Top 20 free agents still on the market

Top 20 free agents still on the market

There wasn’t much money available in the free agent market this season, and that message got through to players — they were grabbing the cash in a Piranha-like feeding frenzy starting on July 1. More than 50 players agreed to contracts in the first five days of free agency, and more than half of those were one-year contracts.

That’s bad news for anyone without a chair as the music stops — there is not much money out there for the guys still on the free agent market. Restricted free agents, in particular, have found the market dry and now have almost no leverage (every player can’t use the Kings as leverage, although they may try).

Those restricted free agents dominate the top of our list of the 20 best players still available as of Friday morning. If your team is looking to round out their roster, these are they guys they are considering, and most are going to sign for a lot less than they expected.

1. Clint Capela (Houston Rockets). He’s a max or near max player but there have been no offers for the restricted free agent because Rockets GM Daryl Morey made it clear he will match any offer and bring Capela back. That has left Capela with no leverage. Capela averaged 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game last season (with a 24.5 PER), plus was a crucial part of the Rockets starting lineup and switching defense (because he can handle himself on the perimeter fairly well, plus protect the rim). The Rockets were 4 points per 100 better with him on the floor, and he was a big part of their playoff run. Houston needs to make a fair offer, low-ball him and he can play for the qualifying offer then walk as a free agent in a year.

2. Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics). He’s frustrated that no offers sheets have come in that would force the Celtics to match (he’s a restricted free agent), and “hurt and disgusted” by the fact the Celtics have not not made a big bid (the two sides, have talked, despite reports). Boston is letting the market set the price, and Smart isn’t seeing what he expected. Smart is one of the better defensive two guards in the league who can guard one through three. He can switch, he plays with a high motor and gets loose balls, he can get steals. But on the other end of the court, you can help off him and not guard him on the perimeter, daring him to shoot. He wanted more than the $12 million a year or so the Celtics had offered, now he’s likely going to take a lot less.

3. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls). UPDATE: He was the one restricted free agent able to use the Sacramento Kings as leverage — he has signed a four-year, $80 million offer sheet with the Kings. Will the Bulls match? LaVine has a world of potential, but his game is based on athleticism and he is coming off an ACL surgery, then had to be shut down last season with knee tendonitis. It’s a concern, but if healthy he has the tools to be a quality two guard in the NBA.

4. Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks). Coming off two ACL surgeries, interest in Parker has been lukewarm (the Kings reportedly have had talks, but nothing came of them yet). He’s a versatile scorer who was a 20-point-a-game guy before the second surgery. That scoring made up for his poor defense in the past. Expect the Bucks to keep him, the only question is at what price and for how many years (Parker may want a short contract to prove himself and get back out on the market).

5. Isaiah Thomas (Los Angeles Lakers). His fall from near max player to today has been hard to watch (or imagine from when he was with the Celtics). However, the combination of his hip injury that sidelined him for the first half of last season, and perceived attitude problems in Cleveland that helped lead to a trade, has teams hesitant. He likely will have to take a one-year deal for a few million — maybe the minimum — and prove he deserves more money.

6. Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers). He’s a solid big man who averaged 14.3 points, and 9 rebounds a game with a very efficient 19.2 PER. However, teams are not looking for more traditional centers, and the Blazer have Zach Collins so the market has been dry. Expect him to work out a deal to stay in Portland.

7. Wayne Ellington (Miami Heat). Every team could use more shooting, and Ellington shot 39.2 percent from three last season, so it’s a surprise he’s still on the board. Ellington doesn’t bring much defense, rebounding, or anything else, but if a team is looking for a sniper Ellington can be their guy.

8. Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets). The switchable wing defender was a key part of the Rockets’ regular season defensive success — the team was 4.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court last season. Plus he shot 36.4 percent from three. It’s a little surprising there have been no offers, the Rockets would like to bring him back.

9. Kyle Anderson (San Antonio Spurs). The Spurs want to bring him back, but they have a lot of other balls in the air right now, and no other team has stepped up with an offer for the restricted free agent. “Slo-mo” is a crafty pick-and-roll ball handler and a long, switchable defender, he’s got an unorthodox game that fits well with what the Spurs will do, but would it work as well with another team? He averaged 8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists this past season.

10. Jamal Crawford (Minnesota Timberwolves). Even at age 38, he can still get buckets. Not as efficiently as he once did, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year can still score the rock. He’s also good in the locker room. He opted out in Minnesota and some team is going to get him to bolster their bench (the Warriors have long been rumored with a minimum deal, Crawford is waiting to see if anyone else will offer more).

11. Rodney Hood (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another player (like Isaiah Thomas) who saw his stock fall — went into last season as the expected go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz, and by the end of the season couldn’t get off the bench in Cleveland.He’s 6’8” wing who can get buckets, more than a few teams could use that. Is Cleveland one of them?

12. Brook Lopez (Los Angeles Lakers). He has some versatility, he can shoot the three (34.5 percent) and took 41 percent of his shots from deep last season. Plus, he’s an efficient scorer around the basket, hits the boards hard, and uses his size and length to defend the paint. A lot of teams are not looking for his style of traditional center, but a lot of teams could use him for depth off the bench.

13. Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers). This may be too low for him on this list. L.A. liked Harrell, a restricted free agent who found his scoring touch last season and averaged 11 a game for the team. He was very efficient with a PER of 24.7 for the Clippers. Other teams have not made an offer on the restricted free agent because it is assumed the Los Angeles would just match, but he may choose to play for the qualifying offer then hit the open market in a year.

14. Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs). UPDATE: It’s hard to picture, but Parker will be wearing teal on the court next season after reaching a two-year, $10 million deal with Charlotte. Parker admitted it was hard to leave San Antonio, where he has played for 17 seasons, but with the franchise in a state of change he went to the East where he felt wanted and where he could play a bigger role on a team gunning for the playoffs. Parker will backup Kemba Walker (unless Walker gets traded, then…).

15. Michael Beasley (New York Knicks). The man can still get buckets — he averaged 13.2 points per game and shot better than 50 percent overall, plus 39.5 percent from three. He’s not the most focused guy, not much of a defender, but for a mid-level or near-minimum contract coming off the bench he could help a lot of teams.

16. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat). The real question here is does he retire? If not, if Wade returns, it will be to the Miami Heat for one more season. He’s not chasing a ring with LeBron James (not that the Lakers are winning one next season anyway) or anyone else, he’ll play for the Heat until he hangs it up.

17. Greg Monroe (Boston Celtics). Monroe has game — a below-the-rim game where he can score in the post efficiently and get some boards. Problem is, that’s not what teams want in a center now. He had some value for Boston last season (after falling out of the rotation in Milwaukee) but his style of play has him limited. New Orleans has been rumored, another team could jump in.

18. Kyle O’Quinn (New York Knicks). UPDATE: Literally as this story was going live online, O’Quinn messed it up by accepting a one-year, $4.4 million deal with the Pacers (they are using their room exception, so he got more than the $4.2 million he opted out of with the Knicks. He averaged 7.1 points per game for the Knicks last season, plays within himself, can hit midrange jumpers and can pass.

19. Shabazz Napier (Portland Trail Blazers). The unrestricted free agent had a strong first half of last season and looked like he and his game had grown up, but he struggled after the All-Star break and slid out of the rotation. With Seth Curry in house a return to Portland is unlikely. He should land a deal as a bench point guard somewhere, but for the minimum.

20. Dante Cunningham (Brooklyn Nets). The veteran forward gave Brooklyn and before that New Orleans about minutes and some points (5.7 average) a night last season. He’s not a classic shooter but he can hit a three and will keep defenses honest. Can provide solid depth for a team and a fair price.

Clint Capela will be back, but for how long?

Clint Capela will be back, but for how long?

We’re almost a full week into NBA free agency, and we have yet to hear any real concrete news on the status of restricted free agent Clint Capela.

What we do know is that the Houston Rockets extended Capela the qualifying offer, which was for $3.4 million, and then he was expected to go out and find the biggest deal available, which the Rockets were planning on matching.

Then we got this cryptic tweet from the big man himself one day into free agency.

Many assume this is related to Capela’s failure to find a highly coveted max deal out on the market. There’s simply not as much available money out there this season, and a team that signs a restricted free agent like Capela has that money come out of their available cap until the Rockets decide whether or not to match, at which time the other team’s money will either become available again or used on the player.

With Houston making very public statements all season long that they have every intention of bringing Capela back, rival teams are in no hurry to tie up their money for any length of time knowing they’re not likely to get Capela anyway.

So the negotiations for the services of the Swiss Roll now basically come back to only the Rockets, and so far, Capela doesn’t appear very happy with what the team has been offering.

The Rockets seem to be aware that they are without competition on the the open market and aren’t about to get into a negotiating war with themselves. It’s unknown right now exactly how far apart the teams are, but Capela’s side is likely looking for as close to the max as possible.

Should the sides manage to come to an understanding and strike a deal, it’s obviously the best possible scenario for all sides. Team management has made their fondness known for Capela, teammates James Harden and Chris Paul have publicly talked up Capela’s importance to what they do, Capela has himself previously expressed a desire to stay in Houston, and he’s also a fan favorite. Getting him back on a long-term deal would put smiles on everyone’s face.

But there’s also another option for Capela, and according to some, it’s what Capela’s side is leaning towards right now.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne thinks Capela is about to bet on himself, play this next season at a highly undervalued $3.4 million qualifying offer, hereby robbing the Rockets of their advantage in contract negotiatons, and then parlaying a hopefully big upcoming season into the mega-pay day he’s after.

If that’s indeed the route we’re heading down, my guess is Capela is as good as gone after this season. He’ll certainly be more willing to head to another city after enduring a unfulfilling restricted process which saw his importance to the team talked up for months, only to receive an underwhelming offer from management.

In fact, the Rockets are already grooming his potential future replacement in 2017 second-round pick Isaiah Hartenstein.

The 7-foot, 20-year-old from Germany has been playing with the Rockets’ G-League team in Rio Grande Valley to help ease his transition to the NBA game and Houston’s style, and though he still has some maturing to do before he’s ready to take over at the top level, he’s already been serving the Capela role with the junior squad.

Matt Brase, the head coach of the Vipers, had this to say to the Houston Chronicle about Hartenstein’s development:

“He improved a lot. He is an elite rebounder on both ends of the court. The thing he got best at is rolling quick and finishing at the rim. That was the big thing for him, to get out of the slower roll he grew up with in Germany to quick rolls to the rim. He worked on his 3s a lot in the season. But his highest value is as a roller and finisher at the rim. The role Clint Capela had up here with the Rockets is what Isaiah had with the Vipers.”

The Rockets still have a chance this offseason to lock down Capela for the the foreseeable future, but as the free agency period stretches on and on, it seems to become less likely with each passing day.

Either way you slice it, Capela will be back catching lobs at the Toyota Center this year come fall, but how much longer than that he stays is currently anyone’s guess. If he’s forced to play out the year for $3.4 million, this upcoming season could very well could be his last in Rockets red.

Rockets look to bounce back…Game 7 is needed in NHL…Rafael Palmeiro homers for independent team

Rockets look to bounce back…Game 7 is needed in NHL…Rafael Palmeiro homers for independent team

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Houston Rockets will try to bounce back tonight from the most lopsided loss in their post-season history — the 126-85 defeat by the Golden State Warriors in Game 3. The win gave the Warriors a 2-1 series lead in the NBA’s Western Conference finals.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – The Vegas Golden Knights will have to wait one more night to find out which team they’ll play for the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals evened-up the NHL’s Eastern Conference final at three games apiece last night with a physical 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, setting up a deciding Game 7 tomorrow night at Tampa Bay.

CHICAGO (AP) – It’s another rematch of the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs host Cleveland at Wrigley Field. Trevor Bauer pitches for the Indians after throwing eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts last Wednesday in Detroit. Tyler Chatwood goes for the Cubs. Bauer and Chatwood both won when the teams split a two-game series last month in Cleveland.

HOUSTON (AP) – Gerrit Cole starts at home tonight for Houston, facing the Giants. The right-hander has been dominant in his first season with the Astros, going 4-1 with a 1.75 ERA while striking out 93 in 61 2/3 innings.

CLEBURNE, Texas (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro still has power, even at 53. After hitting more than 500 home runs in the major leagues, Palmeiro went deep last night for the first time in his return to baseball with an independent team. He connected in the fifth inning for the Cleburne Railroaders in Texas, who went on to a 4-3 loss in 11 innings against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Palmeiro batted sixth in the lineup, right behind his son, Patrick.