Thursday, 24 January 2019 13:01 Written by Eric Stelle
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2024 Free Agency Preview

Hunter Heath, a three-time All Star and All Defense forward, is among the most sought after free agents this offseason.

2024's Most Desired Free Agents: Are we a shark yet?

So you want to build? That's great! If you don't have much how do you get it? Well, one way is the draft and the OBWL has just held it's annual rookie draft. That's one of the tools toward building that champsionship squad but now is the time when the water has been chummed and GMs are swimming the waters looking for a tasty bite. Now it's time to get into the feeding frenzy and dollar bill bonanza that is unrestricted free agency.

Every year, the market is hot with teams trying to improve their lot in the league becuase, as the old addage in the league goes, "It pays to succeed," and the off season can be a time of lamentation for some as the checkbook come out or gets put away. Teams free their dollars so they can add blue chips to the roster which then helps them win. For all GMs, it's a tense time of year and phone lines to agents are kept open hoping to entice or retain talent.

There are some exciting free agents out there and we'll touch on the top five at each position and also give an opinion on their "flight risk" for those baby sharks (doo doo di doo di doo) out there looking for a meal. True, the home team has all the advantages but all it takes is a litle crack for a team to wedge themselves in between and pry them away. We'll look in terms of current compatability with their team's roster, potential incompatabiitles, and their team's outright ability to retain them for angles. So, without further ado...


Wesley Lefler

This 6'9" (center?) had his coming out party last year in South Florida just in time to draw to catch a paycheck. Sized like a power forward (if you believe size matters), the 23 year old fourth year veteran made up for the height disadvantage he gave up with fundamentals, timing, and a healthy dose of nasty. Per 26 min played, he was 7th in the league in rebounds per 36 (11.5), 20th in blocks, and put in 12.8 points per game on 47% shooting. What's more is he doesn't fould much and posts a nearly 2:1 block to foul ratio.

Flight Risk: Medium

With Justin Malone's heaping contract on the books, it may seem uncomfortable for the Sharks to wrap another high powered contract on the interior. Further, they have an alignment of contracts set to expire next year and a heavy contract stretching beyond 2025 eats into the ability to have a blank slate to restock the back court. Still, the Sharks do have the money so, to get him away, you'll need to bring your checkbook.

Brian Westerman

This 6'10 veteran is arguably the best defensive rebounder in the game. With a whopping 30.6 DRR, Westerman won't only end his opponent's possessions by cleaning the defensive glass, he has a fine 1.2 blocks per game too (with only 1.7 fouls in that same span). As for offensive contributions, he'll chip in an occasional three pointer but passing will be is his most notable offensive contribution. From the Center position, he averages 1.8 assists and a 1.60 A/TO ratio. Face it though, you want him because he single handedly reduces opposing teams' offenses to "one and done" not for his dope fade away jump shot.

Flight Risk: Medium

Detroit has young talent on the inside like Lefevre and Weatherford so how deep they'll dig into their pockets to keep Westerman is a question mark. Detroit is another team facing a lot fo potential flux with only 20 million on the books next year and three players who provide quite a few minutes to their playoff team up for extention or eventual free agency next year. I think that length is where Westerman can be had. Does Detroit want to invest in a 28 year old earning a high contract value since they ahve so many young players coming up who will also clamor for money?

Chris Graves

Somewhat of a unicorn, Graves is a true seven footer who strides up and down the court like a gazelle. Though one could argue that his rebounds per game were padded by the fact that he was sometimes all alone under the defensive glass as Newton would leak out to run the floor with the wings. Still, his DRR is 26.8 and he's been a consistent rebouning presense the past two years. On top of that, he has an offensive repitoire that consists of point blank finishes which he does well. Averaging one shot attempt per 4 min on the court and hitting half of those, Graves is a fine presence in the middle. A bit foul prone, Graves does produce a block per game and stays north of 1.00 on his A/To ratio.

Flight Risk: High

Tampa just acquired Darin Deans and Joe Aviles. In addition, their star point guard is looking for his first contract now that his rookie deal has passed. Rumor has it that GM Lacher is cooking something else up too that might make the prospect of retaining Graves an impossibility if the market for his services gets too hot.

William Cole

Towering in the middle, Cole is 7'2" and 336 lbs. This hipopotamic landmass of a pivot brings suprising touch from midrange. His knees won't let him run up and down the court with the younger players but he's a fine additon in the harf court and finishes well. Further, he does not shy away from contact and can box out very well with his wide body. Another 50% shooter in the middle, Cole scored in double dights for the Buzzards and passed the ball extremely well within their system (1.79 A/To ratio).

Flight Risk: Medium

I daresay that GM Warnke won't invest long term in a thirty year old unless he does so to spite the opinion of this article. Length of contract is where he can be had. Extend the offer multiple years to be sure you can secure the top overall offer and he could be yours. If your team is lacking phisycality, Cole brings that in spades but also has a silky side that is underappreciated.

Zachary Roush

The veteran 6'11" center from Boisie checks off many boxes for an unobtrusive roadblock center. Not very demanding of the offense (only takes a shot every 5:30 or so on the court), he is better used to set a pick or grab an offensive rebound. No, where Roush shines is on the defensive end. Very good at fronting the post or defending from behind, Roush is an underrated post defense that never really saw the light of day behind star center Richard Hardee.

Flight Risk: Low

They have the money to pay him and, with winds of chage blowing in from the mainland, the sons of pele may just pay to keep him around while newly minted power forward Forest Vasquez learns to perfom at the professional level. They are already set with Bach at power forward so I would expect them to go to bat for Roush. He's been conspicuously missing from any trade posts out of Honolulu, a team known for trying to trade a player before they have even turned in their old uniform.


John Newton

A career Philladelphia American (that's saying something), Newton has blossomed into a scoring force from the power forward position. Not much on the midrange game but has a set shot three pointer that lands more than the opponent's sagging power forward would like. He also has a quick first step when they come out to guard the three. Despite a loose handle, there is no denying Newton's offensive contribution. Not a prototypical 13 and 10 though. Skew that slider a bit more toward the points per game side and less from the rebounds and you know what Newton is. Capable of firing for percentage, he's great at hanging around the bucket on offense and getting a hand on a tip in. He's a shot in the arm at a position that doesn't have a lot of known scoring names and could perhaps blossom in a system that didn't have Montes commanding shots away from him.

Flight Risk: Medium

His lack of "traditional" skill set seem to dry the ink in the American's pen. Further, veterans like Drumm and Montes came in but out of sync with the arrival time of their young core so, now that those legends have passed, an sizeable investment to retain Newton now that they just reinvested in a new youth core might perpetuate that cycle. Further, Amado's crush on Renato Ardoin has booked the player on a one way trip to Philly and, when looking at a balance sheet, 12 million or more does not look so great next to Ardoin's 20 million per season. It will take a strong offer but, when a GM is silently praying that the market for a player is not hot, that player can be had.

Arthur Prosser

One of the bright spots in a dark, dismal swamp that is in New Jersey. One wonders what he can do on a team with a staff and squad honed to win but a 6'9" big with shooting touch like his shoudl always attract attention. He's physically gifted too so he could be an instant offense starter who operates behind a wall of defense as we've seen many teams with the same configuration. In the interest of transparency, he is an utterly vanilla defender but, fortunately, basketball is a team sport.

Flight Risk: High

The Enforcers have Jack Miley and two very young, very foul prone, but talented prospects. If he can keep their fouls in check and get 30 minutes per game out of them, the prospect of making a commitment to a big with vanilla defense could be tested. With 50 million on the books already and a budget atropied to only 11 million beyond that a heavy contract could pry him away.

Lucas Williams

It's hard to beleive that he's been in the league 5 seasons but he has. Williams has had a long, circuitous route to land in London and boy did that time under the Knights' tutilage pay dividends. Learning how to play defense from habitual DMVP Jean Larry seemed to open up his game. Strong as an ox, he won't be absent on offense but just don't look if he gets to the line. You can teach a player only so much and bending his knees on free throws apparently took a back seat to hitting the glass. For London's affiliate, Williams shot a blistering 56.8% to the tune of 17.8 points per game which should give GMs a hint of what he can do. Of course, the professional ranks are not the D-League but review of his per 36 in the time he's had show that's not far off presuming he can reign in his tendancy to reach on defense.

Flight Risk: Low

London can bring him back and with both the roster spots and budget room, that looks likely. However, they have Owens and Larry inside with Larry coming up on extension looking to command top dollary for his defensive accumen. I would daresay that Williams will not catch a maximum value contract this off season but a team operating in the sub max zone but still above the MLE can compete in this market and maybe push the contract into "too uncomfortable" for even the Knight's titanic budget.

Gary Budd

Budd is perhaps one of the best young interior scorers, Budd flew quietly under the radar in a Chicago where GM Abacarian has done a burn down like the city hasn't see since 1871. Like Newton at the top of this list, Budd scored an impressive 14.6 points per game in only 26 minutes. This is doubly impressive since his range seems to be limited to within 5 feet of the basket. When you oppoent knows it's coming you have to finish strong to still have your way. Budd is well sized for the position and has a powerful lower body to root people out of position. Not the best rebounder in the world, Budd is more of a newer generation of forward with more face up skills. To hear scouts in Chicago talk, they claim that he could evolve a mid range game and is willing to listen to instruction in that area. The addition of a jump shot would open his game like a flower.

Flight Risk: Medium

No longer able to nonchillantly hand out ten million dollar contracts, the budget in Chicago has been steadiliy shrinking. To hear talk out of the Blaze front office, they'll turn on the jets and it'll all come back but a heavy contract on a team where the avearage age is less than the Sophomore class at Northwestern University, can give pause. Those chickens come home to roost and the team does not look ready any time in the next 2-3 seasons and you don't want Budd demandin top dollar just when potential stars like Daniel West are looking to get their paycheck.

Jarod Lovell

Lovell has come up silently and is worthy of attention. He spent 2023 in Quebec's system but really only saw heavy rotation in their Development Team where he excelled. At the professional level, he looks ready to contribute and, if you squint, his game is similar to John Newton but more discipline on the defensive boards. He could make a great addition to a team looking to acqure a piece to anchor a 3-5 year plan.

Flight Risk: High

With precious little budget room on a team largely devoid of "ready now" talent, it's unlikely that the Coyotes will pursue redundancies of expensive players. They have Frederic Johnson now... they have Elijah Lea now. So a Jarod Lovell now? Ehhh. Add to it that the Coyotes have no bird rights and his contract demands are VERY affordable... this kid just wants a shot and everybody and their mother will throw a MLE trying to snag a 24 year old. Get above that and you might get him... spend real money, that chance goes up and it's unlikely that the Coyotes will spend what real money they have on a redundancy.


Hunter Heath

The player that every GM hopes to will arrive for Christmas, Heath is arguably the best player in the game. Few other teams represent such an assortment of basketball skills. Need a guy to shoot the J? Heath does it. Need soembody to take their guy inside? The 6'11" forward is ready. Point guard not up to snuff? Heath's 3.5 assists per game are better than some team's starting point guard. Then there's the defense, the steals, the blocks, doesn't foul, yaddda, yadda... do you get the point? About the only knock on Heath is that he can't keep up with the modern small forwards very well and that he doesn't draw much contact. That's ok though, you can cry yourself to sleep over the pile of wins he'll bring if you land him.

Flight Risk: Variable

He's an American so the same commentary following Newton follows Heath. That would make him a higher risk for defection from Philly; however, you can bet the farm that he's going to be a sign and trade player. So where the offers come from will matter. If the opening offers come from a winning team with enough budget room, that might drown out the clamor from the league for his services and let me be clear... every team in the league capable of doing so should throw this guy a max offer (which is modest for the ability by the way) as he will absolutely change your franchise for the better.

Michael Weathersby

At 6'5", this 23 year old is as tough of a small forward as they come. Basically a power forward in a small forward's body, Weathersby was the fourth best rebounder at the SF position and tied for 7th in points per game. He's what Daniel West hopes to become someday. He's still learning how to effectively play defense at the professional level but seems a willing student so his potential seems through the roof. His coaches remark how he's very trainable too. About the only knock on him is that he seems to be a bit over bulky and gets winded easily. Some focus on conditioning or just a simple maturation of his training regimine could see even better production in 36 min span.

Flight Risk: Low

Make no mistake, the Inferno are going to the mattresses for this kid but for such a talented 23 year old, he seems worth throwing down for. With many franchises out shopping for a cornerstone, he just might be it. Early word from his agent is that he has no team preference, likes Honolulu okay, but, more than anything else, he wants to be PAID. At his age/experience, a max is not that heavy either. This is another player that should see heavy activity but Hoholulu has the ability to offer bigger raises and more years. However, we've seen money oriented folks defect before and this is a guy worth taking that flyer on.

Peter Granville

A "Weathersby Lite", Granville saw time in the starting rotation behind being banished to the bench behind some guy named Richardson... I hear he's kinda good. Granville brings the same physical elements as Weathersby but doesn't quite seal opposing SF on the boards very well. Despite that, he's proven that, given the minutes, he can produce at a respectable level. At 30 years old, he's not a cornerstone piece but a team looking to round out a competitive starting five and not pay through the nose might turn an eye his way.

Flight Risk: High

The SunKings knowingly threw themselves into a financial malestorm this season when they acquired Jorge Dennis' "dark matter heavy" contract. Now, they sitting nearly over budget polishing their hardware and gazign at the sparkle from their rings. The perfect time to pick the bones of that team and take the meat. With only seven players on their roster so it's unlikely that Granville will catch much action from the home team beyond a minimum contract. If a team can slip in over mid exception, they can beat most other teams over the cap and get a solid contributor for a 2-3 year window on the cheap.

Gregory Gebhardt

This kid is no more a shooting guard than I am in your living room right now. The Mad Scientist in London is known for doing some off the wall combinations and this appears to be the latest in that line. At 6'9" tall the GM in Londom trotted him out on the win. Why? Was it part a madcap effort to "stash" him out of the view of the rest of the league? Was it some mutant zone scheme defense? Who knows? Gebhardt has a strong inside game and a great three point shot (albeit, one with a slow release) but being able to shoot a three pointer does not make you a guard. Never realy tested in his time in the league, Gebhardt looks prime to play the smaller forward position or even split time at power forward.

Flight Risk: Medium

London can pay. The owner was so pleased with their cup win that he left the checkbook in GM Lian's office. That said, with the starpower they have coming back to London this season, it's very unlikely that they will focus substantial resources on the 16 minutes per game Gebhardt provided. The MLE alone likely won't be enough as franchises who boast budgets in the hundred million go 10-11 deep on contracts at that leve. You'll need above it and have enough buying power to make it uncomfortable to get him... but he does look gettable.

Charles Banks

Another bruiser, Banks brings a bit more finesse that others on this list. Fast enough to create space, Banks at once looks to be a tough inside presence both and soft finisher. Perhaps this is part utilization as the Storm have been known to use nontraditional ineups so Banks may have been challenging larger players which makes him need to create even more space to get a clean shot. He's had foul trouble that's followed him but really seemed to come to a head last year but he also had a return to form that the league saw in his second through fourth seasons in the league.

Flight Risk: High

Ft. Worth is another franchise locked in a budgetary crisis so their ability to bring Banks back is going to be limited. This might be another case where, if a team can slip in over the midlevel exception, they can get a sparkplug for their offense.


Frank Williams

A long guard, Williams has come a long way from a pedestrian point guard prospect. His evoloution has been gradual but he really came into his own in St. Louis. Williams is not the kind of guard to take over a game like Dominic Baum or Brian Montes. What he does bring is the top swing guard game in the league. He's long and disruptive on defense. He stretches the floor on offense and has top shelf handles to go with his first rate court vision. Despite playing on the wings, he also helps quite a bit on the glass as well. A ten year veteran, Williams has learned how tot ake care of himself and has played 80 games (or more) like a metronome. Critical elements might point out that this is because he avoids a lot of punishment by not going inside or challenging defenders but supports point out that a floater in the lane scores just as well as a younger man's dunk attempt.

Flight Risk: High

Tampa is not used to paying substantial money for anyone unless their name rhymes with "Schmandy Gleeters" but that's not to say they won't pay to retain Williams' talent. Yet, with their other back court starter also up for contract, the Tritons will likely focus there first. Further, two maximun level offers are unlikely to sit well with their GM. Likely, they will focus on the younger of their two back court starters first which leaves Williams vulnerable. Teams able to throw what Williams is offering for the term he's offering (a 10 year veteran's max, is HEAVY) stand the best chance but it's unlikely that the market will set his price starting at 18 million. Do expect the market to get hot for him though and the team that can beat the heat will get him.

Joey Short

Short is a very physical guard and has been developing in quiet anonymity. Drafted in the same class as Weathersby, he and his draftmate seemed to have differing trajectories. Weathersby erupted like Kilauea but Short has been more like Hualalai... seeming dormant but the energy is there. Short is well sized for the guard position and is blazingly fast. With the likes of Fore and Emmert climbing to the top of the scoring leaderboard, it's no suprise that his services will be in demand. He is a bit out of control but whilrs like a tasmaneian devil when he gets into the lane to somehow flip it in. Not afraid of contact, his finishes in the paint thrill the crowd almost as much as his shots from ten feet out disappoint them. He has shown flashes though and experts think that it may just be a matter of comfort before he finds his rhythm and takes off. Short would be a great addition to any team though he's not in positon to be the offesnive focal point yet.

Flight Risk: High

Philadelphia does not have a lot of room once you account for the other free agents on the team. This is another player I'd look for a sign and trade on becuase he's chasing a legitimate contract. His demands are not unreasonable though so expect the market line up and thrust fistfulls of dollar bills in his direction.

Benjamin Wilson

I know. Who?? Well, there's a reason for your confusion because he's toiling in relative anonymity in New Jersey. At first gloss, he's a three point specialist who is 6'7" tall but then you look at see how he handles more like a point guard and how he creatively spots his teammates. Then, you look at his defense and it's pretty average, until you look at him block a shot or time a pass perfectly to get the steal. All of this while avoiding mistakes like fouliing and turnovers. There is a lot to like here but one has to address the glaring weakness which is his tendency to leak out and general ineptitude when his coach calls for him to get stuck in down low. He's got potential to expand his game scouts say and he is just getting ready to enter what are normally the prime years for a player so a bid now could yield a fine player for the term of his contract. He really has to use his height to keep up with faster guards so maybe you might think of him at the small forward position where he's listed; however, best to have a solid interior if you go that route.

Flight Risk: Medium

New Jersey can likely spend enough to keep him but that means using his precious room under the cap to bring in new talent. On top of the prospect of signing talents like Richardson and others and the prospect of another lackluster season (and the budget loss that brings with it), New Jersey may well not want to lock themselves up in a contract of substantial length. A team could get Wilson to supplement a strong interior and then reap his benefits as faciliator and jack of many trades.

Loren Pepper

"Full many a flower..." or so it goes. Pepper, after a respectable first professional season as a part timer in New Jersey, was relegated to the bench and did not play one professional minute after. Having never really been given a chance, Pepper seems eager to shake the impression that the league has of him being soft and make a mark. He's a fine passer and ball hawk so it seems like he has a chance. At 29 years old, time is running out to make a mark but he could well be worth a try.

Flight Risk: High

Nobdy has birds on him so it's open season and his contract demands are less than the mid excpetion so a canny team can meet his demands and still have money left over in the exception.m A team on the plus side of 500 probably has the best chance as he's been on record that he'd like to contribute to a cup run if possible but, in the end, cash is king.

Abe Gutierrez

"Baby Goot" as fans in KC have come to know him, this 6'3" guard is hard to classify. He passes like a point guard but has the scorer's instincts of a 2. He can defend either so he looks to be a swing guard in the making. He displays a keen nose for the ball and his tendency to snake into the paint for rebound putbacks or help bigs when other teams crash or outmatch down low. While there seems to be a lot to like, he has very little by way of a body of work at the professional level. He's also proven very wild with the ball going through his legs or behind his back in kind of a herky-jerky motion. For a team who sat out this last draft, picking up a 22 year old might seem ideal; however, you're paying sight unseen and for any future development needs.

Flight Risk: Low

KC sat out of the draft this year so it's a safe bet that they'll make efforts to keep him in KC. Though, if a team just has money lying around with nothing else to do, it might be possible to make the contract too uncomfortable to keep. Then again, teams playing that game might get stuck with an unfinished player who sits and eats cap for an indeterminant time. Gamblers welcome.


Horbert Frisby

The consensus number one pick has quietly stepped into the revered spot that once Andy Teeters dominated. He's proven himself to be an mercurial scorer sometimes but a scorer he is. Combined with a sharp passing game, he's a refreshing drink of water at a habitually dry position. He finishes well on his career but perhaps focused a bit too much on the midrange last year as it was a career low on shots taken on the inside. A return to form is certian and Frisby is one of the premiere three point snipers at his position and perhaps the entire league. The only knock on the leader of "the new breed" at point guard is that he's quick to commit to an upfake and slow to recover when his opponent goes by so he's going to need his power forward or center to slide and stop the drive. This can break down the team's defense so he'll have to work on that as he works toward his prime years.

Flight Risk: Low

With all the Tritons' fluxuation this off season, Frisby will be the constant. He seems happy in Tampa Bay but sometimes the toast of the town can leave. He's worth it though so if you are in the market and have the money to make the offer, do it. Should he decide that maybe he wants a more stable environment, he might pack a bag.

Stanley Bobo

A less sexy bet than Frisby is 6'1" point guard. Bobo has a prolific jump shot and does himself a favor by not wandering into the forrest too much. His 43% shooting is top shelf and highly under appreciated. He's just on the cusp of his prime years and runs the point well. His 6.9 assists are great and, if he could learn just a little restraint, that 2.84 A/To ratio would ascend to match that of the elite points in the league. Sure, he's prone to defensive lapses at times but he's well conditioned and has proven that he's not just a product of the system having transitioned to the Marauders. Add an effective three point shot to the mix and any team in need of a floor general can look right here.

Flight Risk: Medium

Marauders have 20 million and change under the cap but they also only have 1 million beyond that under budget. That means that a 7-8 million dollar offer puts them in position to not be able to hapahazzardly throw around 13 mil maximum contracts. Bobo can be a boon to any franchise so I expect him to get quite a bit of action especially in a league that seems to be perpetually thirsty for quality at the point guard position.

Chris Brawner

Quite possibly the smallest player to have a multi-year career in the OBWL, Brawner has faced an uphill struggle all his career. Once you look at th game however, you see that, while he might have a hard time riding certian roller coasters at six flags, he does not have trouble running an offense. The waterbug is also suprisingly tenacious on defense but struggles to prevent players from shooting over him by using his quick hands on players who bring the ball down low. He's a mixed bag when it comes to him taking the pressure off the other four players on the floor though and needs to do more with his midrange or three point game to keep opposing points from sagging off him.

Flight Risk: High

Chicago seems to be amassing a team that can't buy beer after a home win so a 28 year old point guard may see the door. This goes double since they spent their top lottery pick on a point guard. A MLE or just over MLE offer seems to be all you'll need. If you don't need your point to do heavy lifting on offense, this might be a quality conductor.

Edward Niemi

The 6'2" sparkplug from Farmersville, CA has personified the journeman's voyage in the professional league. Initally drafted by Ft. Worth, he played sparingly in his rookie and sophomore years only to be shunted off to their developmental squad. Then Indiana picked him up and did the same... some time in the pros then over to the developmental squad. Neimi has an unusual game in that he is average speed but prefers penatration over jump shots. He does more than a few things well and had the point guard skills to run a team. Not especially blessed defensivel, he had decent timing playing the passing lanes but trouble stopping the drive. All of things that can be worked on.

Flight Risk: High

When a player would sign for a chance to show what he's got, he might not attract the attention of elite franchises who have established rotations but on other franchises looking to make a name for themselves, a hungry player like Niemi would fit right in.

David Kitchens

If the Archers have shown anything, it's that teams can succeed with minimal passing if the players on the team have one on one skills. Well, Kitchens has that in spades. With a physique that would make Senator Dwayne Johnson envious, Kitchens is physique first, point guard skills later. Kansas City put him to good use in a backup role but he seemed to spend most of his efforts trying to rebound jam offensive caroms instead of trying to run the team. Fortunately, they had two other top shelf floor generals and any team who has such a floor leader already might take him on. Nicknamed "The Body" by the local media, Kitchens does actually have legitimate skills... it's just hard to get past that much muscle packed into 6'3" of human. League officials confirm that he has, in fact, passed random drug tests for PED's though so that appears to just be the product of hard work.

Flight Risk: High

I think if anyone throws him a MLE, he's gone. With guys like James Wall showing that a career can be made with nontraditional skills, a player like Kitchens who would be immedately discounted as a point guard should at least be given a critical thought.



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0 #1 Eric Stelle 2019-01-24 14:09
Last time we'll see that "Heath in Philly" graphic?

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