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Starting 5 – Free Agency is Almost Here

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content around the Internet

1. Thunder’s Cameron Payne Thrives On Being Overlooked – Susan Bible, Basketball Insiders

I’ve never been very high on Cameron Payne in Oklahoma City, but there is an element to his game that would benefit Russell Westbrook. Payne’s ability to create with the ball would allow Westbrook some time at the off guard drawing some attention away from him. Payne seems to have the work ethic and love for the game that Durant and Westbrook share. If he’s able to improve on the defensive end and his shooting translates, he may have a long career in Oklahoma City.

2. Nicolas Batum is not Damaged Goods – Ian Levy, Nylon Calculus

There is a strong case to be made for Batum to return to the player he was before last season. The difference between Batum’s expected effective field goal percentage (a statistic created by Seth Partnow) and his actual effective field goal percentage was almost negligible last season, but his 44 percent effective field goal percentage before the all-star break turned into a very high 56.5 percent percentage post all-star break. Batum may not be the player that Charlotte can run an entire offense through, but he’ll certainly bring elements to the team that they missed last season.

3. Time to find out if superstars still want to play for the Knicks and Lakers – Tom Ziller, SBNation

With free agents like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol available, the big markets will be tested as they are every summer. The cities of Cleveland, Portland and Memphis may not have the draw that Los Angeles and New York do, but with Oakland/San Francisco claiming a title this season (the 14th largest city in the United States), there may be proof that size does not matter after all.

4. Bulls Give Jimmy Butler Max Qualifying Offer – RealGM

One of the first to report it was Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Essentially, Butler has two offers from the Bulls. He can accept the qualifying offer, make a little over $4 million this season (surrendering around $11 million this season) and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, or he can accept the maximum qualifying offer at his maximum salary and 7.5 percent annual raises. Butler’s other option is signing an offer sheet from another team, but the Bulls giving the maximum qualifying offer means any outside offer has to be for at least three guaranteed seasons.

5. Top 5 Free Agent Destinations for Kevin Love – Gerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit

Although Love has stated his intentions to return to Cleveland, he has the option to sign with any team willing to offer him the maximum salary. There are several teams that would be well-suited to sign Kevin Love. He has roots in Los Angeles, Boston is desperate for a big man that is above average and Portland will have money to burn if Aldridge leaves, but none can provide the championship possibilities that Cleveland can. If Love aspires to be as competitive as possible throughout the duration of his prime, then there is no better situation for him than in Cleveland.

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