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Ranking The Free Agents — Small Forwards

Dennis Chambers lays out the potential small forwards who can hit the open market this July.

Dennis Chambers

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As the Basketball Insiders’ position-by-position breakdown of upcoming free agents winds down (power forwards, point guards, and shooting guards already complete) the focus shifts to the small forward.

In today’s league, high-level wing players on both ends of the ball are held at an absolute premium. This summer in particular, some high profile names and talent will be up for a pay raise.

Just as a refresher, here are the pay-scale options for the players looking to secure new contracts:

  • $25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience
  • $30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience
  • $35,350,000 for players with 10 or more years of experience

Outside of the maximum values, the mid-level exception for teams is set at $8,406,000 in year one.

With the potential earning benchmarks out of the way, let’s get into the free agent wings that have the opportunity to change their address and the landscape of the NBA this summer.

Max Guys

Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors — $26,540,100

On the heels of his first ever NBA championship and a Finals MVP trophy to accompany it, Kevin Durant is choosing to opt out of the second year of this contract with Golden State.

While Durant will technically be a free agent, there isn’t much question about where he’ll be playing basketball next fall. But don’t expect the Finals MVP to sign on the dotted line at midnight of July 1.

Yes, the former league MVP will take some time to re-up on his deal with the Warriors and let other signings fall into place (Stephen Curry to be exact) but once the dust settles Durant will be safely locked into the Bay area.

Gordon Hayward — Utah Jazz — $16,073,140

Unlike Durant, Gordon Hayward’s impending free agency doesn’t come with so much clarity.

When the NBA announced their latest All-NBA teams and Hayward’s name didn’t crack the list, the small forward missed out on his qualification for a “super-max” five-year, $207 million deal he could’ve potentially signed with Utah. Instead, his max deal with the Jazz can only reach $177.5 million over the same time frame.

Should Hayward leave Utah, and there is significant talk that he might, he can ink a four-year $131.6 million deal, making him a rich man beyond any means regardless of which city he plays basketball in.

What is giving pause to the notion that Hayward will remain with the same club that drafted him in 2010 is mainly the allure of playing with the Boston Celtics and their coach Brad Stevens, who coached Hayward in college at Butler. The Celtics aren’t shy in their pursuit of Hayward either, and will gladly offer every penny the Collective Bargaining Agreement says they can.

A new wrinkle in the courtship of Hayward for both Utah and Boston, however, is the addition of the Miami HEAT to the conversation. Reports surfaced that Hayward will meet with the HEAT as a part of his free agency carousel. HEAT president Pat Riley has a reputation for persuading big time free agents to join his vision, and Hayward reportedly is fond of the idea of playing alongside HEAT point guard Goran Dragic.

Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler reported that Hayward will meet with Miami first, followed by Boston and Utah before making his decision.

The free agency of Hayward will be one of the most watched his summer, and could be the first big piece to start a domino effect of transactions. Should a team like Boston or Miami miss out of the 27-year-old small forward, they may turn their attention to other high-profile players.

Otto Porter* — Washington Wizards — $5,838,981

In the final year of his rookie contract, Otto Porter began to blossom into the player the Washington Wizards hoped they had drafted back in 2013. Because of that, Porter is walking into a big time pay day this summer.

At just 24 years old, Porter averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range on a playoff team. Porter’s versatility offensively and defensively played a key role in the Wizards’ season that saw them reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

While Porter holds a qualifying offer from Washington, he technically remains a restricted free agent, meaning that another team can sign him to an offer sheet but the Wizards have the opportunity to match any money he is offered.

However, Porter’s negotiations shouldn’t likely even come to that scenario. Washington is preparing to walk into this situation fully equipped to keep Porter a part of their core for years to come.

Near Max Guys

Danilo Gallinari — Denver Nuggets — $15,050,000

What separates Danilo Gallinari from the top-tier of small forwards this summer isn’t a gap in skill, but rather a gap in availability.

The 6-foot-10 sweet-shooting Italian is a three-point marksman, but at no point has he ever completed a full 82-game season. In fact, he’s only played in more than 71 games on two occasions, the last coming in the 2012-13 season.

Over the last two years, Gallinari has grown into much more of a complete scorer in Denver on his way to averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting nearly 38 percent from deep. The problem is, he hasn’t been on the court enough to string together long bouts of consistency. This past season, Gallinari played in just 63 games. The year before? Fifty-three games.

What will give teams pause when it comes to offering Gallinari big money is the fact that they are expecting their heavy investment to miss crucial playing time.

Regardless of what money does get offered, it sounds like Gallinari is married to the idea of a return to Denver. He told a foreign news outlet that the Nuggets “aren’t my first choice.”

Gallinari will likely be one of those players who has to sit back and wait for some of the bigger dominoes to fall in order to see where he fits during this free agency period.

Andre Roberson* — Oklahoma City Thunder — $2,183,072

Even more than anybody on this list, Andre Roberson is going to cash out this summer.

Over the course of his rookie deal, Roberson has gone from relative unknown role player to one of the league’s premier wing defenders. And in a league where wing scoring is held at a premium, defending it is just as important.

The knock on Roberson, however, is the fact that at this moment, he couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat with his jump shot. Over the course of his four-year career, Roberson has hit just 100 three-pointers, total.

While his offensive game is extremely limited at this point, the market will likely suggest that some team with money to spend will ink Roberson to a deal based solely on his defensive capabilities and hope they can help grow his game on the other end of the court.

Above Mid Level Guys

Rudy Gay — Sacramento Kings — $13,333,333

Andre Iguodala — Golden State Warriors — $11,131,368

Bojan Bogdanovic* — Washington Wizards — $3,730,653

Joe Ingles* — Utah Jazz — $2,150,000

Jeff Green — Orlando Magic — $15,000,000

Mid-Level or Below Guys

CJ Miles — Indiana Pacers — $4,583,450

Glenn Robinson III — Indiana Pacers — $1,050,500

KJ McDaniels — Brooklyn Nets — $3,333,333

Reggie Bullock* — Detroit Pistons — $2,255,644

Derrick Jones** — Phoenix Suns — $543,471

Georges Niang** — Indiana Pacers — $650,000

Adreian Payne — Minnesota Timberwolves — $2,022,240

Tony Snell* — Milwaukee Bucks — $2,368,327

Luc Mbah a Moute — Los Angeles Clippers — $2,203,000

Michael Beasley — Milwaukee Bucks — $1,403,611

Luke Babbitt — Miami HEAT — $1,227,286

Justin Holiday — New York Knicks — $1,015,696

Jonas Jerebko — Boston Celtics — $5,000,000

Matt Barnes — Golden State Warriors — $242,224

Brandon Rush — Minnesota Timberwolves — $3,500,000

Jarrod Uthoff** — Dallas Mavericks — $47,953

*Qualifying Offer (If made, player becomes restricted free agent)

**Non-Guaranteed Contract (If player is waived by current team before contract becomes fully guaranteed, becomes unrestricted free agent)

This summer features some very effective, and pricey, wing players on the open market. But as the Golden State Warriors showed the NBA last season, you can never have enough talent on the wing.

Expect teams to lock down the bigger money players as quickly as they can and then the rest of the role players will fall into place. But with the combination of cheap veterans and young players with promise looking to latch on to a club, almost every team in the market for an effective wing should get a crack at someone that fills their needs.

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed

James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star

James Blancarte

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.

Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.

2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.

“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”

Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.

“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”

While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.

“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.

Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”

Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.

“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.

Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.

“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.

On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.

Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.

“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.

Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.

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Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience

It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.

Spencer Davies

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Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.

He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.

To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.

“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.

“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”

Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.

“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”

So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.

“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”

It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.

Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.

“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”

After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.

Whether the next chapter in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”

And it’s about time people are taking notice.

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NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop

Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.

Joel Brigham

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When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.

He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.

Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.

The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.

“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.

“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”

And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.

“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”

This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.

Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.

It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.

“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”

Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”

Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.

After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.

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