The most talent in the free agent class of 2014 belongs to the small forwards. LeBron James, who is inarguably the best basketball player in all of the land, leads this group which also includes his would be rival, Carmelo Anthony, and the talented yet aging Paul Pierce and the enigmatic talent of Rudy Gay who still hasn’t quite found his footing as a franchise piece. Whether these players stay with their current teams or decide to move on, a lot of money will be going out to them this summer.
Early Termination Clause | 29 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $19M | Miami Heat
There has been a lot of talk of James opting out and going back to, of all places, Cleveland. If James was 34 years old, instead of 30, possibly, but not in his prime, still part of perhaps the best team in the league. Yes, the Heat are getting old, but the same thing has been said of the Spurs for five years, and they are always right there near the end.
Forecast: Can’t beat the Heat.
Early Termination Clause | 30 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $21.4M | New York Knicks
Let’s be honest, Anthony has never been able to single handedly carry a team the way LeBron James has. He’s a great player, almost certainly the best all-around scorer in the NBA, but he can’t be the leader, there needs to be a bigger presence for him to have success. George Karl and Chauncey Billups were that in Denver, and that is Phil Jackson’s, now in New York, forte. He’ll still be the man in NYC, and a rumored move to the Houston Rockets or Chicago Bulls wouldn’t provide him with that opportunity. Plus can you imagine James Harden and Anthony sharing the ball?
Forecast: New York Knicks
Player Option | 27 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $17.9M | Sacramento Kings
Rudy Gay will be 28 years old to start the next season. That still gives him four or five more years of his “prime.” That said, I don’t think Rudy Gay will command nearly as large of a salary as his player option in ‘14-’15 will amount to ($19.3M). When Rudy Gay was traded to the Kings, he had his best stretch as a pro, and part of it was that his shot selection improved dramatically. Whether he’s figured it out or not, which I think he has, it shows maturity, and because of this he may choose to test free agency simply for the chance to play for a “better” team again. A borderline playoff team or a playoff team with a wing need would be interested if he’s willing to take a pay cut in the $13M-$14M range.
Forecast: Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks
Unrestricted | 29 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $14.3M | Cleveland Cavaliers
Deng’s type of offensive game is non-invasive; he’s an easy player to play with, which means pairing him with any sort of ball-dominating offensive player works well. He also plays good defense and is a consummate professional (despite his grumblings in Cleveland, but who wouldn’t?). He seems to fit the mold of a Kobe Bryant running mate, one of the only all-star level wings that could co-exist with him.
Forecast: Los Angeles Lakers
Unrestricted | 36 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $15.3M | Brooklyn Nets
Not a lot of options for Pierce. His move to Brooklyn wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t what they had hoped. Resigning for half his current salary seems most likely, and praying for a healthy Brook Lopez is all Pierce has going for him.
Forecast: N-E-T-S, Nets, Nets, Nets!
Restricted | 24 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $3.45M | Utah Jazz
Due $4.6M next year, the last year of his rookie contract, Gordon will most likely receive offers, but the Jazz will resign him or match any offer. He’s not going anywhere.
Unrestricted | 28 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $7.7M | Washington Wizards
In his prime, Ariza was a valuable piece to the Wizards return to the playoffs and into the second round. A good, long defender with a three-point shot, Ariza is a perfect complement to John Wall and Bradley Beal. He’ll sign a long-term deal for near the same salary he is currently making.
Unrestricted | 31 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $14M | Los Angeles Clippers
Bought out by the 76ers after being traded by Indiana, Granger got picked up by the Clippers on the cheap. He was decent for the Clippers during the season in limited minutes, but he’ll never be close to all-star level again. He’s looking for an MLE at best, but will most likely take what he can get, and for anyone. Clippers will be willing to bring him back for another turn to see if he can regain any of the “old days.”
Unrestricted | 27 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $7.5M | Utah Jazz
Never living up to his high draft pick, Williams has still had a solid career. $7.5M is rather high, and he’ll be looking for a full MLE to join. He’d be a solid wing off the bench, and can play some power forward in a pinch. His health is a bit of a concern, but coming off the bench should help him maintain his body.
Forecast: Trail Blazers, Mavericks
Unrestricted | 25 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $1.1M | Miami Heat
After having a rejuvenated beginning to the season with the Heat, Beasley fell of dramatically. Always a huge talent, despite being a bit of a “tweener,” Beasley just hasn’t gotten his maturity level it needs to be at to be successful. With the Heat getting older, would they take another chance on Beasley?
Forecast: Miami Heat
Unrestricted | 29 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $ 0.9M | Phoenix Suns
A late bloomer, Tucker provided hustle and grit to the Suns. He’s an end of the bench player for basically any other team if he’s not a short shift starter who makes way for a sixth man type (a la Gerald Green). He’ll take what he can get, where ever that may be.
Forecast: Rockets, Suns
Other power forwards that could make an impact
Unrestricted | 36 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $9.3M | Dallas Mavericks
Unrestricted | 33 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $3.2M | Brooklyn Nets
Unrestricted | 34 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $1M | Oklahoma City Thunder
Unrestricted | 27 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $2.3M | Cleveland Cavaliers
Forecast: Sacramento Kings
Unrestricted | 34 years old | 2013-14 Salary: $1.3M | Memphis Grizzlies