The Most Overlooked Additions of the 2019 NFL Offseason

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Not every NFL offseason move is a splash. Most only cause a few ripples; some are like Olympic-style dives. 

    And some moves that are originally perceived as unsplashy wind up creating tidal waves. 

    Every year, there are high-quality offseason acquisitions who were somewhat or entirely overlooked—some because of other moves within the organization, others because of further moves at their positions and some because they weren’t highly touted draft picks. 

    Here are 10 such additions who might be difference-makers this fall and winter. 


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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Because Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he accumulated close to 1,200 scrimmage yards and because the Bears brought in veteran back Mike Davis in free agency, rookie third-round pick David Montgomery isn’t stealing too many headlines nationally. 

    But Jordan Howard is gone after being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Cohen has just four games with 10-plus carries in two NFL seasons. A lot will likely fall on Montgomery’s shoulders, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Iowa State product were to become the next great rookie back from Day 2 of the draft. 

    Montgomery amassed over 2,800 scrimmage yards while scoring 24 touchdowns in his last two college seasons, and he has all the tools required to become a special running back. 

    “He’s the whole package,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said of Montgomery following the draft, per Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire. “He has the hands. He’s a three-down back. He’s everything we were looking for.”

    Montgomery’s hype train is gaining steam, but a third-round pick has still inevitably been overlooked. And a lot of teams might soon regret passing on the 5’10”, 222-pounder in April. After all, Nagy has already compared his new back to 2017 rookie rushing king Kareem Hunt, and Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller sees him as “an immediate NFL starter.”

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    NELL REDMOND/Associated Press

    Somehow, 25 wide receivers signed free-agent contracts this offseason that were more lucrative than the measly one-year, $1.45 million deal veteran Chris Hogan got with the Carolina Panthers. 

    That’s odd. While Hogan was never a star in New England, the 30-year-old was steady while working with Tom Brady and Co. He’s recorded over 400 yards in five consecutive seasons dating back to his time with the Buffalo Bills, and during his three campaigns with the Pats, he was one of just three qualified receivers in the league to average more than 15 yards per reception and nab more than 62 percent of his targets. 

    We might view Hogan differently had his promising 2017 season not been derailed by injury. He was tied for the team lead with five touchdown grabs before hurting his shoulder midway through that campaign. And while he wasn’t as large of a factor when he returned to health last year, his rate-based numbers (15.2 yards per reception and a catch percentage of 63.6) were again impressive. 

    Hogan has Super Bowl-drenched roots, and it wasn’t long ago he led the NFL with 17.9 yards per catch on a championship team. Now he joins a wide-open Panthers receiving corps, and if quarterback Cam Newton‘s shoulder is indeed fixed, Hogan could outperform his contract in comical fashion.

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    The focus of the San Francisco 49ers’ draft was of course No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa. And with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returning from injury to a team that suddenly has Bosa, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Tevin Coleman, you couldn’t be faulted for overlooking the presence of No. 36 overall pick Deebo Samuel. 

    When one thinks of the 49ers pass-catchers, they are probably more likely to call to mind record-breaking tight end George Kittle, veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin or 2018 breakout rookie Dante Pettis before remembering that Samuel was the third receiver drafted in April. 

    The polished South Carolina product improved steadily during his four years in the SEC, and it appears as though he’s already made a strong impression in San Francisco. The Athletic’s Matt Barrows predicted that he’ll start as a Z receiver immediately. 

    The 23-year-old should also pose a constant threat as a kick returner after seeing time in that role with the Gamecocks. 

    Few are watching Samuel like the other newcomers in San Francisco or even other highly drafted rookie receivers such as Marquise Brown (25th overall), N’Keal Harry (32nd) or DK Metcalf (64th), but Samuel could do plenty of damage this fall. 

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    For whatever reason (presumably his age), veteran tight end Jared Cook lingered into the second wave of free agency. And when he finally did sign with the New Orleans Saints, the 32-year-old inked a two-year, $15 million deal with less guaranteed money ($8 million) than Jesse James, 25, got from the Detroit Lions. 

    James has never had a 500-yard season. Cook is coming off an 896-yard campaign in which he was one of just three players at his position to average more than 13 yards per reception and catch more than 67 percent of his targets (on more than 30 receptions).

    That earned Cook his first career Pro Bowl nod, but he has four other 600-plus-yard seasons under his belt and doesn’t look as though he’s lost a step. 

    He’ll likely represent a huge upgrade over the departed Ben Watson (who scored just two touchdowns last year in his age-38 campaign) and backup Josh Hill (who has failed to hit the 200-yard mark since coming into the league in 2013). 

    “I’d read a lot of good things about him before he got here,” quarterback Drew Brees said during OTAs, per Nathan Brown of the New Orleans Advocate, “but he’s certainly impressed us. … He’s got a great feel for the game, and I think he’s going to fit very well in our offense.”

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    A big reason why rookie quarterback Josh Rosen failed to deliver in his sole season with the Arizona Cardinals? The offensive line ranked last in pass-blocking efficiency in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus

    But before free agency even started, the Cards bolstered that unit by quietly trading for longtime Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who started 87 games at right tackle over the last eight years in Pennsylvania. 

    Injuries and a suspension caused Gilbert to miss all but 12 games the last two seasons, but he’s still just 31 years old. He’s owed only $4.9 million this season, and he should be able to bring some much-needed stability to an offensive line that lacked it with a revolving door at right tackle in 2018. 

    Considering that new rookie quarterback Kyler Murray started just one season for the Oklahoma Sooners, he could benefit immediately from Gilbert’s experience and steadiness in the locker room and on the field. 

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    How will the New England Patriots replace departed versatile edge defender Trey Flowers? Most eyes are on incoming star Michael Bennett, especially since he was the only big-name March addition and the team used its first-round draft pick on the other side of the ball by selecting wide receiver N’Keal Harry. 

    But one night after adding Harry, the Pats drafted a third-round pass-rusher who could immediately become a significant cog as part of head coach Bill Belichick‘s defensive rotation. Chase Winovich (No. 77 overall) is both mature and polished coming out of Michigan (28 starts across his final three years), and it’s easy to envision him becoming New England’s No. 2 edge-rusher in 2019. 

    Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller calls the two-time first-team All-Big 10 defensive end an “athletic, productive senior player who overshadowed Devin Bush and Rashan Gary on a stacked defense.” He noted that he “has the look of an early contributor and longtime starter.” And Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus named the 24-year-old one of the steals of the draft. 

    Watch for Winovich to join Rob Gronkowski, Jamie Collins and Joe Thuney as the latest Patriots Day 2 pick to become a success. 

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Regardless of what happens with quarterback Dwayne Haskins, rookie pass-rusher Montez Sweat is likely to be viewed as “the other guy the Washington Redskins selected in the first round of the 2019 draft.”

    But Sweat is a 6’6″, 260-pound physical marvel who crushed both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, and he is fresh off back-to-back double-digit-sack seasons with Mississippi State in the SEC. His stock likely only dropped him to No. 26 at the bottom of Round 1 because of a heart condition that might have been a misdiagnosis.

    And he’s made a strong first impression.

    “He’s been an impressive young man,” defensive line coach Jim Tomsula said in June, per Les Carpenter of the Washington Post. “Very impressive.”

    But the Redskins drafted Haskins 11 spots earlier, and Sweat was just the ninth defensive lineman selected. That means it could take some time for the hype to catch up. 

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    While most of us were still hooting and hollering over the New York Giants’ decision to trade superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants did at least sign a pair of Golden players. The first—Golden Tate—generated plenty of headlines because he’ll be attempting to help fill Beckham’s shoes. The second—Markus Golden—flew under the radar with a simple one-year, $3.75 million deal. 

    But the latter is also tasked with helping fill the big shoes left by high-priced pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, who’s now in Cleveland, and it’s possible he’ll surprise folks with a bounce-back 2018 campaign. 

    That’s right, bounce back. You might recall that the 2015 second-round pick posted 12.5 sacks and forced four fumbles in what probably should have been a Pro Bowl sophomore campaign. Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher was in charge of the Arizona D then, and earlier this offseason, he remembered 2016 Golden as “one of the best pass-rushers in this league.”

    The Missouri product tore his ACL in 2017 and wasn’t himself coming off said injury in 2018, but he says he’s fully healthy now, and a fresh environment should help. 

    “I’m hunting,” the 28-year-old said in May, per Pat Leonard of the Daily News. “I feel good. I feel like myself again.”

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Yeah, every non-Beckham-related move the Giants made this offseason was overlooked, and even the key player the team got back from the Browns has been discounted. 

    But don’t look past Jabrill Peppers, who might actually have a high enough ceiling to avoid spending the rest of his career known only as “the guy for whom the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr.”

    It appeared to be a deal-breaker for general manager Dave Gettleman if the 2017 first-round pick out of Michigan wasn’t included in that deal for Beckham, and that makes sense considering the loss of star safety Landon Collins on the free-agent market. 

    Peppers has yet to live up to his sky-high predraft potential as a two-time first-team All-Big Ten safety, but he improved immensely in a sophomore season that included an interception, a sack, 79 tackles, three fumble recoveries and the 23rd-best PFF grade among 104 qualified players at his position. 

    The 23-year-old could explode in his third season, which might eventually help Giants fans get over the Beckham deal. 

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Six cornerbacks signed contracts this offseason with higher average annual values than the one Bryce Callahan inked with the Denver Broncos ($7 million per year), including another Denver acquisition, Kareem Jackson. 

    Jackson is a well-established outside presence, Denver also spent big bucks on Ja’Wuan James ($12.8 million over four years), and Callahan entered the offseason recovering from a broken foot, all of which explains why his signing has seemingly flown under the radar.

    But Callahan was back on the field at organized team activities, and he could be in for another big season covering the slot for Vic Fangio, who took over as Broncos head coach after spending the past four years as Chicago’s defensive coordinator. 

    The 27-year-old Callahan didn’t receive a single penalty while ranking 11th in coverage among 131 qualified corners at PFF in 2018, making him one of the most valuable members of a Bears defense that surrendered a league-low 17.7 points per game. 

    And that was his second consecutive strong season, so there’s little reason to believe he won’t make a similar impression in Denver. 

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US Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in war crimes trial

A decorated US Navy SEAL was found not guilty on Tuesday of murdering a captive teenage fighter in Iraq, the most serious of the charges brought against him during a two-week war crimes trial in San Diego in the United States.

Edward Gallagher, 49, was likewise acquitted of two counts of attempted murder against Iraqi civilians but was convicted of posing for a photograph beside the corpse of the captive Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) group fighter.

The maximum sentence he could face is four months’ imprisonment, meaning he is set to walk free following Tuesday’s verdict on account of the nine months he has already served in pre-trial confinement.

The jury found Gallagher “not guilty of murder, not guilty of stabbing, not guilty of shooting, not guilty of all those things, they found him guilty of taking a photograph,” Timothy Parlatore, one of Gallagher’s lawyer’s, told journalists outside the court.

Gallagher could have faced life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge against him, premeditated murder.

Several fellow SEAL team members testified he fatally stabbed the captured Iraqi prisoner in the neck with a custom-made knife after the teenage fighter was brought to Gallagher’s outpost for medical treatment.

Some of the same witnesses also said they saw Gallagher, who was originally trained as a medic, perform a number of emergency procedures on the detainee before he died.

Gallagher also was charged with attempted murder in the wounding of two unarmed civilians – a schoolgirl and an elderly man – shot from a sniper’s perch, as well as with firing deliberately on other non-combatants and with obstruction of justice.

‘Fabricated allegations’

He was found not guilty of all charges but the one stemming from the photos he and fellow SEAL team members took with the dead ISIL fighter, who was brought to Gallagher’s camp by an Iraqi general after being badly wounded in an air attack.

Gallagher insisted that disgruntled subordinates with no prior battlefield experience fabricated allegations against him over grievances with his leadership style and tactics.

US President Donald Trump intervened in Gallagher’s case months ago, ordering he be moved from pretrial detention in a military brig to confinement at a Navy base. The presiding judge later released Gallagher from custody altogether, in a rebuke to prosecutors for pre-trial conduct the judge said had infringed on the Navy SEAL’s right to fair proceedings.

The prosecution’s case was dealt a major blow when a witness said that it was he, not Gallagher, who had put an end to the captive ISIL fighter’s life.

Corey Scott, a first class petty officer, testified that while he had seen Gallagher stab the wounded fighter in the neck in May 2017, he had killed the boy afterwards.

He testified that he covered the victim’s breathing tube with his thumb and then watched him die.

Scott said he did so to spare the boy – who prosecutors say was about 15 years old – from suffering or being tortured by Iraqi forces.

Scott, who was given immunity from prosecution, acknowledged during questioning that he made the revelation to spare Gallagher, who is married and has children, from going to prison.

Prosecutors argued Scott’s version of events was a fabrication and that he was lying to protect Gallagher.

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5 Blockbuster Trade Ideas Early in NBA Free Agency

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Free agency may be the most exciting part of the NBA summer, but the trade market can send shockwaves throughout the league, as well.

    Some deals, like Kawhi Leonard’s trade from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors last year, can result in a championship.

    While not every swap will lead to a title, there could be enough stars on the move after the free-agency dust settles to push teams into the Finals conversation.

    With nearly all the big free agents already under contract, here are some potential summer deals to keep the NBA offseason hot.

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Boston Celtics Receive: F/C Kevin Love

    Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Gordon Hayward, 2020 first-round pick, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)

    Now that Kemba Walker has agreed to a max contract with the Celtics, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Boston is primarily a collection of guards and wings.

    Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Marcus Smart and Romeo Langford give Boston plenty of shooters and ball-handlers. After losing Al Horford in free agency, trading Aron Baynes and retaining little money for free-agent forward Marcus Morris, the Celtics need another big, even after agreeing to sign Enes Kanter, per Stadium and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

    Adding Love to Walker and Tatum would give Boston its latest Big Three, pushing it back toward the top of the Eastern Conference. Hayward’s contract (two years, $66.9 million) has become a burden on Boston’s salary cap, and the C’s would likely have to attach draft picks to get rid of it.

    The Cavs would get the Celtics’ first-round picks in 2020 (unprotected) and 2022 (lottery protected)—essentially one for giving up Love and another for taking back Hayward’s contract. While Love is due a hefty amount himself (four years, $120 million), he’s a far better player than Hayward and gives Boston the All-Star power forward it desperately needs.

    Losing Love would hurt the development of the Cavs’ young guards, but Hayward could be a usable rotation piece and veteran influence.

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Toronto Raptors Receive: SF Andrew Wiggins, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)

    Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: PF Serge Ibaka

    To be clear, this trade is made under the assumption Kawhi Leonard does not return to the Toronto Raptors in free agency. If he does, please disregard.

    Yes, Wiggins has a tough remaining contract to swallow (four years, $121.2 million), but the Raptors stand to have significant cap space next summer with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet all coming off the books. They’re one of the few teams that can take on Wiggins’ money and still have max cap space next summer.

    While he’s nowhere near Leonard’s level, the Raptors could use his scoring from the small forward position. Wiggins has the physical tools to become a great defender, and playing alongside Pascal Siakim and Gasol would be a big help.

    A move to his hometown of Toronto might help unlock some No. 1 overall pick potential for the 24-year-old Wiggins, as well.

    Meanwhile, Ibaka would give Minnesota a quality starting power forward after it lost Taj Gibson in free agency and traded Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns on draft night. Ibaka averaged 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for the Raptors last season and would be a terrific veteran to place next to Karl-Anthony Towns.

    This move would also clear $29.3 million in cap space for the Wolves next summer, as that’s the number to which Wiggin’s contract will elevate for 2020-21. Even including a protected first-rounder would be worthwhile given those savings.

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: C Steven Adams

    Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: SG Allen Crabbe, F/C Omari Spellman, Jaylen Adams, 2021 second-round pick

    While this trade would represent a mismatch in terms of talent, it’s one the Thunder may be forced to make.

    As Sports Illustrated‘s Jake Fischer reported, OKC is making Adams, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroder available via trade in an attempt to shed salary and get under the luxury tax. Adams is certain to attract the most attention of that group, and his skill set would fit beautifully alongside a young Hawks squad.

    With Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins already in the fold, the Hawks only need a center to complete their young core. Adams, 25, is youthful enough to fit into Atlanta’s rebuild and brings 52 games of playoff experience over the past six years. He put up 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 33.4 minutes per game for the Thunder last season.

    For OKC, this move would give it the salary relief it requires while also adding some much-needed shooting and a young big man to develop.

    Crabbe made 39.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets last season while chipping in 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He could start as a floor-spacing shooting guard between Russell Westbrook and Paul George or come off the bench.

    Spellman, 21, gave the Hawks 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per contest as a rookie last season and started 11 of his 46 games. Jaylen Adams only has $100,000 of his $1.4 million salary guaranteed, meaning the Thunder can waive him before July 19 and save an additional $1.3 million.

    Atlanta would throw in a future second-round pick to give the Thunder some future trade assets, as well.

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    San Antonio Spurs Receive: C Domantas Sabonis

    Indiana Pacers Receive: G Derrick White, Chimezie Metu

    Consider this a swap of two budding stars who may be forced to come off their current team’s bench next season.

    Sabonis put up 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in just 24.8 minutes per game while backing up Myles Turner in Indiana. He shot a career-high 59.0 percent from the floor and won’t turn 24 until May. He would be an immediate upgrade over every center currently on the Spurs roster and could be a nightly double-double threat while playing starter’s minutes.

    White had a breakout postseason with San Antonio, scoring a career-best 36 points in a Game 3 win over the Denver Nuggets en route to averaging 15.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. At 6’4″, he can play either guard position.

    Even though they have Aaron Holiday and agreed to a sign-and-trade for Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pacers could use another point guard after losing both Darren Collison (retirement) and Corey Joseph (free agency).

    Brogdon spent 84 percent of his court time at shooting guard last season, which means White could be the team’s starting point guard while Victor Oladipo continues his rehab from a January knee injury. Even after Oladipo returns, Indiana could use a lot of three-guard lineups since former starting small forward Bojan Bogdanovic has agreed to leave for the Utah Jazz, per Wojnarowski.

    While the Spurs wouldn’t want to lose White, former starting point guard Dejounte Murray is returning from a torn ACL and DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker IV are also looking for time in the backcourt.

    A Sabonis-White swap would satisfy positional needs for both teams, though the Spurs could add draft compensation if needed. To make the money work, the Spurs would include 6’10” power forward/center Chimezie Metu, whom Indiana can also use as depth behind Turner.

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Houston Rockets Receive: F Jae Crowder, SG Kyle Korver

    Memphis Grizzlies Receive: SG Eric Gordon, 2020 second-round pick (via Memphis Grizzlies)

    The Grizzlies received both Crowder and Korver from the Utah Jazz in the Mike Conley trade, although they don’t exactly fit into a rebuild.

    Crowder, 28, is the kind of switchable defensive wing the Rockets crave. He gave Utah 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game, primarily playing as a reserve. With 51 games of playoff experience already under his belt, he could become the Rockets’ starting small forward or play small-ball power forward as needed.

    While retirement seemed like a possibility for the 38-year-old Korver, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the veteran shooting guard is likely to play another one-to-two seasons. The 16-year veteran averaged 8.6 points and nailed 39.7 percent of his threes for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jazz last season. He’d be a valuable sniper off Houston’s bench.

    For Memphis, getting Gordon back would mean pairing a reliable veteran scorer with rookie point guard Ja Morant in the backcourt. His 16.2 points per game trailed only James Harden and Clint Capela for Houston last season. If the Grizzlies decided they wanted to go younger, Gordon could be flipped again at the deadline or bought out altogether.

    The Grizzlies would also get their own second-round pick in next summer’s draft back from the Rockets, and that selection should carry value somewhere in the 30s.

    All stats, unless otherwise indicated, courtesy of Basketball Reference or

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Deadly strike hits Tripoli migrant detention centre: Official

An air attack late on Tuesday hit a detention centre for mainly African migrants in the Tajoura suburb of the Libya‘s capital Tripoli, killing dozens, according to health and emergency officials.

“Health officials said they have picked up at least 35 bodies so far, and more bodies could be under the rubble,” said Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdel Wahed, reporting from Tripoli.

Wahed said that the centre housed about 150 migrants from different nationalities, most of them from African countries such as Sudan, Eretria and Somalia.

Centre officials blamed the raid on the forces of Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting the internationally-recognised government based in Tripoli for the past three months.

“This is the not the first time that Haftar forces have targeted the centre. It came under attack in April when Haftar forces began their campaign to capture Tripoli,” Al Jazeera’s Wahed said.

“Military sources in the government say Haftar forces are committing war crimes by targeting civilians and residential areas.”

Inhuman conditions

Reuters reported at least 40 people killed and 80 others wounded in the strike quoting a health official, while emergency services spokesman Osama Ali told AFP nearly 40 people were killed.

“This is a preliminary assessment and the toll could rise,” Ali said.

Several bodies lay on the floor of the hangar in Tajoura, while ambulances rushed to the scene. Pictures published by Libyan officials showed African migrants undergoing surgery in a hospital after the strike.

Libya is a main departure point for migrants from Africa and Arab countries trying to reach Italy by boat, but many get picked up by the Libyan coast guard supported by the European Union.

Air raid on Libya migrant camp in Tripoli

Centre officials blamed the raid on the Haftar forces [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Thousands are being held in government-run detention centres in what human rights groups say are often inhuman conditions.

Tajoura, east of Tripoli’s centre, is home to several military camps of forces allied to Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which for three months has been battling Haftar forces trying to take Tripoli.

On Monday, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) said it would start heavy air strikes on targets in Tripoli after “traditional means” of war had been exhausted.

The Haftar-led LNA, which controls much of eastern and southern Libya, denied it had hit the detention centre, saying militias allied to Tripoli had shelled it after a precision air strike by the LNA on a camp.

The LNA has failed to take Tripoli in three months of fighting and last week lost its main forward base in Garyan, which was taken back by Tripoli forces.

“Haftar forces have intensified air strikes after they lost strategic city of Garyan last week,” the Al Jazeera correspondent said.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Report: Ben Simmons, 76ers Nearing Agreement on 5-Year, $170M Contract Extension

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 12:  Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers handles the ball against the Toronto Raptors during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ron Turenne/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers and star point guard Ben Simmons are nearing a max contract extension.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Philly has “offered a five-year, $168M maximum contract extension to Ben Simmons, and the Sixers and agent Rich Paul are expected to work through the details toward an eventual agreement.”

Wojnarowski later noted the contract will be for $170 million under new salary-cap projections.

The 22-year-old continued to progress in his second season, averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game as well as shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 60 percent from the charity stripe.

While Simmons continues to struggle with his jumper, he showed a greater willingness to attempt perimeter shots during the regular season. That disappeared in the postseason, however, and remains the biggest focal point of his detractors.

The LSU product is arguably a serviceable jumper away from being one of the most dominant players in the NBA. He continues to impact the game as a playmaker, rebounder and defender and was the one player in the team’s Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Toronto Raptors to slow down Kawhi Leonard, if only slightly.

With this extension, the pairing of Simmons and Joel Embiid appears set to remain together for the long haul in Philadelphia. The duo has already led the organization to consecutive postseason appearances, though the goal now is an NBA championship.

It’s also a major vote of confidence from the Sixers and an indication they believe Simmons will continue to improve. The narrative hasn’t changed—without a reliable jumper, he will be an offensive liability during the postseason, hurting the team’s floor spacing and allowing opponents to help off him.

But he’s an impact player in every other facet of the game. The sky is the limit for Simmons.

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EU leaders agree on choices for top jobs after days of disputes

European Union leaders have agreed on Tuesday on who should fill the top jobs for its main institutions for the next five years after a marathon summit marred by disagreement.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was nominated to become the new president of the bloc’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, one of two women named to top EU posts for the first time.

France‘s Christine Lagarde was proposed for the presidency of the European Central Bank, Belgium‘s Charles Michel for European Council president, and Spain‘s Josep Borrell for EU foreign policy chief.

“The European Council has agreed on the future leadership of the EU institutions,” current European Council President Donald Tusk said.

Lagarde has been the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2011, while Michel became Belgium’s youngest prime minister in 2014.

Commenting on the announcement of two women as nominees for the top EU positions, Tusk told reporters at a press conference following the talks: “I am really happy about it. After all, Europe is a woman.”

Europe takes its name from Europa, a female consort of the god Zeus in Greek mythology.

Reporting from Brussels, Al Jazeera correspondent Nadim Baba said some of the nominations were an attempt to appease all sides of the political spectrum in Europe. 

Referring to Von der Leyen, who was Germany’s defence minister for six years, Baba said: “She is a very experienced politician. The contentious point – apart from the fact that she has expressed federalist sentiments in public, which is a no-no for some people in Brussels, and a good thing for others – is that she is from the centre-right, the European People’s Party, she’s a member of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU in Germany.”

Although the nominations finally came through, Tusk clarified it was still “not a done deal”. The nominee choices still need to be debated and ratified by the European Parliament.

‘Too long’

European leaders suspended their summit on Monday after 20 hours of talks failed to produce a deal on who should get the union’s top jobs.

The development angered French President Emmanuel Macron who said Europe’s indecision was hurting its image abroad.

EU leaders fail to agree on bloc leadership

The inability to find consensus candidates during marathon negotiations that ran through the night reflected the fragmented state of the bloc’s parliament and underlined the problems in reaching a common position on issues from migration to climate change that have grown as the European Union has expanded.

Commenting on the length of the negotiations, Baba said: “[It has taken so long] because the different political factions have been trying to get their people into those jobs.”

One of the main obstacles was the strong objection by Eastern European countries to a deal hatched by France, Germany and Spain to hand the European Commission presidency to Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans.

Timmermans’s nomination was also deeply unpopular with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, which argued it should hold the commission presidency as it has the most legislators in parliament.

“The prospect of Frans Timmermans getting the presidency of the European Commission did worry a lot of Eastern European states like Poland and Hungry,” explained Baba.

“We are hearing from Donald Tusk that for the European parliament’s presidency, for the first two and a half years of the next term, the job would go to a member of the socialists and democrats. And for the second half, it would be somebody from the EPP,” he added.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Who Has the Most to Lose in Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes?

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends during the first half of an NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on March 14, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

All is appropriately quiet on the Kawhi Leonard front as three teams—the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers—await word from the last superstar free agent on the market.

Contrary to popular belief, the waiting will not be the hardest part of this ordeal. The real pain will come after Leonard’s decision, when two of those three teams, with hopes dashed, will be left to figure out their Leonard-free futures.


Raptors would still have that ring

Toronto hardly belongs in the conversation about which franchise will be in the most distress without Leonard. The Raptors are mere weeks removed from a title, having gotten as much from their year with Kawhi as anyone could have imagined. 

Sure, losing Leonard would remove the Raptors from serious title contention and turn 2019-20 into a stopgap year before Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka hit free agency next summer. But Toronto knew Leonard was likely a one-year rental. It did everything it could to sell him on life with the Raptors, winning a ring and being feted like royalty during a championship parade—one that ended up feeling like a coronation. If it wasn’t enough, the Raptors can move on knowing they gave it everything they had.

Raptors executive Masai Ujiri knew what he was getting into when he traded for Leonard.

Raptors executive Masai Ujiri knew what he was getting into when he traded for Leonard.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

And they certainly shouldn’t be caught off guard.


Lakers wouldn’t be a title favorite

If not the Raptors, many would argue the Lakers have the most to lose if Leonard spurns them.

Toronto would rank among the championship favorites with Leonard in tow, but the Lakers would almost certainly vault into a clear front-running position with him. Unlike the Raptors, though, L.A. wouldn’t be in line for a rebuild without Leonard.

It would still have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, with the latter giving the Lakers a 26-year-old superstar around whom to build for the foreseeable future—assuming all the hassle of getting AD to Los Angeles was for more than a short-term stay.

In a strange way, the Lakers’ concerns will be similar with or without Leonard. They’ll be thin depthwise and vulnerable to injury. They’ll have a hard time filling out a roster, particularly with so many free agents already off the market. Leonard would reduce the severity of those issues, but he wouldn’t eliminate them.

Bottom line: The Lakers could be historically great with Leonard, but they’ll almost certainly be very good without him.


Clippers would be stuck 

The Clippers are different. They don’t have one, let alone two, superstars to anchor the roster. And, obviously, they’re not still basking in a championship glow like the Raptors are.

Without Leonard, the Clips would likely enter 2019-20 with Danilo Gallinari as their best player. That was enough last season to win 48 games and reach the playoffs, but it’s hard to imagine the Clippers would be psyched to run it back.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet give the team a promising backcourt that should continue to develop. With Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams also back, L.A. will still have plenty of veteran talent as well.

Throw in Montrezl Harrell, Gallo and Maurice Harkless, plus restricted free agents Rodney McGruder and Ivica Zubac, should they return, and the Clips have a solid rotation. That’s fine, but it was never the plan.

We’ve become process-focused in our analysis of NBA franchises. We laud teams that avoid bad contracts, pile up picks, develop young talent and generally conduct themselves in accordance with a long-term plan. The Clippers are perhaps the best recent example of the kind of franchise management most people prefer.

It’s just that at some point, the process has to yield results.

Having Danilo Gallinari as their best player in 2019-20 isn't exactly the Clippers' Plan A.

Having Danilo Gallinari as their best player in 2019-20 isn’t exactly the Clippers’ Plan A.Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Missing on Leonard wouldn’t render the Clips’ approach meaningless; the whole point of big-picture thinking like theirs is to position the organization so it can capitalize on opportunities across the board. But it’s also clear the Clippers maneuvered as they did with Leonard in mind.

Today’s Clippers are about as different from the New York Knicks as can be, but if Leonard doesn’t sign with them, they’ll be in a similar position: stuck without the star they wanted and left with no choice but to roll over that salary-cap space to next year.

If the Clippers keep the powder dry, Gallinari’s expiring contract will open up even more room to sign stars in 2020. But next year’s free-agent market is a wasteland compared to 2019’s, and it’s always easier to add high-end players if you’ve already got one. In that sense, missing out on Leonard this summer could hurt the Clippers’ chances at getting more talent in the future.

Everything the Clippers did to make themselves a desirable free-agent destination is sustainable. The smart management, flexibility and opportunistic asset-hoarding are all signs of a franchise that will remain competitive for years. The Clips are built the right way, and they’ll be in position to make a tantalizing pitch to the next Leonard that hits the market.

It’s just that they seemed to really want this one.

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