Op-Ed: Top 10 NBA free agents: Rumors, analysis and predictions

Posted Jul 1, 2014 by James Green
NBA Free agency began midnight (EST) Tuesday and the stage is set for one of the most exciting free agency periods in recent history. Digital Journal examines the Top Ten free agents and their most likely destinations.
Keith Allison
Executives across the league are working feverishly to contact players' agents and schedule meetings with NBA superstars. Teams will be making their pitches to free agents, trying to get ink on paper.
Some teams are limited by cap space and will target second tier players, but they may find these players are waiting to see where the big names sign before making decisions of their own.
Below are the Top Ten free agents of the year with analysis, potential fits and predictions for where they may land. It's still very early in the free agency period and things may change drastically as some of the bigger names come off the board.
1. LeBron James (F) - 27.5 PPG/7.2 RPG/ 6.9 APG
The overwhelming consensus best player on the planet is a free agent for the second time in his career. His landing spots are limited by recent reports that James is seeking a max salary for the life of his next contract. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN there are only seven teams who can afford to pay James the $20.7 million per year asking price (Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic).
The Big 3 (James, Wade, Bosh) are reportedly talking among themselves about their futures with the Heat, according to ESPN. Most analysts suspect the three stars are interested in returning to Miami.
Interested Teams – Heat, Cavaliers, Rockets, Suns, Clipper, Lakers, Bulls, Mavericks
Prediction – Heat
Signed – N/A
2. Carmelo Anthony (F) - 25.3 PPG/ 6.5 RPG/ 3.1 AST
Anthony is widely regarded as the best pure scorer in the league, and prior to the 2013-2014 season Melo had never missed the playoffs. But while Melo made the playoffs in each of his first 10 seasons he is only 16-36 in the postseason (.308 win percentage). It's undeniable that Melo is a superstar, and in the right setting he could be the final piece to turn a contender into a champion.
Melo has a full schedule this week; he will be in Chicago on Tuesday to meet with the Bulls, Texas on Wednesday to meet with the Mavs and Rockets, and L.A. Thursday for the Lakers.
Interested Teams – Knicks, Bulls, Rockets, Heat, Mavericks, Lakers
Prediction – Chicago
Signed – N/A
3. Dirk Nowitzki (F) - 22.5 PPG/ 8.1 RPG/ .879 FT%
The second MVP/NBA Champion to grace our list, Nowitzki is the Mavs' most valuable free agent. All signs point to Nowitzki resigning with Dallas and taking less money to help the Mavericks improve in the competitive western conference.
Nowitzki is said to be recruiting both LeBron and Carmelo to sign with the Mavs.
Interested Teams – Mavericks, Rockets
Prediction – Mavericks
Signed – Mavericks. Nowitzki signed a three year deal, according to ESPN the deal is believed to be in the $30 million range.
4. Kyle Lowry (G) - *14.3 PPG/ 6.8APG/ 4.5 RPG
Reports are surfacing that both the Rockets and Raptors are working hard to sign Lowry quickly. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was in Philadelphia Tuesday at the start of free agency to meet with Lowry. According to team sources who spoke with the Toronto Star, the Raptors have made an undisclosed contract offer to Lowry.
The Raptors badly want to retain Lowry but they may not be able to offer him the thing he wants most, a chance for a ring. Lowry told Alex Kennedy of “honestly I want to play for a championship."
Interested Teams – Raptors, Heat, Lakers, Rockets
Prediction – Heat, Rockets
Signed – Raptors. Sources say Lowry has signed a four year $48 million deal to stay in Toronto.
5. Eric Bledsoe (G) - 8.7 PPG/ 3.4 APG/ 3.0 RPG
Bledsoe is a restricted free agent meaning the Suns can match any offer made by another team. The Suns want to resign Bledsoe but are currently focused on pursuing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
With regard to resigning Bledsoe, Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough told the Arizona Republic, “We'll try to do that as soon as possible and not let it get to the point where you'd have to get an offer and we'd match it.”
Interested Teams – Suns, Rockets, Heat
Prediction – Suns
Signed – N/A
6. Loul Deng (F) - 16.0 PPG/ 6.3 RPG/ 2.5 APG
The 10-year veteran is a dominant defender who can also score the ball and has plenty of playoff experience. Deng can be the veteran presence GMs and coaches covet and young locker rooms need.
Deng has been tied to several teams including the Hawks and the Heat. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Heat GM Pat Riley reached out to Deng's representatives to express significant interest in signing him. Presumably Deng's decision would depend on the return of the Big 3 to South Beach. If the Heat fail to sign Deng, the Suns have the second most cap space available to offer Deng a sizable contract.
Interested Teams – Lakers, Hawks, Hornets, Mavericks, Heat, Clippers, Suns
Prediction – Suns
Signed – N/A
7. Chandler Parsons (F) - 14.1 PPG/ 5.2 RPG/ 43.3 AP
Parsons is a restricted free agent and he wants to stay in Houston. The only foreseeable scenario in which Parsons isn't a Rocket next season is if they were able to sign a bigger free agent and no longer had the cap space to match an offer from another team.
If, for any reason, the Rockets do not manage to re-sign Parsons expect him to draw significant interest from around the league.
Interested Teams – Rockets, Hornets, Celtics, Lakers, Suns, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Timberwolves, Bulls
Prediction – Rockets
Signed – N/A
8. Chris Bosh (F) - 19.2 PPG/ 8.7 RPG/ 0.8 BLK
Bosh is the least talked about member of the Big 3 who quietly puts up very impressive stats. Bosh is also expected to return to Miami but will need to take less than a max contract, and likely less than his market value, to compensate for LeBron James’ demand for max salary. According to ESPN, the Big 3 have been discussing their contracts among themselves before the start of free agency.
Interested Teams – Heat, Lakers, Rockets,
Prediction – Heat
Signed – N/A
9. Greg Monroe (C) - 14.0 PPG/ 9.0 RPG/ 2.3 APG
Monroe is a restricted free agent but there is speculation the Pistons would decline to match a max offer if another team were to make one. There are several teams who may be willing to make such an offer.
It seems likely that Monroe will not be among the first free agents to sign a contract. Expect interested teams who fail to sign a Top Five free agent to begin battling over the Detroit big man.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Portland Trailblazers are very interested in a sing-and-trade deal for Monroe.
Interested Teams – Pistons, Mavericks, Trailblazers, Magic, Lakers, Hawks
Prediction – Lakers
Signed – N/A
10. Marcin Gortat (C) - 9.4 PPG/ 7.3 RPG/ 1.2 BLK
Gortat is the most talented, unrestricted free agent, center on the market this year. Numerous teams are said to have interest in acquiring the 'Polish Hammer' but there is speculation that the Wizards, who have plenty of available cap space, will be able to out bid any potential suitors.
Gortat recently told to the Washington Post, “I love the team here. We can have something special here for the next three, four, five years. We have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of young guys who can develop and become a superstar in this league.” Further indication Gortat may be staying in the nation’s capitol.
Interested Teams – Wizards, Heat, Knicks, Lakers
Prediction – Wizards
Signed – Wizards, five year $60 million fully guaranteed.
*stats averaged from year player became a starter.