With the trade deadline and buyouts behind us, our focus at Hoops Rumors will shift to the summer ahead. There’s an intriguing list of players who could become free agents in the offseason, and we’ll be ranking the top 10 on a regular basis from now until free agency begins in July. Here’s the initial installment of the Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings:
- LeBron James — The four-time MVP is keeping mum on whether he’ll enter free agency at all, never mind where he’d sign if he hits the market. Many around the league speculate that the Heat have the inside track to retain him, with the Cavs looming as a possibility, but no one knows for sure. What is clear is that no other player would be as sought after on the market as James would be, even if he comes up empty in his quests for a third straight MVP and a third consecutive title.
- Carmelo Anthony — Last year’s scoring champ has insisted throughout the season that he’ll exercise his early termination option to hit free agency in the summer. He said at the All-Star break that he’d like to return to the Knicks next season, as long with the team’s plan for the future meets with his approval. The qualifier on that statement has led to game-by-game fret among New York writers as the Knicks continue to plummet in the standings. There are hints that the Knicks may be the only team willing to offer a maximum-salary contract, and while I suspect another max-salary suitor will emerge at some point, ‘Melo still has plenty of financial incentive to remain in New York.
- Chris Bosh — The third man in on the Heat’s trio of stars has surpassed Dwyane Wade and many others as he’s helped the Heat win back-to-back titles. He’s taking more three-pointers than ever this season, and making 37.3%, furthering his value as an all-around offensive weapon. The athleticism that allows him to jump out to double-team guards on pick-and-rolls and quickly scramble back to the paint helps state his case as the ultimate small-ball center. He has a $20.59MM early termination option.
- Eric Bledsoe — The Suns intend to match any offer for the soon-to-be restricted free agent point guard, so he’ll probably stay put. The Lakers are apparently thinking of overpaying to make a run at him anyway, so a maximum-salary contract is in play for the 24-year-old.
- Greg Monroe — The Pistons big man is a restricted free agent with a much greater chance of changing teams than Bledsoe has. Agent David Falk has a knack for finding maximum-salary bidders for borderline max-salary players, and with a handful of suitors already lining up, expect a robust market for the former seventh overall pick.
- Luol Deng — The 28-year-old was traded in January and nearly flipped again at the trade deadline, but he’s by no means unwanted. The durable two-way weapon isn’t a superstar, but he could be the missing piece for a team chasing a championship. He won’t come cheaply, since agent Herb Rudoy is reportedly seeking annual salaries north of $13.5MM.
- Lance Stephenson — There appears to be plenty of mutual interest in a new deal with the Pacers, but luxury tax concerns and multiple teams already eyeing the former second-round draft steal could make it tough. He was vastly improved last season, and this year’s averages of 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists, all career highs, are demonstrative of an all-around menace.
- Gordon Hayward — The Celtics considered reuniting the former Butler star with college coach Brad Stevens at the trade deadline, but in the aftermath of that report, it appears the Jazz are as high on the swingman as they’ve ever been. Hayward’s game isn’t flashy, but he’ll be just 24 this summer, so they may have to pay dearly to match an offer for him in restricted free agency.
- Dwyane Wade — There’s been more talk about Wade’s knees than his game the past two seasons, but the 32-year-old still plays like a star, averaging just a hair under 20 points, five rebounds and five assists a game. He’s not a maximum-salary player anymore, but he’s still worth yearly pay well into eight-figure territory. The question is how much longer he’ll be that valuable. His decision about whether to exercise his early termination option, and what to do if he does so, will likely be tied to what teammates James and Bosh decide to do.
- Zach Randolph — Another still-productive 32-year-old has expressed his affection for Memphis multiple times, and the Grizzlies reciprocate those feelings. Trade rumors this season nonetheless left the power forward with a sour taste in his mouth, and he’s undecided about a player option worth more than $16.9MM.
These rankings will no doubt change throughout the next few months as players state their cases in the waning weeks of the regular season and the playoffs. Guys with a chance to crack the top 10 later on include Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Evan Turner. I’m not listing players under team control for 2014/15, like Tony Parker, who has a partially guaranteed contract.