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Six Key Free Agents in the Western Conference

David Yapkowitz looks at six key free agents out of the Western Conference this summer.

David Yapkowitz

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June is upon us, and that means that NBA Free Agency is just about one month away. There will be several key free agents this summer. Here’s a look at some of the top free agents in the Western Conference. There are some big names that are omitted from this list, however. Notably absent are Golden State Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and Los Angeles Clippers teammates Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

There is no real likely scenario in which those four players leave their current teams. Durant has a player opt out and Curry is in line for a max deal, but they both will almost assuredly remain with the Warriors. The Clippers’ situation is a bit more fluid, but expect both to remain in Los Angeles. Although Paul has been linked to the San Antonio Spurs in recent rumors, our own Steve Kyler, in a recent piece, explained the salary cap hurdles the Spurs would have to jump through to sign Paul. It’s not impossible, it’s just highly improbable.

With that said, there are still some players in the West that are available and can be difference makers in the right situation. They are as follows.

JJ Redick

While it’s pretty safe to say that both Griffin and Paul will be in Clipper uniforms next season, the same cannot be said for JJ Redick. The max extensions needed to retain Griffin and Paul might end up putting Redick out of the Clippers price range. Should he and the Clippers decide to part ways, there most likely will be a good number of suitors for his services.

At age 33, Redick remains an effective starter at shooting guard. He was the Clippers top three-point shooter this season at 42.9 percent and fourth leading scorer at 15 points per game. He is a respected veteran leader and an underrated defensive player. During his four years with the Clippers, he’s been one of their most dependable players.

Redick would be a great pickup for any team needing an additional boost to their backcourt. While he may be heading into the twilight years of his career, he is still producing at a high enough level to really help a team looking to make some noise in the playoffs.

Andre Iguodala

Just like with the Clippers’ dilemma, paying Curry and Durant might not leave enough money for the Warriors to re-sign Andre Iguodala. Since coming to the Warriors four years ago, Iguodala has seen his scoring drop to career lows, but his shooting percentages are way up and he’s reinvented himself as one of the NBA’s best sixth men. There’s no question he could still be starting for other teams, he just wouldn’t be enjoying the same team success he has in Oakland.

This season, Iguodala shot a career high 52.8 percent from the field, and his 36.2 percent from beyond the arc is his second best. He remains one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. He is also a respected veteran presence.

There hasn’t been much indication, if any at all, on what he may decide to in the summer. It’s likely that other teams will come calling with offers that Golden State won’t be able to match. He would be a boost to any team’s bench, and some may even offer him a starting position. If the Warriors go on to win the title this year, it might be hard to imagine him leaving such a good situation. It also might be hard to envision him turning down what could be the last major contract of his career.

Gordon Hayward

In his seventh year in the league, Gordon Hayward broke out this season. Named to the All-Star team for the first time, he averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting from the field, good enough for second-best in his career.

At 26 years old, Hayward is entering the prime years of his career. He has been rumored to be one of the top targets for the Boston Celtics, who will have the cap space to offer him a max contract. Hayward would go a long way to helping the Celtics realize their goal of competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.

But if the Utah Jazz are hoping to build upon their success this season, retaining Hayward is a must. The Jazz have a nice young core in place and Hayward is a part of that. He’s young enough that when the Jazz are really ready to compete in the West, he can still be a major piece. It will likely come down to those two teams, and which situation he believes he has the best shot at winning.

Danilo Gallinari

The Denver Nuggets are in the midst of a youth movement, albeit one that almost got them into the playoffs. Danilo Gallinari has been one of the elder statesmen, so to speak, the past couple of seasons. He’s also been one of their most productive players who should have his share of suitors this summer.

Still rebounding from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2013-14 season, Gallinari turned in one of his most productive seasons to date. His 18.2 points per game is the second highest mark for his career. His 44.7 percent shooting from the field, and 38.9 percent from downtown are also the best since his rookie year. The 63 games he played in are the most he’s played since 2012-13.

Provided that he can continue to stay healthy and show no lingering effects from his injury, he is well suited to today’s NBA game. He can play both forward positions and can stretch the floor against opposing defenses. He is a capable starter and if he doesn’t remain in Denver, he’d be a great addition to a playoff team looking to add another impact guy.

Dewayne Dedmon

Each year there are a few players who are able to use their playoff success to parlay their way to a decent sized contract. Dewayne Dedmon is looking to be one of those players. Having played sparingly for the Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Orlando Magic the past few years, Dedmon finally found consistent playing time with the San Antonio Spurs this season.

He averaged career highs in points (5.1), rebounds (6.5), and field goal percentage (62.2 percent). Modest numbers, but his impact goes beyond stats. In San Antonio, he emerged as one of the better rim protectors in the league. Gregg Popovich entrusted him with the starting center spot in the playoffs, and he responded well.

He’s solidified himself as a legit starting big man who can anchor a team’s defense. There aren’t many of those around anymore. The Spurs would be wise to keep him, but they’ll most likely have to fight off other teams. In any case, he is definitely in line for a much bigger pay day, the first of his career.

Joe Ingles

Speaking of players whose playoff performance leads to a big pay day, Joe Ingles is currently number one on that list. Cut from the Clippers three years ago, Ingles toiled in relative obscurity since arriving in Utah, until this season and playoffs.

Ingles was one of the Jazz’ most dependable players and a key reason why they were able to knock off the Clippers in the playoffs. He was their top three-point threat at 44.1 percent. He is also a perfect fit for the modern game. He is able to play both forward spots and is a good enough defender to guard multiple positions.

With the Jazz needing to make some decisions on Hayward and starting point guard George Hill, it’s possible some other team sneaks in and throws Ingles an offer the Jazz might not be willing or able to match. He might be best as a spark off the bench, but in the right situation, he could be a starter. He’s definitely an impact guy and will help whoever he ends up with, whether it’s Utah or someone else.

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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