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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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