There are no changes to the top 10 players on the Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings a month after the debut edition, but the order is shuffled. Gordon Hayward and Dwyane Wade jumped up two spaces apiece, while Lance Stephenson was the most significant tumbler, falling from seventh to 10th. The regular season is nearing an end, meaning there’s limited time for guys on non-playoff teams like Hayward and Greg Monroe to state their cases. Still, money is often earned and lost in the playoffs, so there will be much at stake in the weeks ahead for many on this list.
We’ll be ranking the best of the 2014 free agents on a regular basis from now until free agency begins in July. Here’s our latest look:
- LeBron James — The four-time MVP is running out of time to earn his fifth such award, after a March that perhaps met his lofty standards but certainly didn’t exceed them. Still, the Heat find themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings for the first time all season today, and if a three-peat is on the offing, it’d be especially hard to see James leaving Miami with the chance of four in a row looming.
- Carmelo Anthony — The Bulls and Rockets appear to be ‘Melo’s top alternatives to re-signing with the Knicks, though it appears New York’s decision to hire Phil Jackson as team president has given the star forward a boost of enthusiasm about sticking around.
- Chris Bosh — If Bosh’s one-word answer to a true-false question is to be believed, he and LeBron will be back in Miami next season. Most league insiders reportedly feel as though all three Heat stars will opt out and hit free agency, only to re-sign with Miami.
- Eric Bledsoe — The point guard returned to the lineup this month, and while his scoring and shooting percentage are down, his rebounds are up. Perhaps most importantly, the Suns are 8-3 since his return. The Suns plan to match any offer for their restricted free agent, but he seems in line for the maximum salary.
- Greg Monroe — So much depends on who’s making basketball decisions for the Pistons come July, as I wrote when I examined the 23-year-old’s free agent stock. Detroit has fallen out of playoff contention, but Monroe had his best month of the season in March, averaging 16.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
- Gordon Hayward — Hayward likes Salt Lake City, which is a plus for him, since the Jazz have the power to match any offer. The swingman will stay clear of negotiations and leave them to the Jazz and agent Mark Bartelstein, who can point to Hayward’s improved shooting down the stretch if he keeps up his March performance in the season’s final two weeks.
- Dwyane Wade — He’ll likely do as the other Heat stars do, which indicates that he’ll remain with the Heat, the only NBA team he’s ever played for. Wade is still capable of dominance, as his 11 for 12 shooting night in his hometown of Chicago this month proved.
- Luol Deng — The small forward appears to be counting the days until he can leave Cleveland, though there’s still an outside chance the Cavs will make the playoffs and keep Deng in their uniform a little bit longer. Deng’s numbers still haven’t returned to their Chicago levels since the midseason trade that took him from the Bulls.
- Zach Randolph — Z-Bo’s best shooting month of the season coincided with a 12-5 record for the Grizzlies, who are making a late season push for the playoffs. Randolph has perhaps more to gain from a strong postseason than anyone. If he can prove he’s still a beast inside at age 32, he can opt out and sign another lucrative, long-term deal.
- Lance Stephenson — The fourth-year shooting guard’s penchant for sins of aggression, like the technical foul that prompted his ejection for the stretch run of a key game against the Heat in March, might be his most glaring flaw. His no-holds barred attitude is also one of his greatest strengths, and GMs will have to weigh the nebulous factors of psychology and intangibles when they consider Stephenson. March has been his worst month, just as its been for the entire Pacers team.
Dirk Nowitzki has a strong chance to sneak into the top 10 next time, especially if the Mavs make the playoffs and Stephenson and the Pacers can’t turn it around. Kyle Lowry‘s making a case for himself, too, although his assists were down and his turnovers were up in March.
Note: I’m not listing players under team control for 2014/15, like Tony Parker, who has a partially guaranteed contract.