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The Top 10 Remaining NBA Free Agents

Jordan Hicks takes a look at some of the best available free agents left and what skills they have that may be needed by certain teams.

Jordan Hicks

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To say this offseason has been stellar would actually be an understatement at this point.

Considering all of the major trades, free agency decisions and player acquisitions, this past summer could go down as one of the best in the history of the league. With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard going to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook being dealt to the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat receiving Jimmy Butler in exchange for Josh Richardson, it’s easy to see how action-packed things have been.

With all of the movement in the league, there are still quite a few players available that have the ability to play a significant role for any team with title hopes – and this year features more parity between clubs in at least the last 10 years; unless you’ve been caught up researching College Football Futures, there are still some solid free agent names out there.

In this piece, Basketball Insiders will take a look at the top 10 players still available and the specific skill set they can bring to whatever team gives them a shot.

10) Trey Burke

A former collegiate National Player of the Year, Burke found success early on in his NBA career, fell out for a time, then fought his way back in.

Coming off one of his best seasons to date, Burke averaged 10.9 points and 2.7 assists for both the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks after moving to Texas by way of the Porzingis deal. His 2017-18 season with the Knicks was definitely a career year where he notched 12.8 points and 4.7 assists on 50.3 percent from the field.

Burke has often struggled with his lack of size and doesn’t necessarily make up for it with his less-than-impressive athleticism. Still, he remains one of the better backup point guard options available and would bring instant offensive ability off the bench. His defensive struggles have persisted throughout his career, but he does have the ability to create offense – whether it’s for himself or his teammates.

9) Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha is coming off two strong years in Utah. His play didn’t seem to lack with his rising age, but actually being available to play on a nightly basis was more-or-less an issue. He played a total of 88 games in two seasons and missed the entirety of Utah’s multi-round playoff run in 2017-18.

He will turn 35 this upcoming season, but his defense is still more than palatable. He also shot 43.6 percent from three on over six attempts per night – his best mark since the 2011-12 season and just shy of a career-high. He can’t play major minutes every night, but can still provide that three-and-D skill set that many teams need.

8) Jeremy Lin

Yes, Jeremy Lin is an NBA champion. Yes, he also didn’t play very much in the playoffs. Still, no one can pull that championship ring off his finger.

Despite the fact that Lin wasn’t too active for the Raptors in the playoffs, he can still play. Unfortunately, Lin still hasn’t found the same fire as the Lin-sanity of almost 10 years ago. This doesn’t mean he’s washed. With career averages of 11.6 points and 4.3 assists, Jeremy still has the tools to bolster the offensive unit of many NBA benches.

7) Lance Stephenson

An NBA viewers favorite (or least favorite) player since he blew into LeBron’s ear has seen his run alongside James come to an abrupt finish. Now that the Lakers have a more solidified roster, they no longer saw the need for Lance’s unique abilities on the court.

Stephenson doesn’t score particularly well, he’s not an all-world passer and he’s not even an elite defender. Lance is the hustle guy. He brings an insane amount of energy to the court when needed and has the ability – almost singlehandedly – to get a crowd totally enveloped at any given moment.

Please don’t misunderstand, Lance can still contribute in important ways. He’s coming off a year where he shot over 37 percent from three. He didn’t cause any issues in the locker room of a team that many assumed would implode. Still, the Lakers missed the playoffs. Stephenson definitely has the ability to do provide something positive for a number of teams, he just needs one that could use his special set of tools.

6) Jamal Crawford

Crawford is easily the oldest player on this list, and it appears father time has finally started to catch up to him. He played in 64 of the Sun’s regular-season games and logged his fewest points per game and least minutes per game since his rookie year back in 2000-01.

Despite these low marks, Crawford is still a more than capable bucket-getter. He’s made his career off strictly that. His increased age has, in essence, lowered his overall athleticism. So while he still has the handles to get himself open, his defense has continually slipped the past couple of seasons. Regardless, Crawford has still been spotted serving buckets this offseason in his Crawsover Pro-Am league. Any team that’s in need of someone who can score could us Jamal’s help.

5) Carmelo Anthony

Come on, don’t act surprised that Melo made this list. He is still an incredible talent that deserves a spot back in the league. His time with OKC taught him that he needed to change his game, and his short stint with Houston never made sense from the beginning.

Carmelo is still just 34 years old. He’s never averaged less than 13 points per game. He’s definitely lost some bounce but he’s still as strong as ever.

For Melo to find his way back into the league, he needs to take a page from Vince Carter’s book. He no longer has the ability to be the star of a team. He doesn’t even have the ability to be the second, third, fourth or maybe even fifth-best player. He needs to tighten up his defense and do all the little things that prominent role players do night in and night out like set screens, swing the ball and fill gaps on defense. You have to think some team out there will bring him on, and if at that point he proves he can change his game, he easily has two-plus years left in the NBA.

4) Kenneth Faried

The fact Faried hasn’t found a home yet despite his stellar play last season is absolutely baffling. When Clint Capela went down mid-season, the Rockets picked up Faried in hopes of not dropping off too far. Faried filled in incredibly well. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds and even had a career-high percentage from behind the arc at 35 percent.

The fact that Houston went away from Faried in their playoff run essentially showed that he wasn’t a part of their future. Kenneth is a high-energy guy that has the ability to bring a lot to any secondary frontcourt. He’s an elite rebounder, has incredibly bounce and strength and knows his spots on the floor. He’s aware of his strengths, doesn’t play to his weaknesses and stays rather mistake-free during his time on the court. Look for teams that need a backup big to come knocking on his door.

3) Iman Shumpert

Shumpert is a high-level defensive player. His offensive woes are partially masked due to his athleticism. He gets into passing lanes, is an above-average iso defender and has the ability to play above the rim if need be.

He’s bounced around the league since his departure from Cleveland, but he has championship pedigree, plenty of playoff experience and he’s still just 28 years old. He’s not the best shooter, but a career 34.8 percent from three isn’t what you’d call horrible. Any young team looking for solid veteran leadership should turn to Shumpert.

2) Shaun Livingston

If you want to talk about championship pedigree, no one has as many titles on this countdown as Mr. Livingston. And he wasn’t just riding the pine for Golden State these last few years. He was a major contributor to their bench unit and can be pointed to on many occasions for helping the Warriors stay competitive in close games.

He has incredible length for a point guard and stands 6-foot-7. His statistics don’t necessarily pop out, but he’s an admirable floor general and controls the offensive unit – especially against opposing benches – incredibly well. For as many years as he’s been in the league, it’s crazy to think he’s only 33 years old. Sure, his body is definitely giving in to wear-and-tear, but he is still a top-10 backup point guard in today’s league.

1) JR Smith

Just like many others on this list, Smith’s game is definitely declining with age. Unlike all other players on this list, JR virtually sat out the entirety of last season as Cleveland opted for growth and gave minutes to younger players.

JR is as fresh as he’s ever been and still possesses the most sought after role-player traits available: Defense and three-point shooting. It’s almost certain teams have been ringing his line, but he’s likely looking for the right fit. He already has a championship ring, so it’s unclear just what kind of opportunity JR wants. Regardless, it is highly likely we see Smith in an NBA uniform before the season starts. If not, he’ll be one of the first players picked up mid-season when a team has a gap they need to fill.

Jordan Hicks is an NBA writer based out of Salt Lake City. He is a former college athlete and varsity sports official. Find him on Twitter @JordanHicksNBA.

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Results-Based Mental Performance: Plan B

Jake Rauchbach breaks down how players can improve their on-court games with off-court tools during this hiatus

Jake Rauchbach

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For players looking to remain sharp, getting in on-court work right now can prove to be a challenge. Considering the social distancing and lockdown currently in effect, players and teams alike may be forced to look outside the box to employ other sorts of ways to maintain an edge.

Integrated player development tools that touch upon the deeper level of the mind could provide the answer.

With limited skill development time, mental tools that aim to maintain and refine player’s instincts, habits and routines could hold the key to producing improvement during this on-court hiatus.

In this column, we are going to highlight four different ways to train the mind (And Game) to remain sharp.

Visualization

Science has shown that there is a direct connection between thoughts, emotions and the body. This means when players are relegated to primarily off-court activities, there could be no better way to train, than visualization.

Players that I have worked with in the past who have employed visualization, have often produced mirror-like on-court results.

For instance, during my time at Temple University, there was a player who pictured himself stealing the ball in the full court and then going down to dunk the ball. Before visualizing this, he had not completed this play during the game. After doing so, he began to repeatedly complete this play during the games. This is just one example, of how powerful visualization can be, and there are many more. This type of phenomenon has become the new normal for the community of MindRight Pro community players. What we are finding, is there is a direct connection between internal picturing and external outcomes.

This is one of the reasons why, visualization is such a beneficial tool to use, especially when players are not able to get-in adequate court-time. At this point, making this apart of the player’s daily routine should be a no brainer.

Affirmations

Affirmations have long been used as a way to affirm mindset. For players, whose seasons have abruptly come to an end, and where on-court time has been limited, training mindset to stay sharp is VITAL.

Consistent use of affirmations helps players hone their very own personal mission statement. If players can stay on a mission now, they can perceivably do so through any future experience.

Regular check-ins help to keep players on a mission, and headed in the right direction.

Breath Work

Leveraging breath as a way to increase awareness and performance is a pillar of virtually every type of self-help and high-performance modality.

Being aware of one’s breath is very powerful. Breathwork has also long been used as a vehicle to bring people into the present moment. The present moment is where high-performance lives. For players, there may be nothing more important for their game than this.

This is a big-time opportunity for athletes to train on-court performance via present moment awareness. We are talking about training breath as a proxy for improvement.

Ultimately, on-court performance all boils down to present moment awareness. Without a strong handle on this aspect of consciousness, players will hold themselves back from the best version of themselves. For players, training this aspect now could reap big-time rewards when basketball resumes.

Meditation

Of course, we can provide this list without talking about meditation. Meditation is like the anchor for all other mind-based methods. With the increasing number of options for meditation, players should have no problem finding resources in this regard.

This being said, there are a ton of different types of meditation. It does not matter which one a player chooses, the most important thing is that he/she is consistent.

Consistency moves the dial, and that is super important right now. Players who consistently train the mind during their time off the court; Give themselves an edge once they’re cleared to be back on the court in the full.

Check out Jake Rauchbach’s High-Performance Mindfulness podcast here.

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NBA Daily: The Hot Seat – Western Conference

Matt John takes a look at head coaches and general managers in the Western Conference whose jobs might be on the line.

Matt John

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Back on Monday, Basketball Insiders took a look at which personnel from the Eastern Conference could be in danger of losing their jobs. In case you missed it, check it out here.

Previously, we discussed the notion that there’s always one guy you’d never suspect to lose his job to get hit by the Hot Seat – Kenny Atkinson’s mutual parting a few weeks back was just that.

Before we dive into the jobs on the line in the Western Conference, there’s something else that must be pointed out about the Hot Seat. It’s true that when it comes to job performance in the NBA, most of what determines your fate stems from the question: “What have you done for me lately?”

Joe Dumars’ time as the general manager of the Detroit Pistons is a good example of this. Outside of infamously drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony in 2003, Dumars had a near-perfect track record after taking over from 2000 to 2006. Following the departure of franchise icon Grant Hill, Dumars did the following:

– Acquire Ben Wallace in a sign-and-trade with Orlando for Hill. Wallace then went on to become one of the best rim protectors of his era and all-time
– Brought in Chauncey Billups on a cheap deal just before Billups became Mr. Big Shot
– Traded Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton, who became a perfect complement next to Billups in the frontcourt
– Drafted Mehmet Okur, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell, all productive players that were taken after the lottery
– Replaced Rick Carlisle with Larry Brown
– Basically stole Rasheed Wallace mid-season

Naturally, this created a great era of basketball for Detroit. They won a championship, went to two consecutive finals, and went to six consecutive conference finals from 2003-08. Not many can say they were able to win a championship after losing a superstar and failing to draft one when they had the chance, but Dumars can.

But then came the fall of 2008: That bred the awful Billups-for-Iverson deal. Paying top dollar for the ill-fated Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva contracts. Putting together a frontcourt of Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. If Dumars didn’t have an incredible run earlier as general manager, how long would he have lasted after putting the team in mediocrity?

Given the massive amount of franchise success to his name, he kept his job long after things nosedived for Detroit. It’s that same sort of success that guarantees leaders like Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle will keep their job for as long as they want, even if they are sitting at home when the playoffs start.

The following people are on the hot seat not because they haven’t necessarily experienced success with their team — but because they haven’t had enough to keep their job should they fail in the situation they find themselves in now.

“Figure It Out… And Quickly Now”

Mike D’Antoni — Houston Rockets

D’Antoni has a lot of success both with the Rockets and as an NBA head coach in general. So much so that if he retired right here and now, he’d make a case for the best coach to never win a championship. Even so, the pressure on him to get Houston over the hump is stronger than it’s ever been.

Obviously, going to the small-ball lineup is something D’Antoni has no issue deploying. In fact, he embraces that gameplan. But even this may be too tall of a task for him. In the past, he used perimeter guys to soak up minutes at the power forward and center spots, but he usually had at least one pure big in his rotation. Now he doesn’t.

With Robert Covington and Clint Capela out, the Rockets don’t have any rotation players taller than 6-foot-8. In fact, the only one who’s actually measured at that height is Jeff Green, who was not only cut from Utah mid-season but spent most of the year riding the pine before Houston inquired about his services. Can you really call it small-ball if you have no bigs to begin with?

D’Antoni wouldn’t be here if this experiment was definitively working — they’re in the mix, but certainly not full-on contenders at this moment. For a while there, it looked like it was. Houston won seven of its first eight games, coming with notable wins coming against the Lakers, Boston (twice) and Utah. They then followed it up with a four-game losing streak with losses at the hands of New York, Charlotte and Orlando.

A record of 8-5 honestly isn’t too bad with such a drastic mid-season change, in retrospect. Russell Westbrook was playing some of the best basketball of his career, while James Harden was a little more off than usual. Still, the mixed results were scary given what the Rockets have ahead of them if the playoffs eventually come.

If Houston doesn’t get to the championship round or, at the very least, go further than they did last season, D’Antoni might get the lion’s share of the blame. Either way, D’Antoni’s contract extension talks with owner Tilman Fertitta didn’t go… smoothly either. As bad as that all may sound, with his reputation, he wouldn’t have much trouble finding another job.

“We Cannot Lose Another Franchise Player… We Just Can’t”

Ryan Saunders/Scott Layden – Minnesota Timberwolves

First, some props are due for both Saunders and Layden. In Layden’s case, he should get the credit for stealing Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez away from the Denver Nuggets. Then as a follow-up, he acquired D’Angelo Russell to appease Karl-Anthony Towns and give him the best scoring guard he’s ever had.

For Saunders, he’s integrated them pretty well mid-season. Beasley and Hernangomez are both playing excellent basketball right now for the Timberwolves. Russell is doing his usual thing. Appearances, finally, are on the rise for the talented squad.

Has that changed Minnesota’s fortunes one bit? Nope! Since the Timberwolves made their mid-season roster shakeup, they’ve gone 3-10, which puts them at 19-45, good for second-worst and only ahead of the injury-decimated Golden State Warriors.

It’s numbers like those that make the Wolves’ promising start back in October feel like an eternity ago. It wouldn’t matter if the season resumed or not, the Timberwolves weren’t making the playoffs. Worse, Towns was not happy with the team’s lack of success for most of the season. What Minnesota has to ask themselves is how long will he be willing to put up with such a lack of progress.

Bringing Russell aboard was the smart, obvious, and let’s face it, inevitable move. Pairing your franchise player with his friend has brought his spirits up, but the continued losing might not indefinitely postpone these feelings forever.

The real pressure on Layden and Saunders doesn’t come from only how the Timberwolves do, but how they fare against their competition next year. Excluding the conference’s top seven, their younger competitors — New Orleans, Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix — are further along in developing their team than Minnesota. Worse, Golden State and Portland are also going to be much healthier next season. Making the playoffs in the Western Conference is going to be quite the mountain to climb, especially for Minnesota.

If they can’t get over that hump, Minnesota will have to do something to keep Towns happy. That might start with getting rid of Layden and Saunders.

This list may be short, but that’s because it’s hard to see other coaches and general managers being put on the hot seat right now. Ether because their seasons have gone well, their seasons have gone badly for reasons that were out of control, or there’s too much loyalty there for anyone to get fired.

The one coach who might eventually be on the hot seat is Quin Snyder. He’s done an excellent job for Utah over these past several years, so his one hiccup shouldn’t be enough to put his job in jeopardy. That’s more of a wait-and-see situation. Even if it doesn’t get better, it took several years for Toronto to dismiss Dwane Casey because he did so much for that organization.

Oklahoma City’s season has gone so surprisingly and enjoyably well that Billy Donovan’s job should be just fine. Some will blame Neil Olshey for what happened to Portland this season, but with all that happened with Jusuf Nurkic and their other injuries, what were his options?

Alvin Gentry would have made this list, but it wasn’t his fault that Zion Williamson missed most of the season. Now that the generational prospect is back, New Orleans has most definitely turned a corner and went 11-8 since his debut. It might be too late both due to the injury bug and COVID-19, but their improvement over the last few months should make Gentry’s job safe for now.

Luke Walton or Vlade Divac would also be prime candidates for this list, but who knows what’s going on in Sacramento’s collective head?

Right now, it looks like a lot more jobs in the Western Conference are safe than not at the moment. That can all change in a short amount of time, but we don’t know anything, really. Here’s to hoping that no one will lose their job in this league – especially at a time like this.

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NBA Daily: Under The Radar – Western Conference

David Yapkowitz takes a look at players from the Western Conference that deserve their due for stepping up this season despite receiving less attention.

David Yapkowitz

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NBA basketball is on an indefinite hiatus for the foreseeable future, but here at Basketball Insiders, we’ve still got some content to keep you entertained.

We kicked off last week with a look at some of the top upcoming free agents around the league, started this week with coaches and executives who could be on the hot seat, and we’re transitioning into looking at players who may have been flying under the radar this season.

There are various reasons why a player could be flying under the radar. Playing in a small market, not being on a playoff team, etc. Whatever the reason may be, here’s a look at some of the players in the Western Conference who have been under the radar this season.

Chris Paul – Oklahoma City Thunder

With all the attention Chris Paul has gotten throughout his career, it’s funny to think of him being on an under the radar list. But he really hasn’t gotten his proper due for this season he’s putting together. At the start of the season, the Thunder looked like a fringe playoff team at the absolute best. Thanks to Paul’s leadership, they were in contention for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and surely would have given anyone a tough opening series.

In his 15th season, Paul’s numbers are right around his career averages. He was putting up 17.7 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.6 steals. His 48.9 percent shooting from the field is the third-highest mark in his career. As of publishing, the Thunder were actually ahead of the Houston Rockets in the standings; the team that traded Paul last summer.

Torrey Craig – Denver Nuggets

Craig is in third NBA season, all with the Nuggets. He went to a small NCAA Division 1 school (University of South Carolina Upstate) and spent the early portion of his career overseas in Australia and New Zealand. He originally began his NBA career on a two-way contract, earning a standard contract after his first year and now becoming a mainstay in the Nuggets rotation.

His numbers have gone up every year he’s been in the NBA. This season he was shooting career-bests 46.2 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line. What has really stood out about him, however, is his defensive ability. He’s quietly become one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. On a team full of offensive firepower like the Nuggets, his skill-set is a much-needed asset.

Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

There was a time when McLemore was a lottery pick and supposed to be one of the future building blocks for the Sacramento Kings. That didn’t end up panning out and when he joined the Rockets on a non-guaranteed contract this past offseason, it was widely seen as his last shot to prove himself as an NBA rotation player.

He has certainly answered the call this season. He emerged as an invaluable member of the Rockets rotation. He established himself as a legitimate 3&D player. Early in the season when his shot wasn’t falling, he was still contributing on the defensive end. As of now, he’s shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three-point range. He’s been a starter for Houston and he’s come off the bench. He’s certainly done enough to earn himself another contract in the offseason.

De’Anthony Melton – Memphis Grizzlies

Melton played in a total of 50 games last season as a rookie for the Phoenix Suns. This season, he was on pace to surpass that. In his second year in the league, he’s become a key piece for a Grizzlies team that was hanging on to the eighth spot in the West. He has a versatile skill set and he can play multiple positions.

Melton was putting up 8.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He’s a legit combo guard. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and running the offense. He is also a strong defensive player. There is a lot of young talent on the Grizzlies and Melton is perhaps the most underrated one.

Landry Shamet – Los Angeles Clippers

Shamet had an immediate impact as a rookie last season, especially in the Clippers entertaining first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. Last season, he started 23 of the 25 games with the Clippers after the trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. He began this season as a starter, but has since transitioned into a bench role.

His numbers and minutes have dropped off since the arrival of Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, but he still is a valuable part of the team. He’s averaging 9.7 points per game and shooting 39.2 percent from the three-point line. He can play both on and off-ball. He is especially adept at moving without the ball to get open.

Georges Niang – Utah Jazz

Niang started his time with the Utah Jazz on a two-way contract and has gradually worked his way into the Jazz rotation. When Utah waived Jeff Green back in December, Niang was the beneficiary of increased playing time. He has fit in well as a small-ball four-man who can space the floor.

He’s shooting a career-best 41.6 percent from the three-point line and earlier this year was among the top three-point shooters percentage-wise in the league. He comes into the game, plays his role and doesn’t try to do too much. A key utility guy who does what is asked of him and can contribute to winning.

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