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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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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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