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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  • Bale reminds Zidane and Real Madrid how simplicity can be sublime Bale reminds Zidane and Real Madrid how simplicity can be sublime

    Having started on the right, Gareth Bale drifted to the lift, cavorted into space and set up Karim Benzema. One-nil to Real Madrid.

    Football seems a simple game at times.

    It would be doing a disservice to Bale to dismiss his role in this goal as entirely straightforward. The pace he used to reach Marcelo's throughball, the speed of close control that left David Costas spinning on the spot, the weight of cross to give Benzema an easy finish – it was all of the highest quality.

    It also showed why Zinedine Zidane was correct to put faith in Bale to deliver in this LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo, despite the prolonged, exasperating uncertainty over his future. From benchwarmer at the end of last season, to Zidane telling everyone it would be better for Bale to leave in July, to a transfer to Jiangsu Suning that never happened, to a place back in the starting line-up for the first game of the new season – it's been a chaotic three months.

    That's the issue with Bale, of course: everything about him seems to get more complicated – and more dramatic – in the inexorable scrutiny in which he lives his life.

    Coaches everywhere have specific ideas that mean certain players become surplus to requirements, but Zidane versus Bale has sometimes been billed as a spat so venomous it's left poison dripping from the dressing-room walls. Footballers like to do things in their spare time apart from play football, like have a game of golf; when Bale picks up his irons, it's considered tantamount to a betrayal of professional decency. That's how it can feel from the outside, which maybe gives you an indication of why Bale so rarely bothers speaking out in public. Those waters can't get much muddier.

    The truth of Bale's position at Madrid is probably less complicated than some think – and that is a good summary of what makes Bale the footballer so effective. It's why he was fleetingly impressive at Balaidos on Saturday in a battling 3-1 win, even if Madrid as a collective sometimes looked little better than the ragged bunch who shipped seven goals to Atletico Madrid last month.

    Bale's assist was borne of him being as direct as possible: running behind the full-back, using a step-over and twist of the body to shake off the marker with the ball still in motion, and crossing into a dangerous zone with that precise left foot. Later in the half, he overtook Lucas Olaza when chasing a long ball despite the defender having close to a three-metre head start. It was an awesome display of speed and fitness from a man who has not exactly had a busy pre-season.

    Moments after Madrid's opener, he was blocking a cross in his own box after racing back to protect the nervy Alvaro Odriozola. That's something he isn't so used to doing, but it came from the same sort of focused approach that makes him so clinical at the other end. You watch, you run, you act – shoot, cross, or, in this case, tackle. This is what Bale offers; it's what he has always offered.

    The issue of his future isn't likely to get any clearer until the transfer window closes on September 2, but this game at least showed what a tremendous asset Bale can be when he is deployed with simple precision. For a coach like Zidane, who freely admits he is not the most pedantic of tacticians, that makes Bale valuable – especially in a Madrid team as muddled as this one.

  • Better than Beckham? Opta numbers suggest Zidane is right to turn back to Bale Better than Beckham? Opta numbers suggest Zidane is right to turn back to Bale

    Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

    Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

    But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

    The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

    There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

    Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

    Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

    He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

    Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

    Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

    Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

    Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

    The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

    That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

    Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

    The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

     

    Breaking new ground for British footballers

    Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

    Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

    He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

    Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

    That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

    Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

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