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NBA AM: The Best Of What’s Left In Free Agency

A look at some of the best NBA free agents remaining on the market with a couple weeks left before training camp.

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The Best Of Who’s Left:  For most teams, their players have started to filter into the practice facility started to play pick-up and get into a routine. A lot of rosters are fleshing out, and the amount of open spots for free agents is fairly slim.

There are a few notable free agents still on the market, and it’s looking less and less likely that they may land a spot before camps open. Here is the latest.

Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe and his camp swung for the fences in restricted free agency demanding a max level contract from the Phoenix Suns and didn’t get one. To say the situation between Bledsoe and the Suns is strained is likely an understatement, but the Suns believe they’ll have Bledsoe in camp either after he signs his Qualifying Offer or if he finally caves and signs their four-year $48 million offer.

The word from Bledsoe’s side is that he is likely signing the Qualifying Offer and playing out his contract to get to unrestricted free agency next summer. However, there is no rush in doing that. As soon as he signs he is basically locked into Phoenix and that would remove any chance of a trade out of Phoenix.

His camp has gone to great lengths to play up the “unrepairable” rift between Bledsoe and the Suns; however the Suns don’t seem overly concerned with that story line.

Trades involving Bledsoe are not out of the question, it would ultimately come down to what Phoenix gets in return. The other part is there are not many teams out there that view Bledsoe as favorably as Phoenix does, especially not enough to offer more than four-years and $48 million.

If Bledsoe genuinely wants a bigger payday, he may have to play out the season to get it and it seems for now, that Phoenix is fine with that plan.

If Bledsoe does sign his Qualifying Offer, he will gain the ability to veto any trade, so he will have a lot more control over his future if he sign the Offer.

Ramon Sessions

A couple of teams have been trying to secure Sessions before camp and word is he may be closing in on a deal.

The Houston Rockets had expressed a lot of interest in Sessions, but couldn’t get a deal done through Milwaukee. They ultimately agreed to a trade for Jason Terry instead.

A Sessions deal could be coming in the next few days, so he may be coming off the free agent board shortly.

Ray Allen

Ray has no shortage of suitors. Virtually every potential contender in the NBA has been linked to Allen in one way or another.

Sources close to the process say he still remains non-committed to playing in the upcoming season and until he decides he wants to play pegging him to one team or another seems unrealistic.

It’s believed Ray may look to join a team into the season, and avoid training camp and the tedious exhibition schedule teams endure in October.

Ray is unlikely to command much more than the league minimum in a salary, so waiting a few months may be more valuable to Ray than signing and getting into camp.

Alonzo Gee

Technically Alonzo isn’t a free agent yet, as the trade that will send him to Sacramento in exchange for Jason Terry can’t be consummated until after September 15. Once the deal goes through Gee is expected to be waived and while it’s possible a team picks up his $3 million non-guaranteed contract in the waiver process. It’s more likely that Alonzo hits free agency.

Word is Alonzo is great shape and ready to play, and will be looking for a chance to log minutes.

A team to keep an eye on is the LA Lakers. Gee had his best seasons in the NBA under head coach Byron Scott and the Lakers have a real need at the small forward spot.

The 6’6 Gee is a little undersized for the three height-wise, but has played some of his best basketball at the three spot.

Michael Beasley

Beasley continues to be one of the last kids standing on the playground. The LA Lakers have taken a long look at Beasley, but it’s looking more and more likely that Beasley may not get signed.

The word from Beasley’s camp is that he has really put in some solid work this summer and is simply looking for a chance to play. Beasley is still being paid by the Phoenix Suns by virtue of a buyout, so it’s more about fit for Beasley than anything.

His camp understands that if he lands somewhere and flames out, that his career in the NBA may be finished, so there is some deliberateness to the process.

It is very possible that Beasley is not on a roster when camp opens, and looks for opportunities as the season progresses and injuries start to mount.

As things stand today a deal with the Lakers is still possible, it just does not seem likely.

Andray Blatche

Blatche is arguably the best unrestricted free agent left on the board. However, his name isn’t connected with anyone.

Blatche played well in the World Cup, so it’s possible he lands an international deal if a NBA job doesn’t open up.

Like Beasley, Blatche is still being paid by the Washington Wizards who amnestied him with several years left on his deal. Blatche will be paid $8.4 million by Washington this season, so there is no urgency for him to agree to something that doesn’t make sense for him.

It’s possible that Blatche opens the season as a free agent and sign somewhere after an injury.

The Brooklyn Nets still have a cap hold and rights to Blatche, so a return to Brooklyn isn’t a stretch either.

Emeka Okafor

Okafor might be the most proven center on the board, however he is still rehabbing from a disc injury that claimed his season last year.

Word is Okafor has made a ton of progress, but isn’t ready physically for training camp. He is expected to explore options in January once he’s a little further down the road.

Okafor is unlikely to be in camp with anyone, but it does seem like he wants to play this season, the question is which team lands him and how much will he cost?

NBA teams that will play exhibition games aboard will open Training Camps on the September 27. The rest of the league will open camps on September 29 with media days and orientation.

Silver Comments On Atlanta Mess:  The Atlanta Hawks are trying to dig out from under a series of scathing and damaging stories that started with an e-mail in 2012 from majority owner Bruce Levenson, which re-surfaced after comments from GM Danny Ferry sparked an internal investigation and review over racially charged comments made during a phone briefing with minority owners.

As the details of the events have become public, the looming question is would Ferry be fired by the Hawks, and while all indications are that he won’t be. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver put his two cents in, making public comments for the first time since this story surfaced; saying that he didn’t think the situation warranted Ferry being fired.

“The discipline of a team employee is typically determined by the team, and in this case the Hawks hired a prestigious Atlanta law firm to investigate the circumstances of Danny Ferry’s clearly inappropriate and unacceptable remarks,” Silver said to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. “In my view, those comments, taken alone, do not merit his losing his job.

“It’s a question of context … These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is – and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

Levenson’s share of the Hawks is up for sale, and it’s believed the team will command a sale price north of $700 million.

League sources say there seems to be a desire for the entire franchise to be sold given the rocky and tumultuous history the current ownership group has, however it’s unclear if the current minority owners would be forced to sell their stake if they cannot buyout Levenson on their own.

There have been reports that former Hawks star Dominque Wilkins is involved with a group trying to buy the team, there is also talk that another New York based investment banker is eying the club as well.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has said he’s heard from almost a half-dozen billionaires when the news of the franchise being available surfaced, so there does not appear to be any shortage of interested buyers.

The Hawks have a fairly iron clad arena lease that runs through the 2017-2018 season.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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