Where All 15 2014 NBA Free Agent Stars Will Land
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
* Note: The word star is subjective, as many of these players are-in-their prime All Stars and superstars, some are young upstarts with All Star appearances coming to them and there are former All Stars whose primes are behind them, but who are still excellent contributors. These are 15 players that I consider stars who are all upcoming or most likely upcoming free agents this summer and this is a prediction article of where I think that they will all land. For the sake of this article, all players marked ETO (early termination option) will exercise that option, players marked amnesty will be amnestied and the players marked player option will decline that option. All of these players will become free agents this summer in my opinion and once again for the sake of the article, think of it that way too.
Carmelo Anthony- ETO- New York Knicks
- Besides LeBron James who I will get to a little later, Carmelo Anthony is the most talked about upcoming free agent, as he is a legitimate superstar who has already changed teams once, so it is impossible to know what he is thinking. The Knicks are struggling this season, but after all it took for him to get to New York to play for his beloved Knicks, I just cannot see him abandoning them. He is the biggest star on the most beloved team in the country’s biggest market playing in the city where he grew up and I don’t think he will leave them. I know there is a real chance of this happening and that there’s a lot of talk about him playing for the Lakers, but I believe loyalty to his city and being the king of New York will ultimately win in this scenario.
Eric Bledsoe- RFA- Phoenix Suns
- The 23 year old point guard is in his first season as a Suns and as an NBA starter and has already become Phoenix’s best player. There is no way they will let him leave and as they have the right to match any offer, I believe that they will sign him as early as possible this summer, so that no team has a chance to sign him to a big offer sheet that will raise his price.
Carlos Boozer- Amnesty- Miami Heat
- Boozer at 31 is still playing borderline All Star basketball and the power forward will (probably) be amnestied this summer and although nobody will claim him, so they won’t have to take on his big contract, there will be a bidding war for his services after he makes it through the wire and he would be a very strong pickup for the Heat, as he would be able to be signed for a fraction of his worth, he can replace much of what Bosh brought (more on Bosh to come) and it would only have to be a one year contract, which would be preserving long term cap space.
Chris Bosh- ETO- Chicago Bulls
- I have flip-flopped multiple times on Bosh, from him staying with the Heat, to him going to the Lakers, to him staying with the Heat again, to him going to the Bulls and the more I think about it the more Bosh makes perfect sense in Chicago. Bosh won’t be making the 19-20 million dollars per year that he would be making if he didn’t exercise his ETO, but he will be 30 this summer and will be looking for one more big long term contract and the Bulls are an excellent fit. He would be the 2nd option behind Rose after being the 3rd option in Miami the last 4 seasons and he would get a chance to shine as that 2nd option. He would provide the Bulls with the best offensive big man that they have had in over a decade and with Deng most likely leaving and with Boozer (most likely) soon-to-be amnestied, the Bulls will have the money to give him a big contract in the 4 year, 68 million dollar range. I believe that the Heat will keep LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but with Wade already in his 30′s and Bosh turning 30 in March, would they really want most of their long term cap space going to 2 players over 30? It is doubtful. The Bulls can offer him a better role than in Miami, more chances to win titles and they would probably offer him more money. With a core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh the Chicago Bulls would be a legitimate championship contender.
Luol Deng- UFA- Los Angeles Lakers
- As a Bulls fan this is painful to say, but Luol Deng will be playing somewhere new next season. He is almost 30, is coming off of 2 straight All Star appearances and with Rose injured yet again and with Deng’s numbers likely to rise, it will probably be 3 straight as he is now arguably the best player on still one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. If they couldn’t come to an agreement with Deng last summer, if he makes a 3rd straight All Star game there is little chance of him signing a new contract with the Bulls and even if he doesn’t, he will still most likely cost too much for them to keep him. He would be an excellent 3rd scoring option for the Lakers and would provide them with a top perimeter defender who would work very well with Kobe Bryant and whatever 2nd option they bring in (or resign). He is an incredible fit in Los Angeles.
Pau Gasol- UFA- Los Angeles Lakers
- With Dwight Howard gone and Pau Gasol a soon-to-be free agent, the Los Angeles Lakers will need to bring in a new star big man; or they could just resign Gasol. Gasol knows the system, knows how to play with Kobe and despite an inconsistent 2013 season and an inefficient start to this season, he is arguably the top big man on the market this summer. He will be expecting yet another big contract, but because of his age (33 this summer) and the just mentioned inconsistent play, he is unlikely to get one. However, the Lakers have the money to give him a generous short term contract and a two year contract for Gasol just like Kobe just received would work well for each party; Gasol would get the most money possible, the Lakers would retain their star big man, the Lakers will stay a strong playoff team (even more so if they sign Deng) and they will have an empty cap sheet in 2016 to rebuild in any way they please.
Rudy Gay- Player Option- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Despite nearly 20 million owed to him next season, I have heard many rumors that he will opt to become a free agent and decline his player option and I believe these rumors. He is one of the better perimeter scorers in the NBA and it makes sense that he wants to cash in and receive another big contract while he is as young as possible to receive as much money possible. The Cavaliers will push and do whatever they can to bring in LeBron James this summer and it may happen one day, but it won’t be next season and once they hear his inevitable no, they would be smart to use a large portion of the money they were saving for James on Gay, who would fill their big hole at small forward which is their biggest weakness, give them an elite 2nd scoring option after Kyrie Irving and make them a legitimate mid-seeded East playoff team.
Danny Granger- UFA- Utah Jazz
- I have thought for awhile that the Jazz should trade for Granger to fill their big hole at the 3, as they could use an offensive boost in a big way. Granger along with Hayward (see below) would give them an excellent one-two punch on the perimeter. Because of his recent injury history, they could also get him at a steal of a contract and they would add a strong veteran to their very young core. With Paul George just given a max contract and Lance Stephenson in line to receive a big raise this summer, Granger is no longer needed in Indiana and Utah makes the most sense for Granger.
Gordon Hayward- RFA- Utah Jazz
- The Jazz should have signed Hayward to an extension last summer because as he has become the top player on the very young and talented Jazz, his price has gone way up. However, they cannot afford to let an All Star caliber player leave them, as Utah will always have difficulty bringing in star talent. No matter the cost they will resign Hayward next summer.
LeBron James- ETO- Miami Heat
- LeBron James has won 2 MVP’s and 2 NBA Championships in his 3 full seasons with the Heat and I will just say it now, LeBron James won’t leave the Heat this summer and he and Dwyane Wade (more to come) will continue to be the foundation of the Miami Heat.
Greg Monroe- RFA- Detroit Pistons
- Greg Monroe is the one of the two most important player for the Pistons now and in the years to come along with Andre Drummond and even though they just signed Josh Smith, they will resign Monroe, even if it costs a max contract. He is an All Star talent and an elite post player and will pair with Drummond to give them one of the best big man duos in the NBA for the next half decade plus.
Dirk Nowitzki- UFA- Dallas Mavericks
- Dirk isn’t leaving Dallas next summer and will retire a Maverick.
Paul Pierce- UFA- Chicago Bulls
- Jimmy Butler was always expected to step into Deng’s starting spot at the 3 once Deng left Chicago and since it is looking like that is going to happen next summer, why would Chicago sign another small forward? Butler has proved that he is more than capable as a starting shooting guard and Pierce would offer the Bulls 4 things they need; a 2nd playmaker next to Derrick Rose, scoring, shooting and championship experience. Pierce would also get a couple more chances at a ring, which has to be his biggest priority at this stage of his career. Chicago would be an excellent place for Pierce to spend the twilight of his career.
Zach Randolph- Player Option- Memphis Grizzlies
- I think that Randolph will take a bit of a hometown discount to stay in Memphis where he has had the best years of his career. He will sign a smaller deal in the range of 3 years and 36 million to keep their 3 man core of Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol together.
Dwyane Wade- ETO- Miami Heat
- Like previously said, Wade will be staying in Miami long term. He is the best player in franchise history and he will retire in Miami.