NBA Free Agency: Who’s Going Where?
Now that most Americans are finished with soccer for the next four years, it's time to focus on the next topic at hand: NBA free agency. If you hadn't noticed, free agency began on Tuesday at midnight, and although most of the big names haven't yet put pen-to-paper, there has already been some activity. For instance, Jodie Meeks, who was Kobe Bryant's replacement last season, has already struck a three-year deal with the struggling Detroit Pistons. Also, big-man Marcin Gortat has re-signed with the rising Washington Wizards and journeyman Shaun Livingston will now play for the Golden State Warriors, his 9th team in 10 years. If you're a little unfamiliar with these role players, that's alright. However, you should probably know the top available free agents that I'm about to mention.
It's "The Decision 2.0". If you can remember four years back, LeBron made a big escapade by visiting a handful of hopeful teams, such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, and the Miami Heat. On national television, he announced that he would "take his talents to South Beach" and sign with the Heat, forming the "Big 3" with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who were also free agents at the time. Fast-forward to 2014. In his four years with the Heat, he has made four NBA Finals appearances and has won two rings. Say what you want, LeBron and the Big 3 were extremely successful despite their lofty goals.
Where will he go now? If I had to bet, I would say that staying in Miami would be LeBron's best option. Because he opted out of the final year of his contract, he can sign a 5-year max deal with Miami, whereas he could only sign a four-year contract elsewhere. Sure, teams will still make huge pitches for (arguably) the best player in the NBA (Cleveland, Phoenix, and Chicago will most likely be interested), but LeBron has supposedly become a large part of the community in Miami, so that's why I don't think he'll be leaving anytime soon.
Melo's current situation reminds me a lot of LeBron's in 2010: James is from Ohio, the home of his former Cavs, and Melo is from New York, home of the Knicks; after 2010, the Cavaliers fired coach Mike Brown and brought in Byron Scott, and this offseason, the Knicks fired Mike Woodson and hired former Point Guard Derek Fisher. However, the big difference between the two scenarios is that the New York has the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, running the show. They have already traded away starters Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks for floor general Jose Calderon and sharpshooter Wayne Ellington to help the team run the triangle offense, which may attract Melo to come back.
So, is he staying? It's hard to say at this point. On Tuesday, he made his first visit with the Chicago Bulls, in which he was greeted by Derrick Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau, and posters of him in a Bulls uniform. On Wednesday, he will meet with the Houston Rockets and then the Dallas Mavericks in the afternoon, and his tour will conclude on Thursday with the Los Angeles Lakers. I truly believe that every team can make a decent pitch to reel in Melo. For instance, Chicago and Houston are on the cusp of becoming a championship-worthy team; not only does Dallas have a team that could break out soon, but they also have Tyson Chandler, his former teammate and good friend; and then there's L.A., which comes with fame, good weather, and a long tradition that includes some of the all-time best basketball players. Again, if we're placing bets, I'll say that he ships off to Chicago, but if the Knicks do something significant in the next week, he might be heading back home.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh
Yes, number 2 and 3 of the Big 3. Like LeBron, both Wade and Bosh opted out of their contracts, but it was in hopes of keeping James in Miami. Of course, being (again, arguably) the best player in the league, LeBron will want to be paid like it, so without having too much of a fuss, Wade and Bosh will most likely take less in order to reunite the three. However, I honestly think that Chris Bosh might be able to earn more on the open market. He might be the best available power forward, and while in Miami, he's added 3-point shooting to his arsenal. Nevertheless, I'm almost sure that the three will come together again and "keep their talents in South Beach".
Ever since coming into the league, Gasol has been one of the best big men with his fierce rebounding and impressive mid-range shot. He's also been Kobe Bryant's #1 sidekick since Shaq was traded and took his talents to South Beach (I'm noticing that a lot of talents are going to South Beach). The Lakers could definitely still use Gasol, but the New York Knicks will probably be interested now that Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher are shacked-up in the Big Apple.
Dallas, Miami, and the San Antonio Spurs may also go after Gasol, but there's a good chance that Pau will narrow it down to L.A. and New York. He could stay with Kobe in L.A., but this may be Bryant's last year. I wouldn't be surprised if Gasol and Carmelo Anthony go to the same team, whether it be the Lakers or Knicks. If it's New York, they automatically become a contender in the East, and the same goes for the Lakers in the West. I predict that Jackson will go after Gasol pretty hard, and if he becomes a Knick, Carmelo could very-well follow. Boom, Boom, Pau.
Although he may be more well-known as an internet sensation, Stephenson actually had an all-star caliber season in 2013-14. He may be a trouble-maker, but he was a huge asset to Indiana in the playoffs, so there has to be at least one other team going after him.
Indiana has already offered him a 5-year/$44 million contract, but there's been response yet from Stephenson. The Chicago Bulls may also be interested in Stephenson if they're unable to sign LeBron or Melo. Aside from his antics, Indiana's offer is much-too low for a player of Stephenson's caliber. If he isn't able to gather any other offers, I would advise him to look for a one- or two-year deal, so if he continues to play at this level, he'll find a larger contract with someone else.
It's hard to believe that Paul Pierce is already 36 years old, but his services are still drawing attention from several teams. After his first season with the Brooklyn Nets, Pierce may be looking to play somewhere else with the Jason Kidd-head coaching skirmish currently taking place. Besides Brooklyn, five other teams have expressed interest in Pierce, including Dallas, Memphis, and Houston.
Still, the best fit for Pierce would have to be the Los Angeles Clippers. Not only do they have a team that has a win-now additude, but they're led by Doc Rivers, Pierce's long-time coach with the Boston Celtics. On top of that, Paul grew up in California, so there may be some sentimental value if he checks out the Clippers. At the end of the day, Paul Pierce with the Clippers makes the most sense in the world; of all the teams interested in him, L.A. gives him the best chance of winning another ring, and he'll be reunited with his former coach in Lob City.
Here's a quick list of some of the other top available free agents.
- Dirk Nowitzki- PF (Dallas Mavericks)
- Eric Bledsoe- G (Phoenix Suns)
- Kyle Lowry- PG (Toronto Raptors)
- Greg Monroe- PF/C (Detroit Pistons)
- Chandler Parsons- SF (Houston Rockets)
- Luol Deng- SF (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Isaiah Thomas- PG (Sacramento Kings)
- Trevor Ariza- SF (Washington Wizards)
- Gordon Hayward- SF (Utah Jazz)
- Avery Bradley- G (Boston Celtics)
- Boris Diaw- F/C (San Antonio Spurs)
- Vince Carter- G/F (Dallas Mavericks)
- Channing Frye- PF/C (Phoenix Suns)
- Josh McRoberts- PF (Charlotte Hornets)
- Shawn Marion- F (Dallas Mavericks)
- Nick Young- SG (Los Angeles Lakers)
- Spencer Hawes- C (Cleveland Cavaliers)