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The Top Remaining Free Agents

Spencer Davies breaks down the best of the remaining free agents. There are a few difference makers out there.

Spencer Davies

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The NBA has officially hit its dead period. The summer started out with a bang and a ton of craziness, but it’s certainly calmed down. Aside from the shocking news about Kyrie Irving a few weeks back, there has been little to no offseason activity as of late in the league.

The market is dwindling at a rapid rate. Players who bet on themselves won’t get the payday they’re expecting, and neither will the guys who simply entered the field because their contracts expired.

However, with that being said, there are still plenty of free agents left for teams to pick from if they need some roster help. It’s not a crop of franchise-altering names, but some can be solid starters and others could potentially bolster a bench. Here’s a list (a star denotes a restricted free agent) of six names left who can make a difference for a team.

Nerlens Noel – Dallas Mavericks*

It is August 6 and there hasn’t been a peep about any contract talks with Noel outside of the qualifying offer his team extended to him in late June. According to reports, Dallas wasn’t even close to an agreement because of the 23-year-old’s desire to sign a maximum deal.

There are two problems with this on Noel’s part:

  1. Nobody has made an offer to him period, so he can forget over $100 million.
  2. He doesn’t hold the leverage in this case. There aren’t many teams left who can pay him that much, and if by some miracle one does, the Mavericks can match the offer.

Dallas could pay him roughly $4.2 million next season if nobody bites, which seems to be the most likely scenario as the days continue to pass. If Noel and his agent don’t budge, we’ll have a stalemate that could turn into a potential hold out entering next season. It’s a complicated situation.

It’s not like Noel doesn’t have starting caliber talent. He’s an excellent defender and rim protector. He’s showed that he can finish inside in traffic. He’s got an underrated ability finding the outside man from in the paint.

Clearly, the injury history and lack of offensive versatility have hurt Noel this summer. If he’s going to expect teams to trust him with a commitment such as a max contract, the fourth year big man is going to have to stay durable for the majority of the season and make more strides as a dual threat center.

Mason Plumlee – Denver Nuggets*

Still entering his prime, Plumlee has plenty to offer a team interested. He has an all-around game that should have coaches chomping at the bit to bring him in. Oddly enough, outside of the qualifying offer from the Nuggets, nobody has made a bid.
In all likelihood, it’s because he’s a non-factor outside. The rebounding could use some work as well. Other than that, though, there’s not too much to pick on.

Plumlee’s an athletic big with the ability to keep possessions alive and provide a boost in energy. He also has the versatility to either start or come off the bench to anchor a second unit.

If there continues to be a lack of interest among the rest of the league, Plumlee will probably take his $4.6 million for a year with Denver and look for a better deal in 2018.

JaMychal Green – Memphis Grizzlies*

Maintaining the trend of young big men not receiving attention, Green is one that can actually offer an outside threat. He’s a tad small at power forward at 6-foot-9, 227 pounds, but definitely plays bigger than his size.

If you want a frontcourt player that’s physical, can rebound and has the ability to shoot the three consistently, Green’s your guy. The Grizzlies have extended a $2.8 million qualifying offer to him and can match any team if they want to give him a contract.

Nikola Mirotic – Chicago Bulls*

A sharpshooting stretch four, Mirotic has expressed interest in staying in the Windy City. The Bulls have indicated the same and have tendered a qualifying offer worth around $7.2 million.

Mirotic’s three-ball game fell off last season after a tremendous showing in his second season, but he slightly improved his overall field goal percentage with more success within the arc.

Michael Beasley – Milwaukee Bucks

The first unrestricted free agent on the list. Despite having nine years of experience in the NBA, Beasley is still only 28 years old. There’s a lot of success to be had yet for him.

In the six games he started for Jason Kidd last season, he averaged 15.3 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 61 percent. He doesn’t take a lot of threes, but he converted on 41.9 percent of them, for what it’s worth.

Shabazz Muhammad – Minnesota Timberwolves

On July 3, the Wolves decided to rescind their qualifying offer and make Muhammad an unrestricted free agent. This could easily be the proverbial diamond-in-the-rough pickup for a team.

Muhammad is a pure scorer who can slash and give you a corner three threat. Since he’s only 24 and has plenty of potential to reach still, it shouldn’t be too long before a team comes forth and offers him something.

The remaining field isn’t too enticing to teams around the league, but there’s still talent left to be signed. Here’s a list of the all of the rest available in free agency.

Other Notable Free Agents:

Center
Alex Len (restricted), Andrew Bogut, Jeff Withey, Donatas Motiejunas, Roy Hibbert, Tiago Splitter, Festus Ezeli

Power Forward
Jared Sullinger, David Lee, Brandon Bass, Thomas Robinson, Kris Humphries, Jordan Hill

Small Forward
Mike Dunleavy Jr., Derrick Williams, Gerald Green, Dante Cunningham, Metta World Peace, Brandon Rush, James Michael McAdoo, K.J. McDaniels

Guard
Deron Williams, Monta Ellis, Tony Allen, Leandro Barbosa, Randy Foye, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Anthony Morrow, C.J. Watson, Beno Udrih, Isaiah Canaan

Although most of the free agency fireworks went off long ago, sometimes, it’s an under-the-radar signing late in the summer that can make a big difference for a team. It’ll be interesting to see where some of the potential difference-makers end up.

 

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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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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NBA AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs

Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Joel Brigham

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This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.

Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.

The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.

For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.

That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.

The Eastern Conference

Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.

In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.

Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.

Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.

The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.

What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.

That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.

The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.

The Western Conference

Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.

The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.

Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.

The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.

That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.

Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.

The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.

Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.

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