the occasional three-pointer, but a lot of his shots often come at the expense of more efficient scoring opportunities.

Smith has also been a top-level weak-side shot blocker over his career, but doesn’t seem to have the quickness or willingness to challenge shots at the rim as often as he used to. At age 30, Smith still has a decent amount of athleticism left, but he isn’t the explosive athlete he once was.

Despite Smith’s issues, we have seen flashes of him being productive while playing within a limited role. Smith can still run the floor as well or better than most power forwards, can set decent screens, is a decent rim protector at the power forward position and can finish at the rim effectively. Shooting will always be an issue, but if a team can land Smith on a cheap contract and maximize his abilities while limiting the inefficient parts of his game, he too could be a steal.

Lance Stephenson (Unrestricted)

Stephenson is another player that seemingly fell off a cliff after establishing himself as a borderline All-Star. In a shrewd move, the Clippers traded for Stephenson last year in an attempt to upgrade on the wing. The hope was Stephenson would find his old self from his Indiana days, though that never really came to fruition.

Part of the issue for Stephenson was that he seemed to be on a short leash under Doc Rivers and he never really received consistent playing time. He had moments where he made you think he was finding his old game, and other moments where he made you think he was a hopeless cause.

Stephenson eventually was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were decimated by injuries and were willing to give just about anyone big minutes. In 26.6 minutes per game with the Grizzlies, Stephenson averaged 14.2 points 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three-point range. Those are some pretty solid statistics, however, it came on a team that was completely devoid of NBA-level talent because of injuries.

The fact that Stephenson hasn’t found a new home yet suggests that NBA teams aren’t convinced that Stephenson can produce on that same level when surrounded by high-caliber players. That, and Stephenson has earned a reputation for being somewhat of a headache, so teams aren’t going to take a risk on him unless they are convinced he can be an impact player on the court.

Mario Chalmers (Unrestricted)

Chalmers has never established himself as an elite point guard, but he is a veteran who can shoot the ball and isn’t afraid of big moments. Unfortunately, Chalmers ruptured his right Achilles tendon in March and was subsequently waived by the Grizzlies. Before the injury, Chalmers averaged 10.8 points, and 3.8 assists in 55 games with the Grizzlies.

Achilles injuries are severe and there’s always the risk that a player will never be the same even after extensive rehab. There’s never a good time to suffer such an injury, but this was especially bad timing for Chalmers since there was so much free agency money available this offseason. The recovery for such an injury varies, but generally requires at least nine months for a player to return to high-level training and activities.

Hopefully Chalmers can overcome this injury and find a team willing to bank on his ability to make a full recovery.

Jason Thompson (Unrestricted)

Since averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, Thompson has been unable to build up his game and establish himself as a consistent player. At age 29, Thompson still has much of his athleticism, but he simply hasn’t been able to put together a really good season in a long time.

While Thompson may not be the missing piece to any team’s big man rotation, he is a decent insurance player to have in case of injury or other unpredictable circumstances, especially in comparison to the rest of the big men still available.

Shane Larkin (Unrestricted)

Larkin was drafted 18th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and is still just 23 years old. In three seasons, Larkin has already played for three teams and four different coaches. Perhaps a little stability and a better fitting offensive system can help Larkin establish himself as the promising point guard he seemed to be when he entered the league.

Larkin spoke with our Alex Kennedy earlier this year and said that he is looking for the right opportunity and a long-term home.

“It’s just progression. It’s about work ethic and finding the right situation. That’s really all it’s about. You just have to get to a situation where the team really wants you to progress and excel so you can go far with the team and grow with them. I feel like I can do that. It’s possible – you just have to keep working, keep getting better and just find the right situation.”

At such a young age, it’s hard to know what Larkin’s ceiling may be. But he could represent solid value on a small deal and the upside to outplay that contract as an impact backup point guard.

*****

These are just some of the many free agents still available. Let us know who you think the best remaining free agents are in the comments section below!

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Announces 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry Candidates

The NBA announced the 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry list, including 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players.

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NEW YORK, April 24, 2018 – The National Basketball Association announced today that 236 players — 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players — have filed as early entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft presented by State Farm.

Players wishing to enter the 2018 NBA Draft were required to submit a letter to the NBA to be received no later than Sunday, April 22. Players who have applied for early entry have the right to withdraw their names from consideration for the Draft by notifying the NBA of their decision in writing no later than 5 p.m. ET on Monday, June 11. Under NCAA rules, in order to retain college basketball eligibility, underclassmen who have entered the 2018 Draft must withdraw by Wednesday, May 30.

Following is the list of players from colleges and post-graduate institutions who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held Thursday, June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

EARLY ENTRY CANDIDATES FOR 2018 NBA DRAFT

Player  School  Height  Status
Aaron Holiday  UCLA  6-1  Junior
Aaron Menzies  Seattle  7-3  Junior
Abdul Lewis  NJIT  6-10  Junior
Adjin Penava  Marshall  6-9  Junior
Admiral Schofield  Tennessee  6-5  Junior
Admon Gilder  Texas A&M  6-4  Junior
Ahmaad Rorie  Montana  6-1  Junior
Allonzo Trier  Arizona  6-5  Junior
Andrien White  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Anfernee Simons  IMG Academy  6-4  Post-Graduate
Austin Wiley  Auburn  6-11  Freshman
Barry Brown Jr.  Kansas State  6-3  Junior
Billy Preston  Kansas  6-10  Freshman
Brandon McCoy  UNLV  7-1  Freshman
Brandon Sampson  LSU  6-5  Junior
Brian Bowen II  South Carolina  6-7  Freshman
Bruce Brown Jr.  Miami  6-5  Sophomore
Bruno Fernando  Maryland  6-10  Freshman
Bryant Crawford  Wake Forest  6-3  Junior
Bryce Brown  Auburn  6-3  Junior
C.J. Burks  Marshall  6-4  Junior
Caleb Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Carsen Edwards  Purdue  6-1  Sophomore
Charles Matthews  Michigan  6-6  Sophomore
Chimezie Metu  USC  6-11  Junior
Chris Clemons  Campbell  5-9  Junior
Chris Silva  South Carolina  6-9  Junior
Christian Keeling  Charleston Southern  6-4  Sophomore
Christian Mekowulu  Tennessee State  6-9  Junior
Christian Vital  Connecticut  6-2  Sophomore
Cody Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Cody Riley  UCLA  6-10  Freshman
Collin Sexton  Alabama  6-3  Freshman
Corey Sanders  Rutgers  6-2  Junior
Deandre Ayton  Arizona  7-1  Freshman
DeAngelo Isby  Utah State  6-5  Junior
Demajeo Wiggins  Bowling Green  6-10  Junior
Deng Adel  Louisville  6-7  Junior
Deshon Taylor  Fresno State  6-2  Junior
Devonte Klines  Montana State  6-0  Junior
Dewan Huell  Miami  6-11  Sophomore
Dextor Foster  ASA College (FL)  6-5  Junior
De’Anthony Melton  USC  6-4  Freshman
Dikembe Dixson  UIC  6-7  Sophomore
DJ Hogg  Texas A&M  6-9  Junior
Dominic Magee  Southern Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Donte DiVincenzo  Villanova  6-5  Sophomore
Doral Moore  Wake Forest  7-1  Junior
Drew Eubanks  Oregon State  6-10  Junior
Elijah Bryant  BYU  6-5  Junior
Eric Davis Jr.  Texas  6-3  Junior
Esa Ahmad  West Virginia  6-8  Junior
Ethan Happ  Wisconsin  6-10  Junior
Eugene German  Northern Illinois  6-0  Sophomore
Fletcher Magee  Wofford  6-4  Junior
Fred Sims Jr.  Chicago State  6-4  Junior
Gary Trent Jr.  Duke  6-6  Freshman
Haanif Cheatham  FGCU  6-5  Junior
Hamidou Diallo  Kentucky  6-5  Freshman
Isaac Copeland Jr.  Nebraska  6-9  Junior
Isaiah Moss  Iowa  6-5  Sophomore
Isaiah Reese  Canisius  6-5  Sophomore
Ismaila Kane  Atlanta Metropolitan  6-9  Freshman
Jacob Evans  Cincinnati  6-6  Junior
Jalen Brunson  Villanova  6-3  Junior
Jalen Hudson  Florida  6-6  Junior
Jalen McDaniels  San Diego State  6-10  Freshman
Jalon Pipkins  Cal State-Northridge  6-4  Freshman
James Palmer Jr.  Nebraska  6-6  Junior
Jared Harper  Auburn  5-10  Sophomore
Jaren Jackson Jr.  Michigan State  6-11  Freshman
Jarred Vanderbilt  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Jarrey Foster  SMU  6-6  Junior
Jaylen Hands  UCLA  6-3  Freshman
Jaylin Walker  Kent State  6-1  Junior
Jerome Robinson  Boston College  6-6  Junior
Jessie Govan  Georgetown  6-10  Junior
Jon Davis  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Jon Elmore  Marshall  6-3  Junior
Jontay Porter  Missouri  6-11  Freshman
Jordan Brangers  South Plains College (TX)  6-2 S  ophomore
Jordan Caroline  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Jordan Davis  Northern Colorado  6-2  Junior
Jordan Murdock  Friends University  6-4  Junior
Josh Okogie  Georgia Tech  6-4  Sophomore
Justin Jackson  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Justin James  Wyoming  6-7  Junior
Justin Wright-Foreman  Hofstra  6-1  Junior
Juwan Morgan  Indiana  6-8  Junior
Kaiser Gates  Xavier  6-8  Junior
Kalob Ledoux  McNeese State  6-3  Sophomore
Kameron Chatman  Detroit  6-9  Junior
Keanu Peters  Salt Lake CC (UT)  6-2  Sophomore
Keita Bates-Diop  Ohio State  6-7  Junior
Kerwin Roach II  Texas  6-4  Junior
Kevin Huerter  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Kevin Knox  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Khyri Thomas  Creighton  6-3  Junior
Kostas Antetokounmpo  Dayton  6-10  Freshman
Kris Wilkes  UCLA  6-8  Freshman
Ky Bowman  Boston College  6-1  Sophomore
Lagerald Vick  Kansas  6-5  Junior
Lamar Peters  Mississippi State  6-0  Sophomore
Lamonte Bearden  Western Kentucky  6-3  Junior
Landry Shamet  Wichita State  6-4  Sophomore
Leron Black  Illinois  6-7  Junior
Lindell Wigginton  Iowa State  6-2  Freshman
Lonnie Walker  Miami  6-4  Freshman
Luke Maye  North Carolina  6-8  Junior
Makinde London  Tennessee-Chattanooga  6-10 Juni  or
Malik Hines  Massachusetts  6-10  Junior
Malik Martin  South Florida  6-11  Junior
Malik Newman  Kansas  6-3  Sophomore
Marcquise Reed  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Marcus Derrickson  Georgetown  6-7  Junior
Markis McDuffie  Wichita State  6-8  Junior
Marquez Letcher-Ellis  Rice  6-7  Sophomore
Marvin Bagley III  Duke  6-11  Freshman
Matt Morgan  Cornell  6-3  Junior
Max Montana  San Diego State  6-9  Junior
Melvin Frazier Jr.  Tulane  6-6  Junior
Micah Seaborn  Monmouth  6-5  Junior
Michael Gilmore  FGCU  6-10  Junior
Michael Porter Jr.  Missouri  6-10  Freshman
Mikal Bridges  Villanova  6-6  Junior
Mike Amius  Western Carolina  6-7  Junior
Mike Daum  South Dakota State  6-9  Junior
Miles Bridges  Michigan State  6-7  Sophomore
Mitchell Robinson  Western Kentucky  7-0  Freshman
Mohamed Bamba  Texas  6-11  Freshman
Moritz Wagner  Michigan  6-11  Junior
Mustapha Heron  Auburn  6-5  Sophomore
Nick Ward  Michigan State  6-8  Sophomore
Noah Dickerson  Washington  6-8  Junior
Nojel Eastern  Purdue  6-6  Freshman
Omari Spellman  Villanova  6-9  Freshman
PJ Washington  Kentucky  6-7  Freshman
Quinndary Weatherspoon  Mississippi State  6-4  Junior
Quinton Rose  Temple  6-8  Sophomore
Rawle Alkins  Arizona  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Ona Embo  Tulane  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Spalding  Louisville  6-9  Junior
Reid Travis  Stanford  6-8  Junior
Robert Franks Jr.  Washington State  6-7  Junior
Robert Williams III  Texas A&M  6-10  Sophomore
Ronshad Shabazz  Appalachian State  6-5  Junior
Sagaba Konate  West Virginia  6-8  Sophomore
Sedrick Barefield  Utah  6-2  Junior
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander  Kentucky  6-6  Freshman
Shake Milton  SMU  6-6  Junior
Shamorie Ponds  St. John痴  6-1  Sophomore
Shawntrez Davis  Bethune-Cookman  6-9  Junior
Shelton Mitchell  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Takal Molson  Canisius  6-5  Freshman
Tashawn Berry  Dakota College (ND)  6-3  Sophomore
Tavarius Shine  Oklahoma State  6-6  Junior
Terence Davis  Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Terry Larrier  Connecticut  6-8  Junior
Tony Carr  Penn State  6-5  Sophomore
Torin Dorn  North Carolina State  6-5  Junior
Trae Young  Oklahoma  6-2  Freshman
Tramaine Isabell Jr.  Drexel  6-1  Junior
Travis Munnings  Louisiana-Monroe  6-6  Junior
Tremaine Fraiser  Westchester CC (NY)  6-3  Sophomore
Tremont Waters  LSU  5-11  Freshman
Trevon Duval  Duke  6-3  Freshman
Troy Brown Jr.  Oregon  6-7  Freshman
Tyler Cook  Iowa  6-9  Sophomore
Tyler Davis  Texas A&M  6-10  Junior
Tyler Hall  Montana State  6-4  Junior
Tyus Battle  Syracuse  6-6  Sophomore
Udoka Azubuike  Kansas  7-0  Sophomore
Victor Lewis II  West Texas A&M  6-3  Junior
Wendell Carter Jr.  Duke  6-10  Freshman
Wenyen Gabriel  Kentucky  6-9  Sophomore
Yankuba Sima  Oklahoma State  6-11  Junior
Yoeli Childs  BYU  6-8  Sophomore
Zach Hankins  Ferris State  6-10  Junior
Zach Johnson  FGCU  6-2  Junior
Zane Martin  Towson  6-4  Sophomore
Zhaire Smith  Texas Tech  6-5  Freshman

The following is the list of international players who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft:

Player  Team/Country of Team  Height  Status
Adam Mokoka  Gravelines (France)  6-4  1998 DOB
Aleksander Dziewa  Slask Wroclaw (Poland)  6-9  1997 DOB
Amine Noua  ASVEL (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Antonios Koniaris  PAOK (Greece)  6-4  1997 DOB
Arnoldas Kulboka  Capo d丹rlando (Italy)  6-10  1998 DOB
Berkan Durmaz  Tofas (Turkey)  6-9  1997 DOB
Berke Atar  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-11  1999 DOB
Blaz Mesicek  Brindisi (Italy)  6-6  1997 DOB
Darel Poirier  Charleville (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Dzanan Musa  Cedevita (Croatia)  6-8  1999 DOB
Elie Okobo  Pau Orthez (France)  6-2  1997 DOB
Emanuel Cate  Prat (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Erxhan Osmani  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-9  1998 DOB
Etienne Ca  Chalon (France)  6-11  1997 DOB
Filip Zagrajski  Beli Manastir (Croatia)  6-4  1997 DOB
Gabriel Galvanini  Bauru (Brazil)  6-8  1998 DOB
Georgios Kalaitzakis  Panathinaikos (Greece)  6-6  1999 DOB
Goga Bitadze  Mega Bemax (Serbia)  6-11  1999 DOB
Ibrahima Faye  Poitiers (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Isaac Bonga  Fraport Skyliners (Germany)  6-9  1999 DOB
Issuf Sanon  Olimpija (Slovenia)  6-3  1999 DOB
Jean-Marc Pansa  Nanterre (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Karim Jallow  Bayern Munich (Germany)  6-7  1997 DOB
Laurynas Beliauskas  Neptunas (Lithuania)  6-4  1997 DOB
Laurynas Birutis  Siauliai (Lithuania)  7-0  1997 DOB
Leon Kratzer  Wuerzburg (Germany)  6-11  1997 DOB
Leonardo Tote  Verona (Italy)  6-10  1997 DOB
LiAngelo Ball  UCLA/Vytautas (Lithuania)  6-5  1998 DOB
Louis Olinde  Brose Baskets (Germany)  6-9  1998 DOB
Luka Doncic  Real Madrid (Spain)  6-7  1999 DOB
Marcel Ponitka  Asseco (Poland)  6-5  1997 DOB
Martynas Echodas  Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)  6-9  1997 DOB
Martynas Varnas  Pieno Zvaigzdes (Lithuania)  6-5  1997 DOB
Matas Jogela  Zalgiris II (Lithuania)  6-6  1998 DOB
Matur Maker  CIBA (Canada)  6-11  1998 DOB
Melvyn Govindy  Cholet (France)  7-0  1997 DOB
Michael Uchendu  Bauru (Brazil)  6-9  1998 DOB
Michal Kolenda  Trefl Sopot (Poland)  6-7  1997 DOB
Muhaymin Mustafa  Anadolu Efes (Turkey)  6-5  1999 DOB
Rihards Berzins  Liepaja (Latvia)  6-11  1997 DOB
Rodions Kurucs  Barcelona (Spain)  6-9  1998 DOB
Romaric Belemene  Oviedo (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Shekinah Munanga  Monaco (France)  6-7  1997 DOB
Sigfredo Casero-Ortiz  GET Vosges (France)  6-1  1997 DOB
Stephane Gombauld  Lille Metropole (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Tadas Sedekerskis  Nevezis (Lithuania)  6-8  1998 DOB
Tryggvi Hlinason  Valencia (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
Vanja Marinkovic  Partizan (Serbia)  6-6  1997 DOB
Vasileios Charalampopoulos P  AOK (Greece)  6-9  1997 DOB
Viny Okouo  Unicaja (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
William McDowell-White B  aunach (Germany) 6  -5  1998 DOB
Williams Narace  Nancy (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Xabier Lopez-Arostegui  Joventut Badalona (Spain)  6-6  1997 DOB
Yago Dos Santos  Paulistano (Brazil)  5-10  1999 DOB
Yoan Granvorka  Monthey (Switzerland)  6-7  1997 DOB

Check out the latest Basketball Insiders Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

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NBA Daily: Deep Bench Stays Ready for the Pelicans

Though out of the rotation, DeAndre Liggins and Jordan Crawford are staying ready to step up and contribute for New Orleans, writes David Yapkowitz.

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As DeAndre Liggins is standing by his locker talking about what his next move might be in terms of free agency, he gets a ringing endorsement from the New Orleans Pelicans’ franchise guy, Anthony Davis.

“He ain’t going nowhere,” Davis shouts from across the locker room. “He ain’t going nowhere.”

Liggins pauses for a moment, lets out a laugh and then turns back.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Dell [Demps],” Liggins told Basketball Insiders with a grin.

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, there are always those guys on the fringe — players who may not always know when they’ll have a chance to get into a game. It can be tough sitting on the bench and watching the rest of the team partake in the postseason.

For players like Liggins, however, they’re just as much a part of the team as the guys in the rotation. They do bring value to the team. And they patiently await their turn, however long that may take. Even if he doesn’t get to play in an actual playoff game, Liggins believes he understands the atmosphere.

“It started off in Orlando, a playoff team. OKC was a playoff team. I’ve been in the playoffs twice,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I haven’t experienced playing minutes, but I know what the feeling is like, I know what the vibe is like. It’ll be great going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”

Liggins has never spent more than one season with any team. He’s spent the past seven years shuffling between the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and now New Orleans.

He had a bit of a breakthrough with Cleveland where he emerged as one of the better perimeter defenders on the team. He started 19 games for the Cavaliers last season and shot 37.8 percent from the three-point line. It’s been that 3 and D calling card that’s allowed him to latch on from team to team despite never really playing major minutes.

“Just bringing that defensive energy. I do all the little things like take charges, all the intangibles,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I was the same way at Kentucky. You got to stick to what you know, what you do, and play a role. Especially when you’re in the league and being on this type of team.”

Liggins has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. It’s too early to know what the Pelicans front office will decide to do. He isn’t focused on that right now though. Right now, the focus is helping New Orleans make a deep playoff run even if he isn’t on the court that much.

He joined the Pelicans around mid-season after being cut by the Bucks. Although he hasn’t been on the team for very long, he’s already noticed the competitiveness and togetherness of this group. They rallied around each other following the season ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

“We just clicked and gelled when [Cousins] went down,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I think we lost three or four in a row then after that we just started changing the way we play.”

Aside from Liggins, the Pelicans also feature Jordan Crawford who is in a similar situation right now. Their career beginnings may be a bit different, Crawford was a regular rotation player for playoff teams in the past, but as playoff rotations have tightened up, Crawford has also found himself on the outside looking in.

He was on the Pelicans roster to begin the season but was cut in favor of Jameer Nelson when an injury to Rajon Rondo precipitated the need for point guard help. He had been a key player in the rotation but upon his return near the end of the season, he found himself mostly glued to the bench.

Crawford initially was a bench scorer for the Pelicans, capable of getting hot quickly and putting up a flurry of points on the board. He was nicknamed ‘Instant Grits’ by Cousins due to his penchant for scoring. He’s a little bit unsure though of what he’s going to be asked to do this time around.

“I have no clue. I’m going to try to find out,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m going to work my way through, do what I got to do to make the coaches happy and stuff like that. But I don’t know my role yet.”

When Crawford signed with the Pelicans earlier this month, his contract was only for the duration of the regular season and playoffs. He too will be entering free agency this summer, and due to his lack of postseason playing time, he might have to rely on past performances to secure that next contract.

He also isn’t too concerned about that right now. While he is anticipating the summertime, he’s just thrilled to be back with a familiar team, even if the playing time is scarce right now.

“I’m looking forward to the summer, definitely looking forward to the offseason,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m happy I accomplished getting back on the team for the season. That’s good right now, I’m satisfied with that for right now.”

Although he was cut despite having initially carved out an important role on the team, Crawford always remained positive and believed things would eventually fall into place. He wasn’t sure if that place would be New Orleans, but he’s glad that it was them who came calling once again.

“I didn’t think I’d be back here. They did stay kind of connected with me, talked to me,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I did have a good time while I was here, so it wasn’t no bad attitude, hard feelings or nothing. It always could’ve worked and by not having a bad attitude it allowed it to work again. It’s been a blessing.”

They stayed in contact with him and made him feel like a part of the team again. And for players like Crawford and Liggins, players who may not know who their next contract is coming from or when their next minute on the court might be, sometimes that makes all the difference

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