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NBA AM: Free Agents Seeking Redemption

Every player enters free agency in pursuit of a major payday, but some also seek redemption.

Lang Greene

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With the salary cap increasing significantly this summer, rising to the neighborhood of $92 million, there will be plenty of cash for franchises to spend. With piggy-banks being opened, there will undoubtedly be a slew of guys in line to receive paydays that would only have been considered pipe dreams just a few years ago.

Players are set to cash in and on the flip side, franchises that have been tight against the restricted cap will now have a bit of breathing room to plot the course of their respective futures.

The NBA is a business and making money is the primary objective for players and league owners. However, there are times when a player embarks on their free agent journey with a need to redeem themselves and turn their career around.

Here are some of the guys hitting free agency this summer on a road to redemption:

Dwight Howard
Free Agent Type:
Player Option

Just a few seasons ago, Howard was the marquee free agent available on the market. How quickly does time (and value) change when it comes to modern day athletes? Howard has seemingly gone from one of the Houston Rockets’ cornerstones to on the outside looking in at the organization’s future plans. Although Houston managed to reach a Western Conference Finals with Howard in the fold, the 2016 season was filled with inconsistency, a coaching change and rumors of Howard and All-Star guard James Harden struggling to play with each other on the floor.

Howard was once one of the league’s most dominant big men and while still a nightly double-double threat on the low block, his value has diminished considerably. But if he chooses to not exercise his player option for the 2017 season, which most expect, he’ll get an opportunity to choose the destination that helps get his career back on track.

Ty Lawson
Free Agent Type:
Unrestricted

Just a few seasons ago, Lawson was routinely putting up solid nightly box scores while serving as a floor general in Denver. But after a few off-court incidents, the Nuggets traded Lawson to Houston, where the veteran looked like a shell of his former self. The Houston experiment ended shortly after the trade deadline and the veteran finished the campaign with the Pacers, playing less than 15 minutes per appearance.

It wasn’t too long ago Lawson was considered a top-15 point guard in the game. Was the recent decline a brief hiccup or an indication that the tailspin won’t ever end? That’s a legitimate question surrounding Lawson now.

Lance Stephenson
Free Agent Type:
Team Option

There were some who believed Stephenson was snubbed as an All-Star during his final season in Indiana a few years ago. But his tenures with the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers did little to continue the momentum as Stephenson flopped in both places. But a midseason trade to Memphis presented Stephenson with a chance to regain his form. The veteran swingman averaged 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 26 appearances with the Grizzlies to close out the season. Stephenson’s performance was admirable because of Memphis’ plethora of injuries and he helped stabilize the wing on demand.

The Grizzlies will head into next season with a new coach, so it’s yet to be determined if the team will pick up his $9 million team option. If not, he will head to free agency seeking another opportunity to prove he should be considered an above-average performer.

Josh Smith
Free Agent Type:
Unrestricted

Since Smith left the comfy confines of Atlanta, his career has deteriorated in rapid fashion. At his height, Smith was a borderline All-Star and a player who was routinely in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. But over the past few years, Smith has struggled to find a fit. From Detroit to Houston to Los Angeles and back to Houston again, Smith has transitioned from a 35-minute a night guy to a role player hoping to have his number called.

Teams won’t be knocking down his door at the start of free agency, but squads looking for a low-risk, high-reward type of investment with plenty of playoff experience may soon find their way to Mr. Smith. But let’s see if he still has something left in the tank or if the recent decline is a permanent movement.

Roy Hibbert
Free Agent Type:
Unrestricted

Hibbert has descended from being an All-Star level performer on a title contender to a guy struggling to scrap up more than 20 minutes in the rotation on a lottery-bound team. The league is changing and plodding big men without an outside shot and inconsistent rebounding results are not of premium value. But Hibbert does offer rim protection and, in the right situation, could once again carve out a valuable niche.

While the free agent riches won’t necessarily be on the table for Hibbert this summer, there will be more than a few suitors looking to improve their interior depth that may decide to give the veteran an extended look.

 

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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Headlines

#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – The Final 60-Pick Mock

What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Steve Kyler

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What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Here is a final look at the 2020 Draft, and how it may play out in this final 60-pick Mock Draft of the 20202 NBA Draft process:

 

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