NBA

NBA free agency 2019: Three potential impact players you probably forgot about

By Sports Desk July 20, 2019

Believe it or not NBA free agency is still happening, even if there are not any All-Star calibre players remaining on the market.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard are all spoken for. But there are still players available who can make a difference.

Let's look at some of the top role players for hire this offseason.

 

Carmelo Anthony

No one really knows what Anthony plans on doing. The 35-year-old forward only played in 10 games for the Houston Rockets in 2018-19 before stepping away after the team decided he was not a good fit. He was later traded to the Chicago Bulls and released.

Some wonder if Anthony is just washed up and should retire, but he can still have some value as a spark plug off the bench. It is just a matter of whether he is willing to accept that role.

The 10-time All-Star has a career scoring average of 24.0 points per game and averaged more than 20 points for his first 14 seasons in the league. His already questionable efficiency has dropped in recent years, but plenty of teams need firepower from their reserves.

Everybody shipped Anthony to the Los Angeles Lakers after he was released by the Bulls. But that did not pan out. Nevertheless, it is not crazy to think a team will take a chance on signing a consistent double-digit scorer for the league minimum.

Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha can be plugged into basically any line-up, making him one of the best catches available.

The three-and-D wing has length at 6-7 and can pester opposing teams on the ball or off it. He shot 43.6 per cent from beyond the arc with the Utah Jazz last season. However, his durability could be looked at as a major concern, as he has played more than 70 games just five times in his 13-year career.

Sefolosha consistently demonstrates his skillset and knows exactly what role he is brought in to fill, regardless of schemes.

Kenneth Faried

Whoever signs Faried will get the ultimate hustle guy.

The 6-8 big man is undersized but can bring an influx of energy to any line-up when he is on the court. Faried catches lobs, blocks shots and grabs rebounds with an intensity that is rarely matched by the opposition.

Faried did not make any noise as a reserve of the Brooklyn Nets last season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds. Once Brooklyn waived him, he tallied 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds on a significantly better Rockets team.

Faried is a product of his environment and plenty of teams could benefit from his grit and relentless effort. He is called "The Manimal" for a reason.

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    Manchester City's 2-1 defeat to local rivals Manchester United has seemingly put an end to their title challenge for this season.

    Pep Guardiola's two-time defending champions have won two of their last five Premier League matches and are now 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, with Leicester City six clear in second.

    Now, City must bounce back as they take on Arsenal, who finally ended a nine-match winless run – their worst streak since 1977 – with a 3-1 triumph over struggling West Ham.

    With temporary boss Freddie Ljungberg having got that first win under his belt, can he put himself right in the frame to be the next permanent Gunners' manager by shocking City?

     

    ARSENAL OUT TO EXPLOIT WOUNDED CITY

    City's 2-1 Manchester derby defeat has left their title defence in ruins.

    A comeback from such a mighty points deficit is surely unlikely given no club has ever accomplished that feat before, while City's record of 32 points from their first 16 games of the campaign are a career worst for Guardiola.

    And, on paper, City's trip to Arsenal is hardly the ideal follow-up match.

    Under the guidance of Ljungberg, Arsenal ended a wretched run on Monday as they beat West Ham away from home.

    While it was by no means vintage Arsenal, the Gunners did at least show some of the attacking verve many expect of such a talented forward unit.

    With City likely to still be reeling from their derby loss, Arsenal might just feel Sunday represents a great opportunity to claim a victory that would provide a massive boost ahead of the busy Christmas period.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD: MESUT OZIL V KEVIN DE BRUYNE

    Mesut Ozil is back in favour at Arsenal again since Ljungberg's temporary appointment and they will need him at his very best if they are to even get remotely close to a top-four finish.

    He certainly has not been at that level since the start of last season, when he averaged a goal involvement (five goals, two assists) every 249 minutes. This term that has dropped even more to one every 610 minutes.

    At his best, Ozil got six goals and 19 assists in 35 top-flight matches back in 2015-16, having a hand in one or the other every 122 minutes.

    Kevin De Bruyne fulfils a similar creative role for City, having averaged a goal or assist almost every match (one every 94 minutes), though he also offers more in terms of box-to-box responsibilities than the German.

    With four goals and nine assists, De Bruyne is on course for the most productive season of his career and he has definitely not suffered long-lasting effects of his injury problems last term.

    The Belgium international is averaging four chances created in each match in 2019-20, while Ozil's record of 18 opportunities laid on in seven matches is significantly less impressive.

    FORM GUIDE

    Although Arsenal traditionally are seen as one of the Premier League's best teams, they go into Sunday's game without back-to-back wins in the top flight this season.

    Of the Gunners' past six domestic games, they have won only once, while also drawing three.

    But City's away form will not offer Ljungberg's men with much reason to quake in their boots, given the champions have lost twice in their six most recent league trips away from the Etihad Stadium.

    HISTORY SAYS

    Arsenal have lost their past four Premier League meetings with City. The last time they lost five consecutive top-flight matches to a single club was against United between September 1983 and August 1985.

    City have won on each of their two most recent Premier League trips to Arsenal, which is more than they had managed in their previous 32 top-flight visits to the Gunners.

    Victory for City will ensure they are the first club to win three consecutive away games against Arsenal in the top flight since West Ham did so between 1991 and 1995.

    City will be eager for Sergio Aguero to be fit for the clash. The Argentina striker has scored eight goals in his past eight meetings with the Gunners in all competitions, more than any other player since he joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

    But the champions will need to be alert to Alexandre Lacazette. He has scored 100 per cent of his five league goals this term at home, a record matched by no one else.

  • Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations

    Europe's top five leagues have monopolised the Champions League knockout stage for the first time in the competition's history.

    With Atalanta's 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk, the Serie A side ensured only nations from Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain would complete the last-16 line up prior to the final group fixtures on Wednesday.

    Atalanta's win left only one place in the last 16 to be decided, with Atletico Madrid's 2-0 triumph over Lokomotiv Moscow – combined with a 2-0 loss for Bayer Leverkusen at home to Juventus – enough to send Diego Simeone's men through.

    It is the first time only teams from the top-tier nations in European football have been included in the draw for the knockout stage, which will take place on Monday.

    England – Premier League: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham

    Chelsea and Liverpool had the biggest scares of the group stage when it came to the English sides, though both ultimately qualified.

    Current holders Liverpool put in a clinical second-half display to dispatch Salzburg 2-0 in their final Group E match, with Frank Lampard's side progressing from Group H thanks to a 2-1 win over Lille – last season's semi-finalists Ajax dropping into the Europa League despite amassing 10 points

    Tottenham were on the wrong end of a 7-2 hammering by Bayern Munich in October, but three successive victories sent them through prior to their second meeting with the German champions, while Manchester City qualified as Group C winners.

    France – Ligue 1: Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain

    Paris Saint-Germain look like they mean business this season and, after ensuring their place in the next round with a 2-2 comeback draw away at Real Madrid, capped off their Group A campaign in style with a 5-0 thrashing of lowly Galatasaray.

    Neymar starred on Wednesday, with Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani all scoring too – with their star-studded forward line in such form, Thomas Tuchel's side should be some force in the knockouts.

    Memphis Depay was the hero for Lyon, meanwhile, as his 82nd-minute equaliser against RB Leipzig sent Rudi Garcia's side from bottom up to second.

    Germany – Bundesliga: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig

    Along with PSG, Bayern were the standout performers of the group stage – their haul of 18 points and a goal difference of +19 making them the best group winner in Champions League history.

    Leipzig made history when they secured their first participation in the knockout stage thanks to Emil Forsberg's double against Benfica on matchday five in Group G, though Borussia Dortmund had to see off Slavia Prague 2-1 in their final Group F game – and rely on Barcelona to defeat Inter.

    Italy – Serie A: Atalanta, Juventus, Napoli

    Atalanta seemed on the brink after three straight defeats to start their Group C campaign, yet Gian Piero Gasperini's side battled back – a draw with City and wins over Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar continuing their Champions League adventure, becoming the first side to go through after losing their opening three matches.

    Juventus' tally of 16 points in Group D saw them equal their own record – set in 1996-97 and matched in 2004-05 – while Napoli hammered Genk 4-0 on Tuesday to book their last-16 berth, though it was not enough to keep Carlo Ancelotti in his job.

    There will be no place in the last 16 for Serie A leaders Inter, though, with Antonio Conte's side dropping into the Europa League.

    Spain – LaLiga: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia

    LaLiga, like the Premier League, will have four representatives in the knockout stage. Barca were unconvincing at times in Group F, but had enough to seal their spot with a game to spare before ending Inter's hopes.

    Atleti needed to overcome Lokomotiv on matchday six, but did so easily enough thanks to Joao Felix and Felipe – though Kieran Trippier missed an early penalty – and their city rivals Real Madrid ultimately easily progressed from Group A despite a chastening defeat to PSG in their opening match.

    Valencia were involved in a mighty tussle with Chelsea and Ajax, who beat them 3-0 in their first home match, but eventually topped Group H thanks to a 1-0 win over the Eredivisie champions on Tuesday.

  • Clippers win in Leonard's Toronto return, Bucks stretch streak Clippers win in Leonard's Toronto return, Bucks stretch streak

    Kawhi Leonard enjoyed a successful return to Toronto on Wednesday, while the Milwaukee Bucks' run continued and James Harden starred in the NBA.

    Back in Toronto, where he won the NBA championship last season, Leonard helped the Los Angeles Clippers past the Raptors 112-92.

    The star received a tribute video and finished with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds as the Clippers improved to 19-7.

    Top of the Eastern Conference, the Bucks clinched a 16th straight win by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 127-112.

    Without Giannis Antetokounmpo (quad soreness), Milwaukee still cruised thanks to Eric Bledsoe's 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting.

    Harden had 55 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, to see the Houston Rockets past the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-110.

     

    LeBron lifts Lakers, Graham shines

    LeBron James' triple-double of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists saw the Los Angeles Lakers improve to 22-3 by beating the Orlando Magic 96-87.

    Devonte' Graham starred for the Charlotte Hornets as his 40 points saw them past the Brooklyn Nets 113-108.

    A double-double from Rudy Gobert (20 points and 16 rebounds) helped the Utah Jazz claim a 127-116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

     

    Warriors' woes

    The Golden State Warriors (5-21) are the worst team in the NBA after losing to the New York Knicks (5-20). The Knicks ended a 10-game losing streak with a 124-122 overtime win.

     

    Morant magic

    Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, the second pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, produced a nice dunk in a win over the Phoenix Suns.

    Wednesday's results

    Houston Rockets 116-110 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Indiana Pacers 122-117 Boston Celtics
    Los Angeles Lakers 96-87 Orlando Magic
    Los Angeles Clippers 112-92 Toronto Raptors
    Charlotte Hornets 113-108 Brooklyn Nets
    Chicago Bulls 136-102 Atlanta Hawks
    Utah Jazz 127-116 Minnesota Timberwolves
    Memphis Grizzlies 115-108 Phoenix Suns
    Milwaukee Bucks 127-112 New Orleans Pelicans
    Sacramento Kings 94-93 Oklahoma City Thunder
    New York Knicks 124-122 Golden State Warriors

     

    76ers at Celtics

    The Philadelphia 76ers (18-7) have struggled on the road so far this season and face the Boston Celtics (17-6) at TD Garden on Thursday.

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