Previewing the 25 Biggest Names on the 2014 NBA Free-Agency Market

D.J. FosterContributor IFebruary 26, 2014

Previewing the 25 Biggest Names on the 2014 NBA Free-Agency Market

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    When you look through the names in the 2014 free-agent class, it's easy to dream big. Multiple franchise players and NBA legends are at the top of the list, and there are quite a few teams projected to have cap space. As last year showed us, that combination of big stars and a big market doesn't always mix.

    Are the big names simply a mirage, though?

    It might be, as many of the best players have early-termination options or player options, which means they're far from guaranteed to actually end up in free agency. Teams with cap space may be excited, but it's possible this class thins out rather quickly once the offseason begins.

    For the sake of this exercise, though, let's assume all of the players who can become free agents actually will, and let's rank them by how much attention they'd likely receive on the open market. Here are the 25 biggest names in the 2014 free-agency pool.

25. Evan Turner

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     

    The free-agency status of Evan Turner is tough to peg.

    While most expected the Philadelphia 76ers not to offer Turner his qualifying offer worth $8.7 million, which in turn would make him an unrestricted free agent, it's harder to tell what the Indiana Pacers will do with Turner. That's particularly true considering their potential luxury-tax problems and the status of fellow shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who is heading for free agency as well.

    Whether it's in restricted or unrestricted free agency, Turner probably won't pull down a substantial offer from any team. Although he's having the best year of his career and his stats are way up, Turner is still a poor defender and outside shooter, which will cause most teams to stay away.

    Still, don't be surprised if Turner lands a long-term contract above the mid-level exception. O.J. Mayo got three years and $24 million last year, and some team will be desperate enough to think Turner can develop into a true top option.

24. Avery Bradley

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     

    Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley will be due a qualifying offer worth $3.5 million, but it'll cost much more than that to keep him around in Boston.

    Although he's not an ideal backcourt mate for Rajon Rondo by any means, Bradley is young enough (23) to warrant a spot in Boston's future as a third guard who can defend and play either position off the bench.

    While it may be tough for Celtics GM Danny Ainge to justify keeping Bradley if his price goes above the mid-level exception ($5.3 million), which it almost certainly will, losing him for nothing probably isn't a viable option, either.

    With all of that in mind, a sign-and-trade may be the most logical conclusion. Bradley fits with a lot of rosters and with multiple directions, but Boston probably isn't one of those teams at this stage in their rebuild, even with Bradley showing improvement as a shooter.

23. Trevor Ariza

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    The Washington Wizards will have the cap space to retain Trevor Ariza this offseason, but they'll likely have to fight off a number of other contenders to do so.

    Ariza has very quietly developed into one of the game's best three-point shooters, particularly from the corners of the floor. With great size, length and the ability to really wreak havoc in passing lanes, Ariza is a dangerous defender.

    As teams look for ways to add shooting and at least slow down guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George, they'll cast their attention to Ariza, who is in the prime of his career. Here's NBA.com's David Aldridge explaining why Ariza might be a threat to leave Washington:

    But they can't pay Ariza, who also pines to return to the West coast, what he'll likely ask for as a free agent. Ariza recently hired Rob Pelinka as his agent, a man not known for taking 70 cents on the dollar. It's a tough, tough call for a team that desperately needed a perimeter defender like Ariza

    There are some contract year concerns here, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him land a big deal starting somewhere around $8 million a year in free agency. That may seem like a bit much, but his skills are in high demand.

22. Anderson Varejao

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Partially guaranteed $4 million of $9.7 million.

     

    While it seems unlikely the Cleveland Cavaliers would pay Anderson Varejao his partial guarantee of $4 million to go away, it's not completely out of the question. If Cleveland is hellbent on creating as much cap room as possible for this offseason in order to retain Luol Deng and bring in a premium free agent, perhaps it would come under consideration.

    That being said, it seems much more likely that the Cavs will pay Varejao's full contract to keep him, as he's still a productive player who can start at center for a playoff team. Even if his health fails him at age 31, he should still have great trade value as a big expiring deal.

    If Varejao did somehow hit the open market, a number of teams would undoubtedly be interested, even with his injury concerns.

    A serious long-term commitment is probably unrealistic no matter the team, but a deal similar to what Paul Millsap got (two years, $18 million) could make some sense. We're almost certainly a year away from that, though.

21. Marcin Gortat

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    With Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat both hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, the Washington Wizards are going to have some tough decisions on their hands.

    Keeping Gortat in Washington might be the biggest priority, primarily because the health status of Nene is almost always in question. The Wizards have the backcourt of the future locked in with John Wall and Bradley Beal, but it won't mean much without some reliable bigs to supplement that.

    Gortat qualifies as that, and at age 30, he should have at least three very solid years left in him before his production starts to dip.

    Centers always get more than you'd expect in free agency, particularly when they're unrestricted, but it's unlikely Washington dealt away a first-round pick just to let Gortat walk after a year of service.

20. Shawn Marion

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    You better believe that teams in "win now" mode will be all over Shawn Marion this offseason.

    While it seems most likely that Marion will stay in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki as one of the last holdovers from that championship team, it won't be due to a lack of options. Marion has lost a step, but he's still capable of defending multiple positions very well and finishing in transition with that little floater.

    Marion could be an extremely valuable weapon off the bench for a team with scoring options, even though he'll be turning 36 this offseason.

    While he's not the threat he once was, the decline has been less severe than some might have thought. Marion is a smart player who has been doing this a long time, and if he's looking to win a ring and willing to sacrifice some dollars, he could end up making a substantial impact for a new team next season.

19. Paul Pierce

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    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    Could Paul Pierce retire after this season? At age 36 with 16 seasons under his belt and a ton of miles on the odometer, it's certainly getting close to that time.

    If Pierce does decide to stick around, however, there should be quite a few teams interested in bringing him on board. Although Pierce's play has declined, he's still a decent scorer and spot-up threat who can get by with his footwork and intelligence. If he's willing to forgo a big contract, you would think that a few contenders would love to bring him on in a supporting role.

    A lot might depend on what teammate Kevin Garnett decides to do after this year, but perhaps Pierce can reunite with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, where Pierce was born and raised. One last victory lap with the Celtics probably shouldn't be ruled out, either.

    We'll see what happens if Pierce is ready for another 82-game grind, but if he stays, he'll have no problem finding his way onto a good team.

18. Rudy Gay

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: $19.3 million player option.

     

    Can Rudy Gay really pass up the chance to be paid $19.3 million next season? Maybe.

    If Gay can lock down a substantial offer for four years, it might be worthwhile to pass up the big salary to obtain long-term financial security.

    That's almost certainly what Sacramento has to hope for at this stage, and it seems very unlikely that Gay would decline his player option without an agreement in place with Sacramento to sign long-term.

    Either way, Gay should remain with the Kings at least for one more season. The open market likely won't get their chance at Gay quite yet, even though the number of suitors would probably be pretty small given Gay's history as an inefficient, high-usage player.

    Gay isn't even a top-five small forward in this free-agency class, but he'll likely be paid like a top-five forward in the league next season and possibly beyond. Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time.

17. Isaiah Thomas

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     


    There doesn't seem to be a large demand for starting point guards around the league, but Isaiah Thomas should draw plenty of attention anyway, particularly since he's shown the ability to be such a dangerous sixth man.

    With the Sacramento Kings facing the very real possibility of paying the luxury tax, matching a big offer on Thomas might be unpalatable, even if Thomas has very clearly been Sacramento's second-best player over the last two seasons.

    Undervaluing Thomas would be a mistake for the Kings, but it seems like the market will set his value. A team in need of an extremely capable scoring point guard would be wise to put in a big offer on Thomas in free agency in an effort to steal him from Sacramento.

    Thomas has been undervalued throughout his whole career, but it seems unlikely to happen again in free agency. He should get paid in a big way this offseason, no matter the role.

16. Kyle Lowry

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    Has Kyle Lowry finally figured it out, or is it a little too convenient that he's playing the best basketball of his career in a contract year?

    Regardless of the timing, Lowry certainly has carried the Raptors throughout the season, stepping up as a scorer and showing the ability to run a team. The latter ability was always questioned in previous stops, but Lowry has addressed a lot of the complaints about his play this year.

    It's hard to tell whether Toronto will keep Lowry around going forward, as he'll be 28 this offseason and may not fit in with any plans to rebuild the roster. We've seen Raptors GM Masai Ujiri re-sign players to long-term deals just to flip them shortly thereafter, so maybe that's the plan with Lowry if the Raptors aren't competitive again next year with him as starting point guard.

    Either way, it's hard to ignore the production Lowry has produced in a full-time, uninterrupted role this year. The talent has always been there, but Lowry's maturity has seem to come a long way as well. It would be a surprise if Toronto didn't at least try to retain him this offseason.

15. Pau Gasol

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    The days of Pau Gasol earning a max salary are over, but he should still be able to pull down a substantial offer in free agency as long as a team is willing to accept some injury risk.

    While Gasol could technically re-sign with the Lakers, it would seem mutually beneficial if both moved on at this point. Gasol should be able to find a system and teammates that better accentuate his skills (like San Antonio, for example), while the Lakers should look to get younger and find more upside.

    This very well could be the last major contract Gasol signs, as he's been banged up quite a bit over the last few years and he'll be turning 34 soon.

    Still, very few big men combine the passing and shooting ability out of either post like Gasol does, so he'll be a hot commodity this offseason for teams gunning for a championship. He can fit in seamlessly just about anywhere.

14. Chandler Parsons

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Team option for 2014-15 season.

     

    The Houston Rockets have reached an interesting juncture with Chandler Parsons.

    Parsons is one of the most underpaid players and best values in the league with a contract that pays him less than $1 million a year, but those days are nearly over.

    Houston has a team option that could be used to keep Parsons on that deal one more season, but if they do that, Parsons will become an unrestricted free agent for the 2015 offseason.

    What the Rockets may do instead is decline the team option on Parsons' deal, which would instead make him a restricted free agent this offseason, allowing the team to match any offer he receives.

    If Parsons is added to an already pretty impressive list of free-agent small forwards this year, he should receive a great deal somewhere.

    Parsons is a perfect fit in Houston's scheme, and he's still improving next to James Harden and Dwight Howard. One way or another, it would be a surprise if Parsons didn't remain a Rocket.

13. Zach Randolph

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free Agent Type: $16.5 million player option.

     

    Zach Randolph is another potential free agent with a large player option for the 2014-15 season, and his decision is just as tough.

    Will Randolph decline his option in order to land a long-term deal and stay with the Memphis Grizzlies for the rest of his career? Or will he accept his option and wait one more year to pull down the last big contract of his career?

    It's tough to tell which way Randolph will go, but his ability to play at a high level has dipped only slightly over the past few years. If he does end up hitting free agency and Memphis decides they want to move on, there will be no shortage of suitors for the bruising power forward.

    Randolph is a bit high maintenance in that he needs a rim protector next to him, but it's hard to imagine he'll find a better frontcourt partner than Marc Gasol. Memphis has embraced Randolph, and Randolph has embraced Memphis, but this is a tricky contract situation to monitor.

12. Luol Deng

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    It seems like Luol Deng should be one of the most available unrestricted free agents, as the ties to the Cleveland Cavaliers might not be as strong as some other free agents have to their former teams.

    That being said, Cleveland does have plenty of money to offer Deng to entice him to stay, so it will likely come down to what Deng is looking for. Will it be a big contract, or a spot with a title contender?

    The two don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, of course, as Deng is the type of defender and smart player that just about every team should want and be willing to fork over big bucks for.

    While there are some durability concerns considering how much he's been banged up and how much he's played over the years, Deng should still be in line for a contract that starts above $10 million a year, especially if he was unwilling to sign for less in Chicago.

11. Lance Stephenson

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson has burst onto the scene this year as one of the most dynamic guards in all of basketball. He's going to get paid like it this offseason.

    Stephenson's rebounding and ability to get to the rim are matched by very few around the league, and his skills translate well to just about any offensive system. 

    Indiana will undoubtedly want to keep Stephenson as they chase championships going forward, but staying under the luxury tax will also be a priority. That might require Stephenson to take a bit of a pay cut for the Pacers, but few teams are set up better for the future than Indiana is.

    It's probably worth sacrificing $1 or $2 million to play on one of the very best young teams in the league. Don't be surprised if there are a few teams out there willing to pay Stephenson close to max money, if not a full max deal. He's a rising star, and everyone will be watching him this year in the playoffs.

10. Gordon Hayward

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     

    The Utah Jazz were able to extend a young forward with potential in Derrick Favors this offseason, but Gordon Hayward was left without a contract. That means Hayward will head to restricted free agency this offseason.

    While it seems incredibly unlikely the Jazz will let Hayward go, they'll have to pay big bucks to retain him. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Hayward pull down a max contract, as he's already one of the most well-rounded wing players in the league.

    Hayward's vision, ball-handling and shooting make him an incredibly versatile offensive threat, and the best is yet to come.

    Utah doesn't seem to have much of a choice, even if they don't value Hayward as a max player. In restricted free agency, the market dictates the price, and Hayward should get inked to a substantial contract. He'll have to continue improving to justify the kind of salary he's sure to get, but he has the skills to do it.

9. Greg Monroe

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     

    While the other restricted free agents on this list seem like they could feasibly obtain a max contract, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe seems like the only sure thing.

    Monroe will be just 24 years old this offseason, and centers usually take a little longer to develop than other positions. There's room for growth here.

    That being said, Monroe has already shown elite rebounding, low post scoring and passing, so teams won't be dealing in just potential. He's been a productive player so far, and even if his ceiling isn't as high as others due to a lack of athleticism and rim-protecting abilities, he's undoubtedly a starting-caliber big in the NBA.

    Whether the Pistons will want to retain Monroe on a max deal with Josh Smith and Andre Drummond already on the roster is a separate issue. A sign-and-trade might be the best solution, as it's pretty clear this current group isn't getting results.

8. Eric Bledsoe

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Restricted

     


    Eric Bledsoe's value on the open market has taken a few big swings this year. After being traded to the Phoenix Suns for Jared Dudley, Bledsoe predictably exploded with more minutes and responsibility. It didn't hurt that Bledsoe did so next to Goran Dragic, proving he could play on or off the ball successfully, making him valuable as more than just a point guard.

    After seeing his value spike, Bledsoe suffered a knee injury that brought it back down a bit. Despite some durability concerns, though, Bledsoe will be one of the hottest names on the market, even if Phoenix likely has no intention of letting him go, no matter the price.

    Here's what Suns president Lon Babby said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM about Bledsoe:

    “I think our answer to (would we match any offer) is yes, that we know enough about Eric as a player,” Babby said. “Even more importantly, we’ve lived with him now for almost a year as a person. We like everything about him. Like him as a teammate, like him as a representative of our franchise and everything that he stands for. He’s got a tremendous future.”

    Other teams may try to scare the Suns away with a max offer, but he should be staying put in Phoenix.

7. Tony Parker

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Partially guaranteed $3.5 million of $12.5 million.

     


    It's probably a waste of breath to talk about Tony Parker leaving San Antonio, particularly because the choice will be up to the Spurs.

    San Antonio would have to waive Parker to make him a free agent, which simply isn't going to happen. An extension at some point is much more likely, even if the Spurs eventually decide to rebuild once Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire.

    The Spurs are a franchise that shows loyalty to their stars, and this case won't be any different. There's no realistic scenario in which Parker is waived and hits the open market, even though it technically could happen. Parker is just too valuable to San Antonio to justify anything other than keeping him for another year or extending him long-term. 

    It's highly doubtful any teams are planning on being able to poach Parker. It's the longest of long shots.

6. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Unrestricted

     

    Here's another big name highly unlikely to go anywhere else. Dirk Nowitzki has spent his entire career with the Dallas Mavericks, and despite Dallas not being a championship contender currently, the infrastructure is sound enough to warrant Nowitzki staying a few more years and hoping the talent level of the roster improves to where it needs to be.

    It's not like Dallas doesn't have flexibility, both with cap space and Cuban's willingness to spend in unconventional ways. There's a lot of mutual loyalty between Nowitzki and Cuban, so the chances there's a split are extremely slim.

    Nowitzki already proved he can anchor a title team, and even though those days are slipping away, he's shown this season that he's still extremely capable when healthy.

    If Nowitzki comes back on a discount, the Mavericks should have plenty of room to be active in free agency. It would be shocking if the plan was anything but that.

5. Tim Duncan

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: $10.3 million player option.

     

    Tim Duncan is another big name you can safely scratch off the list of free agents.

    Although he has a player option for next season, it seems unlikely that Duncan would opt out for more money or more years, as he's probably playing it year by year at this point in his career.

    Duncan hasn't been one to haggle for more money in the past, so it seems pretty unlikely he'll do that now, especially because he'll need more help than ever before. San Antonio can easily remain a title contender next season, and as long as Gregg Popovich, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are all on board, Duncan probably will be as well.

    While it's easy for many teams to dream about having such an amazing two-way player like Duncan on their team, it's just not realistic. He'll either be retired or with the Spurs again next season.

4. Dwyane Wade

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Early-termination option

     

    The stories of Dwyane Wade's demise have been greatly exaggerated. When he's been able to get on the floor, he's been great this season.

    The question, of course, is whether Wade will be able to play anything close to a full slate of games ever again. Can his knees hold up? As long as he can play in every playoff game, does it really matter all that much?

    Any team with LeBron James is going to make the playoffs, so as long as James is in Miami, there isn't a ton of pressure on Wade to play when he really shouldn't. It's all about the postseason in Miami.

    Wade has spent his whole career with the Heat, so the chances he's the first to jump and exercise his early-termination option are slim to none. Wade probably isn't leaving unless everyone abandons him first, and he'd be a fool to team up with anyone but LeBron next year.

3. Chris Bosh

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Early-termination option

     

    Chris Bosh is sort of the wild card out of Miami's Big Three, but it seems extremely unlikely that he leaves LeBron's side, either.

    Bosh has adjusted perfectly well to being the third wheel and giving up being "the guy," and if winning titles is what matters most, there's little reason to leave Miami as long as everyone else wants to stay.

    The fact that this is an early-termination option also means Bosh doesn't have to make a decision quite yet, as he can play another year and then feel out James and Wade at that point.

    Point being, Bosh is just another attractive name at the top of the free-agent list that teams likely have no chance of landing. There just seems to be a lack of incentive for Bosh to leave. The long-term financial security will either be there next year or now with Miami.

2. Carmelo Anthony

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Early-termination option

     

    As you're probably noticed by this point, there are a lot of big names out there who aren't really available in free agency. Will Carmelo Anthony be one of them?

    It's hard to say. The situation in New York certainly looks like a mess, both in terms of the on-court product and in the front office. It's hard to say that New York is ideal in that sense, but the Knicks have plenty of advantages over other teams, including a big market and the ability to offer Anthony more money than anyone else.

    That will be awfully hard to walk away from, even with the future looking shaky. Some of New York's problems will be alleviated once Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani are off the books next year, and perhaps Anthony will have faith in himself to recruit another star of his choosing to play alongside him.

    Anthony's future is up in the air, but it certainly seems like he'll play the field. As long as a team has the cap space, a star and a favorable market, Anthony will probably listen long and hard.

1. LeBron James

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Free-Agent Type: Early-termination option

     

    Like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron James has an early-termination option on his contract that will allow him to be a free agent this offseason, if he chooses.

    In what scenario would James leave the Heat? If Bosh suddenly had the desire to leave or if Wade's body completely failed him this postseason, maybe James would look to go elsewhere.

    Realistically, though, the days of James looking for other stars to join are probably gone. James can make Miami his own recruiting ground if he wants, so it's just a matter of where he wants to be, really.

    It's hard to imagine Miami won't be that place, especially after the title success they've had. James had reason to leave Cleveland when he did, but it's hard to find the same incentive for him to leave Miami. Like so many of the other players who can become free agents, at the end of the day, LeBron should be staying put right where he is.