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Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward headline top 20 players set to be available in 2017 NBA free agency

Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward headline top 20 players set to be available in 2017 NBA free agency

NBA free agency technically does not begin until July 6 when teams can sign players, but on July 1 the league will commence a five-day moratorium when contracts can be negotiated. Some of those players will be restricted free agents if their teams make qualifying offers by the June 30 deadline. In those cases, offers can be matched to retain a player's rights.

Here is our ranking of the top 20 players set to hit free agency. The list does not include Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, both of whom are certain to re-sign with the Warriors.

CLICK HERE FOR TOP 20 NBA FREE AGENTS GALLERY

1. Blake Griffin, PF, Clippers

Like Chris Paul, Griffin could be on his way out of Los Angeles. At 28, a long-term deal could take him through the rest of his prime.

2. Gordon Hayward, SF, Jazz  

The Celtics and Heat have already been linked to Hayward in rumors. He's the best swingman available this summer.

3. Kyle Lowry, PG, Raptors

Lowry has already been linked to the Rockets. He's a legitimate All-Star who could help a lot of teams.

4. Paul Millsap, PF, Hawks

It will be interesting to see what type of deal Millsap gets at age 32. He's a very good player, but for how long?

[RELATED: Winners, losers, sleepers from 2017 NBA draft]

5. Serge Ibaka, C, Raptors

The best rim protector in this class, Ibaka should have plenty of interest.

6. Otto Porter, SF, Wizards (RFA)

It's unlikely the Wizards let Porter walk, though he should have some real suitors in restricted free agency.

7. Jrue Holiday, PG, Pelicans

The Pelicans are expected to do what they can to retain Holiday, who is still only 27. What if they can get Lowry, though?

8. Danilo Gallinari, SF, Nuggets

Gallinari averaged 18.2 points per game last season, but he's never been very efficient.

9. Nerlens Noel, PF, Mavs (RFA)

The Mavericks are intent on keeping Noel, who at 23 has as much potential to get better as anyone on this list.

CLICK HERE FOR TOP 20 NBA FREE AGENTS GALLERY

[RELATED: Brooks reminisces about Durant, 1st season in D.C.]

10. George Hill, PG, Jazz

Hill had his best season in 2016-17, but is 31 and it's a deep class of point guards.

11. Pau Gasol, C, Spurs

Gasol, who turns 37 in July, is likely to return to San Antonio.

12. Jeff Teague, PG, Pacers

Once an All-Star, Teague could be a nice bargain compared to Lowry and the top point guards available.

13. Andre Iguodala, SF, Warriors

There have been conflicting reports on whether Iguodala will leave Golden State. At 33, this could be his last multi-year deal.

14. J.J. Redick, SG, Clippers

There should be a good deal of interest for Redick who can still start at age 33.

[RELATED: Wizards remain intent on signing Porter and Wall to new deals]

15. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Pistons (RFA)

If the Pistons let KCP go, he could offer a nice option for a team looking for a guard with upside. He does have some off-court concerns, though.

16. Mason Plumlee, C, Nuggets (RFA)

Perhaps Denver will want to bring Plumlee back just to save face on the Jusuf Nurkic trade.

17. Rudy Gay, SF, Kings

He turns 31 in August and ruptured his Achilles in January. Gay would probably be best served with a one-year deal to reset for next summer.

18. Derrick Rose, PG, Knicks

It will be interesting to see how much money Rose, who turns 29 in October and has dealt with all sorts of injuries, will get.

19. Tim Hardaway, Jr., SG, Hawks (RFA)

Hardaway had a breakout season for the Hawks and is just 25. It's hard to see Atlanta letting him go.

20. Patty Mills, PG, Spurs

Long one of the NBA's best backup point guards, Mills should get paid nicely this summer and may finally get his chance to shine as a starter.

CLICK HERE FOR TOP 20 NBA FREE AGENTS GALLERY

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Mock Draft - The Lottery Edition]

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How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares. 

As the Clippers scored 40 points in the first quarter and led 73-54 at halftime. she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara. 

Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half? Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions. 

The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially even with a different starting lineup. 

The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seem plausible. 

Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars led. The team played like a group wanting to play for each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.

John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate. 

“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.

One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve. 

The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris over hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation, Wizards ball. Washington then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.

“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break. Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have work to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span. 

“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” said Beal, who remained in the game after suffering a cut over his eye following a head-butt collision with Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A  much-needed win at that.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because his son, Austin, serves Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.

“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.

“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”

Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.

We’ll see for how long.

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Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

The Wizards had just completed a 24-point comeback against the L.A. Clippers, but something wasn't sitting right with power forward Markieff Morris.

When asked by a reporter if it was nice to get the win given their recent losing and the media controversy surrounding the team, Morris couldn't help but wonder who it was who leaked comments made by players behind closed doors at a practice last week.

There were very specific quotes cited by several media outlets and Morris wants to know where they came from. 

"It's f***ed up what's going on," he said.

"The comments that's coming from the locker room, that's f***ed up."

Morris went on to say that anonymous sources leaking information shouldn't "happen in sports." Many professional athletes see the locker room and team-only events like practice as sacred. Anyone who breaks that code is, in their eyes, a traitor.

If Morris knew who the information came from, it sounds like he would do something about it.

"I don't know who it is, so it's hard to address. But it's messed up," he said.

Which player or member of the organization spilled the beans could be a question for this team all season. It doesn't sound like Morris will forget that it happened.

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