2014 Free Agent Power Rankings

How 2014’s Top Free Agents Fared

In a vacuum, the Heat had a tremendous offseason. They came away with three members of the top 10 from the final edition of the Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and no other team signed more than one. Of course, Miami started the summer with three of them, and wound up exchanging LeBron James, No. 1 on this list, for Luol Deng, who occupies the ninth spot. So the Heat took a hit this summer, but team president Pat Riley and company still came away with a fairly impressive haul.

LeBron drove this summer’s free agency, one that included several surprises, particularly on the restricted market. Gordon Hayward quickly scored a max offer sheet while Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe, whom I’d listed higher, languished much of the offseason. Hayward, at No. 6, and Chris Bosh, at No. 3, were the only players in this top 10 to sign true max deals, though LeBron will make the maximum salary over the two seasons on his contract.

Here’s a look at what each member of the top 10 in our Free Agent Power Rankings came up with this offseason:

  1. LeBron James (Cavaliers: two years, $42.218MM) — It appeared the smart money in early June was on the Rich Paul client staying on South Beach, but James was careful never to give any hints, much less make any promises, and, to Paul’s apparent delight, he decided to return to the Cavs. The four-time MVP limited his maximum-salary deal to two years with a player option after year one, though he insists that he did so merely to take advantage of projected increases in the salary cap, and not to leave Cleveland, where he says he intends to stay for the rest of his career.
  2. Carmelo Anthony (Knicks: five years, $124.065MM) — The high-scoring forward met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs and Lakers, but none could convince him to leave the media spotlight in New York. The Knicks even managed to convince Anthony and agent Leon Rose to take less than the maximum, though the discount only amounts to $5.071MM over the life of the deal.
  3. Chris Bosh (Heat: five years, $118.705MM) — He’ll make the same salary as LeBron will this season, and Anthony will see more money on his deal, but Bosh was the only free agent to sign a five-year contract for the maximum amount allowable under the collective bargaining agreement. The Henry Thomas client appeared on his way to Houston for four years at the max until the Heat took advantage of their exclusive ability to offer a fifth year to reel him back.
  4. Eric Bledsoe (Suns: five years, $70MM) — None of the negotiations around the league this summer appeared as contentious as the talks between the Suns and Paul, the same agent who helped grind the NBA to a halt while LeBron made his choice. The Bucks were in the discussion early and the Wolves jumped in late, but ultimately it was a staredown between Bledsoe and the Suns, who could match all offers for the restricted free agent. Phoenix made the greater concession, agreeing to a deal closer to the max than to the Suns’ four-year, $48MM offer, demonstrating Paul’s growing power.
  5. Greg Monroe (Pistons; one-year, $5.48MM) — The cost of converting restricted free agency to unrestricted free agency in a year’s time is steep, but Monroe and agent David Falk are betting that it’s worth it. They rejected offers from the Pistons of five years and $60MM and four years and more than $54MM to make Monroe the most prominent name among the 17 others to sign a qualifying offer since the institution of rookie scale contracts in 1995. Monroe and Falk reportedly sought only sign-and-trades rather than offer sheets out of fear the Pistons would match, but no swap amenable to them, the Pistons and another team ever materialized.
  6. Gordon Hayward (Jazz; four years, $62.965MM) — Restricted free agency was much more straightforward for the Mark Bartelstein client. A visit with the Cavs didn’t bear fruit, but a trip to Charlotte soon thereafter resulted in a max offer sheet that the Jazz matched. Hayward was the only restricted free agent to come away with a max deal, even though Bledsoe ended up with more money spread out over a longer period of time.
  7. Dwyane Wade (Heat; two years, $31.125MM) — It was hard to predict just what would happen with Wade, who opted out of the final two years and $41.819MM on his deal in the hopes that re-signing at a discount would help persuade LeBron to stay in Miami. Wade, who shares Thomas as his agent with Bosh, still wound up with a two-year deal that entails significantly lower salaries than he would have made if he’d opted in, but it wasn’t quite as drastic a sacrifice as some reports suggested he’d make.
  8. Kyle Lowry (Raptors; four years, $48MM) — The Heat, Rockets and Lakers all sought an upgrade at the point with the Andy Miller client, but Lowry instead chose to sign with the team that was prepared trade him to the Knicks in the middle of this past season. The Raptors banked on the notion that his career year last season wasn’t a fluke, and Lowry surely has similar hope that Toronto’s resurgence isn’t a mirage.
  9. Luol Deng (Heat; two years, $19.86MM) — Deng insists he isn’t replacing LeBron, but it wound up as de facto trade that saw the client of Herb Rudoy and Ron Shade go from Cleveland to Miami while a more decorated small forward took his talents back to Northeast Ohio. The revelations of the Hawks/Danny Ferry scandal cast Deng’s free agency in a new light, but the controversy also showed that Deng almost ended up in Atlanta. The Suns, Mavs, Wizards and Bulls were interested, too, but even though Deng was looking for at least $12MM a year, he wound up taking less.
  10. Zach Randolph (extension with Grizzlies; two years, $20MM) — The Raymond Brothers client decided not to hit free agency, opting in to his $16.5MM salary for 2014/15 and signing an extension that will reduce his pay starting in 2015/16. It seemed inevitable that he’d have to take a pay cut on his next deal, and while he might have secured more money over the long term if he’d opted out and signed a new deal, opting in and signing the extension gave him the best of both worlds. He’ll receive more in the next three seasons than the $30-35MM over three years that the free agency market appeared ready to bear.

2014 Free Agent Power Rankings

The playoffs have so far done more to cement the conventional wisdom about this year’s free agents than dispel it. Miami’s trio of stars were the only top-10 potential free agents to make it past the first round, and while they’ve done nothing to diminish their value, others, like Lance Stephenson, failed to help themselves into our latest Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.

Day two of the free agency period is one month from now, and by then, there’s a decent chance we’ll know where many of the players on this list will be headed. Here’s what we know with 29 days left until free agency starts:

  1. LeBron James (early termination option) — It would reportedly take a “dream scenario” for James to leave Miami, and the possibility apparently would drift even farther into the realm of fantasy if the Heat win the NBA Finals. Teammates scoff at the idea he’d sign elsewhere. Still, there seemed to be little chance James would end up in Miami at this point in 2010, and a month later, the MVP was headed south. James himself has offered few hints, so there are many educated guesses but no certainties.
  2. Carmelo Anthony (early termination option) — Knicks president Phil Jackson wants ‘Melo to opt in, and the star forward is thinking about it, Jackson said last week. That would be a change of plans for Anthony, who has on multiple occasions this season repeated his plans to hit free agency. It would also surely disappoint Joakim Noah, who apparently continues to try to recruit him. Still, the Bulls would have a hard time finding max money for him, the Mavs would be wary of giving it to him even if they could, and Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss reportedly doesn’t want to poach ‘Melo from Jackson, her fiance. The idea of opting in and playing out the final year of his deal, worth in excess of $23.333MM, appears increasingly attractive.
  3. Chris Bosh (early termination option) — A report this month indicated that Bosh and the Lakers have mutual interest, but it appears likely that nothing will come of that this summer, since Bosh says he’s eager to return to the Heat and open to a discount if Miami wants him to take one.
  4. Eric Bledsoe (restricted free agent) — The Mavs are reportedly likely to target Bledsoe, though they probably won’t get very far, with Phoenix planning to match any offer. Bledsoe seems to have as much if not a better chance at a max deal than Anthony or Bosh, but because his maximum salary wouldn’t be nearly as high as theirs, he remains at No. 4 in these rankings.
  5. Greg Monroe (restricted free agent) — New Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy wasted no time getting touch with Monroe and agent David Falk, but there are conflicting reports about Van Gundy’s willingness to re-sign the big man. Van Gundy has offered only qualified hints about the future of the team’s shooting-deficient frontcourt, and with Monroe the easiest to unload, there are plenty of questions about his free agency. He’s eyeing the Pelicans, and the Hornets and Lakers have emerged in the past month as likely suitors for him.
  6. Gordon Hayward (restricted free agent) — Hayward endorsed Earl Watson‘s darkhorse candidacy for coach of the Jazz, but if Utah picks someone else, I doubt he’d be too disappointed. Watson still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire from playing this summer, and while jumping into a head coaching job directly after playing has become trendy, not everyone can do it. Utah needn’t bend too far to Hayward’s wishes, since the team can match any offers.
  7. Dwyane Wade (early termination option) — If Bosh accepts a discount to remain with the Heat, there will be pressure on Wade to do the same. Wade’s numbers have declined slightly in the playoffs over his production in the regular season, and while he remains an elite talent, it would be tough for Miami or any team to commit close to max money for the long haul to the 32-year-old.
  8. Kyle Lowry — Exit interviews revealed Lowry’s strong feelings for the Raptors, but that won’t stop other teams from coming after him hard. He’s the highest-ranking player on this list who’ll be an unrestricted free agent and doesn’t have an early termination option, and there’s a strong chance he’ll be the most desirable player on the market come July. I wouldn’t be surprised if his next deal blows past the four-year, $45MM estimate that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports pegged at the deadline.
  9. Luol Deng — Deng, like Hayward, reportedly has a preferred coach, but there’s probably more weight behind his apparent desire to work with Adrian Griffin than Hayward’s support for Watson. Griffin performed well in his interview with Cleveland, and perhaps his hiring would give the Cavs more than just the faint glimmer of hope they seem to have of re-signing Deng.
  10. Zach Randolph (player option) — Randolph and the Grizzlies have opened extension talks, and while he appears to be in line for a three-year deal in the $30-35MM range on the open market, it seems there’s a strong chance he’ll opt in and collect more than $16.9MM on the final season of his contract. Doing so and signing a three-year extension later this summer for anywhere between $30-35MM would appear to be the most lucrative path the Raymond Brothers client could take.

If this list included only unrestricted free agents without player or early termination options, Dirk Nowitzki, Lance Stephenson, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce, Pau Gasol, Spencer Hawes and Mario Chalmers would join Lowry and Deng. That would make for something of a thin market, and with many restricted free agents and players with options poised to return to their teams, several players stand a decent chance of ending up with inflated contracts this summer.

You can check out how these rankings have evolved over the past few months right here.

Note: This list doesn’t include players under team control for 2014/15, like Tony Parker, who has a partially guaranteed contract. 

2014 Free Agent Power Rankings

A thrilling first round of the playoffs has vaulted Kyle Lowry into the latest edition of the Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, even though his Raptors fell just short in their series against the Nets. Miami’s trio of stars are the only ones on this top 10 list whose teams remain alive in the playoffs, so a late charge from others might be enough to knock one of these names off for next time. Here’s a look at how the top free agents stand two weeks into the playoffs.

  1. LeBron James (early termination option) — Heat owner Micky Arison recently pegged the team’s chances of keeping the team’s big three together at 100%, as he spoke on 790 The Ticket (transcription via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post). Arison also said that while he hopes it won’t be a challenge to retain them, he suggested it could be. In any case, it’s yet another strong indication that the top free agent won’t be changing teams.
  2. Carmelo Anthony (early termination option) — ‘Melo and Knicks president Phil Jackson finally chatted last week about the star forward’s free agency, but Anthony has meetings with other teams in mind. The Bulls are squarely in the mix, and the recent bump in the salary cap projection for next season has given the Bulls more confidence that they can pull off the coup.
  3. Chris Bosh (early termination option) — Arison’s comments apply to Bosh, too. The 30-year-old averaged his fewest minutes and points since his rookie season, but he showed no signs of any decline in the first round against the Bobcats, putting up numbers similar to his production during last year’s playoff run.
  4. Eric Bledsoe (restricted free agent) — The Suns plan to match any offer for Bledsoe, though they’d prefer to come to an agreement before other teams can start courting him in July.
  5. Greg Monroe (restricted free agent) — Marc Stein of ESPN.com this weekend identified the Hawks as a potential suitor. It’s unclear how high the Pistons would go to retain him, since Detroit is still without a replacement for longtime front office chief Joe Dumars.
  6. Gordon Hayward (restricted free agent) — Hayward offered no promises as Utah’s season came to a close, but he likes Salt Lake City and the Jazz have the power to match offers. His hot March shooting left him in April, and his field goal percentage has declined in each season since he was a rookie.
  7. Dwyane Wade (early termination option) — His fate has much to do with James and Bosh, though it would be hardest to envision Wade leaving Miami if the Heat’s other two stars pull off a surprise and leave. The 32-year-old is on the downside, but 6’4″ guards who can average 19.0 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds for a championship contender, as Wade did this season, are rare gems.
  8. Kyle Lowry — There’s no telling how high he could have eventually climbed in these rankings if Paul Pierce‘s hand hadn’t been in the way of his would-be game winner on Sunday. The Andy Miller client was an all-around force in the seven-game series against the Nets, averaging 21.1 points per game.
  9. Zach Randolph (player option) — Z-Bo’s suspension for Game 7 of the Grizzlies’ first-round loss was questionable enough that it probably won’t even come up in negotiations on a new deal this summer, should he turn down his player option, worth more than $16.9MM. Randolph was his usual self on the scoreboard and on the glass against the Thunder, but his 13.8 PER in that series is troubling.
  10. Luol Deng — The small forward’s time in Cleveland didn’t do much for his stock, and sitting at home while other soon-to-be free agents are in the playoffs isn’t helping, either. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is apparently upset that former GM Chris Grant gave up future draft picks to acquire Deng, and the Lakers and Suns are among the teams interested in signing him this summer, so Deng doesn’t appear long for Ohio.

Lance Stephenson, who was seventh in the first edition of these rankings and 10th last time, has fallen out as the Pacers struggled just to get by the eighth-seeded Hawks in the first round. Still, Indiana remains alive, and Stephenson has the opportunity to climb back into our top 10. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza are other difficult omissions.

Note: I’m not listing players under team control for 2014/15, like Tony Parker, who has a partially guaranteed contract.

2014 Free Agent Power Rankings

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

2014 Free Agent Power Rankings

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.