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10 NBA Players Already Dominating Offseason Chatter

D.J. FosterContributor IApril 14, 2014

10 NBA Players Already Dominating Offseason Chatter

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    Playoff basketball will take center stage soon, but that won't stop the buzz of free agency and the trade market growing louder and louder in the meantime.

    Although the 2015 offseason seems to be more anticipated at this point, especially since all signs point to the Big Three in Miami staying together at least one more season, the 2014 offseason is generating a lot of chatter as well. 

    After all, it's not all about the free agents. There are multiple players who could potentially terminate their deals, be shopped on the market, or force their way out to land with another team.

    With all that in mind, here are the 10 NBA players who are already dominating offseason talks.

Carmelo Anthony

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    New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is set to hit free agency. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, it sounds like he's ready to look around and see if the grass is greener elsewhere:

    Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

    "He'll give New York every option," one source with knowledge of Anthony's plans told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. "But he has optionsand he's going to explore them all."

    It will be interesting to see if Anthony leaves one extra year and $30 million on the table to go to a contender, much in the same way Dwight Howard did. There is some precedent here, and Anthony should have no shortage of suitors, as he'll likely be the biggest name available in free agency.

    It's hard to say if Anthony is ready to pass up being New York's biggest star and not giving newly hired team president Phil Jackson a chance to turn things around, but it would seem like there are teams in a much better position to compete that Anthony could join.

    Undoubtedly, we're going to hear a lot about Anthony's priorities and which way he's leaning as the offseason draws closer.

Kevin Love

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    Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love still has one more year left on his contract before he can opt out for free agency, but plenty of teams can smell the blood in the water. With Minnesota failing to make the playoffs once again, Love could potentially force his way out to play for a contender, even if it doesn't appear we've reached that point quite yet.

    Still, it's an option, and teams like the Los Angeles Lakers are going to do their best to make it known how badly they want Love. Here's ESPN.com's Marc Stein with more:

    The suggestion is already in circulation that the Lakers will attempt to use their forthcoming high lottery pick in June to assemble the sort of trade package that finally convinces the Wolves to part with Love and end the uncertainty that hangs over this franchise even before the 25-year-old enters the final year of his contract. Yet there is just as much defiance emanating from Minnesota, as we speak, about the Wolves' ability to keep Love in town.

    Before the draft, it wouldn't be a surprise to hear Love's name come up quite a bit. The top of this year's class could have a couple of franchise-caliber talents, and it might be tough for Minnesota to pass on a package that will allow it to rebuild and raise the ceiling on the its prospects, even if Love is a transcendent talent.

    Ultimately, this should boil down to what Love wants. If he tells the Timberwolves he'll look to leave in free agency in 2015, then they should be prepared to deal. It may be tough to do that without hearing it from Love's mouth first, but both sides should be ready to jump.

Pau Gasol

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    After serving as an anchor for a prosperous era of Lakers basketball that included a few titles, it sounds like Pau Gasol is likely on his way out this offseason. Here's Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com breaking down why: 

    If Gasol is unable to play before the season ends, he could have very well played his last game in a Lakers uniform. The 33-year-old is set to become a free agent this summer and made it clear that his top priority is signing with a team capable of competing for a championship. The Lakers (25-53) are in the midst of the worst season in franchise history and the process of rebuilding, with 11 of their 15 players (including Gasol) on expiring contracts. 

    Although neither side wanted it to end like this, it makes sense for both parties to go their separate ways this offseason. Gasol can find a team that's ready to compete for a championship and instantly make it better, and the Lakers aren't anywhere near ready to do that, particularly given the shaky status of Kobe Bryant.

    The Lakers are better off getting a younger, healthier player with the cap space Gasol's contract would occupy as well. Although the Lakers may wait until the 2015 offseason to go after a max player, there are still creative ways to use the cap space that can yield future assets that Gasol probably would not. 

    There just seems to be a lack of incentive on both sides, and so it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Gasol in a new uniform next year. You'll hear his name come up quite a bit this offseason. 

Carlos Boozer

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    The amnesty clause may seem like a thing of the past, but the Chicago Bulls are still holding on to it and can use it on forward Carlos Boozer. Depending on what the Bulls want to do, that could certainly be a strong possibility, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times breaks down here:

    Boozer’s exit this summer might or might not happen, but either way, the organization hasn’t come to a conclusion and won’t until several key situations are resolved.

    First, there’s a free-agent class that could include Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh if they opt out of their deals. Then there’s the drama with Nikola Mirotic and whether the team can pry him away from Real Madrid this summer.

    The Bulls aren’t going to invoke the amnesty clause with Boozer—he’s owed $16.8 million for the 2014-15 season—just to do it. Not when he’s still a productive player. And besides that, carrying an expiring contract into a season with trade possibilities is never a bad idea.

    If the Bulls really do think that Carmelo Anthony could come on a discount or that another big-time free agent can be lured, getting Boozer off the books will make plenty of sense, even if it's going to be a tough pill for ownership to swallow.

    The play of Taj Gibson might make Boozer getting amnestied more likely, as he's proven plenty capable of carrying the full load at power forward.

    Boozer does still have value as a player and as a trade asset, particularly since his large expiring deal could bring back a player already on contract. That's what Chicago will have to weigh this offseason, and it's hard to tell what the decision will be.

Rudy Gay

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    Rudy Gay's decision would seem to be one of the easiest of any player who has an option or early termination clause. In no way, shape or form is Gay worth the $19.3 million he can earn next season, but there's always the chance that Gay opts for a long-term deal or decides the money isn't his top priority.

    Here's Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com on Gay's stance:

    “What does my gut tell me?” Gay says of the looming decision and possibly decisions, plural. “I don’t know. My gut tells me different things every day.”

    And the money. Of course the money. No way he walks away from $19.3 million, right? He’s staying in the deal and will be a King at least next season, right?

    “I don’t think about that at all,” he says. “I love this game. I don’t play it for money. Obviously it’s a very big plus that we make a lot to play this game, but I think it’s more important to be happy.”

    It would be shocking to see Gay leave so much money on the table, especially since the market for his services can't be all that great. General managers have seen that Gay's former teams have really taken off without him (Memphis two years ago, Toronto this year), and although he's played better in Sacramento, there are questions as to whether he can be a part of a championship team.

    Whether he opts out of his deal or not, the Kings are the heavy favorite to have Gay next season. He's played pretty well in his time there, and Sacramento may have a hard time attracting premium free agents anyway, particularly since it won't have much cap space for at least the next two years.

LeBron James

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    Will there be the drama of another decision, or will LeBron James and company stay put? According to Chris Bosh, the Heat will remain intact at least one more season. Here's Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick with more:

    Before the team took off for Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon, Bosh was a guest on the local South Florida hour of The Dan Le Batard Show, which airs nationally from 4 to 7 p.m. on ESPN Radio. 

    Rather than conduct a conventional interview, Le Batard—the longtime Miami Herald columnist—and co-host Jon "Stugotz" Weiner played two games with the Miami Heat forward/center, first asking him to "fill in the blank" and then asking him to answer "true or false." 

    The final true-or-false question is the one that will get the most attention.

    Le Batard stated that Bosh—who can opt out of his contract after this season—will be in Miami next year.

    "True," Bosh answered.

    "And so will LeBron...," Le Batard continued.

    "True," Bosh replied. 

    While things can change rather quickly, and the health of Dwyane Wade could play a large role, it makes more sense for this team to stay together, particularly if it makes another title run this season.

    That being said, until all three players officially pass on using their early termination options, we'll have plenty of room to speculate where the league's best player will be playing next year.

Zach Randolph

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    Another player with a big player option is Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph. While the details of a potential deal have yet to be determined, Randolph said he wants to stay in Memphis one way or another. Here's what he told ESPN.com's Marc Stein:

    I’d like to be here. I’d like to retire here. You never know. If I’ve got to make some sacrifices to be here, I would. I still can play. I can still help a team out. I want to win a championship. I’ve made all the money in the world. I just want to win. I don’t know yet [about opting in or opting out], but Memphis is my home. If they trade me tomorrow, I’m here. I just bought a new house. My daughters go to school [in Memphis]. That’s my home.

    The Grizzlies have tough decisions looming with Randolph, as he's likely going to decline in the next few years. Ed Davis, Randolph's younger backup, is also eligible for restricted free agency, so the two decisions will likely coincide with one another.

    For Randolph, it's all about whether he wants a long-term deal or whether he wants to take the $16.5 million owed to him and negotiate next year instead. 

    It's not out of the question that Memphis will balk at signing Randolph long term, so perhaps the player option is the best route for all parties. This really does seem like a coin-flip decision, and with so much at stake for the Grizzlies, we'll be hearing plenty about it this offseason.

Greg Monroe

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    Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe has an uncertain future, as he'll be headed for restricted free agency this offseason. Because the experiment with Josh Smith and Andre Drummond all in the same frontcourt failed so miserably, perhaps Monroe will push for Detroit not to match on an offer sheet he signs, which very well could be a max deal.

    Here's David Aldridge of NBA.com with more details on Monroe's free agency:

    The problem, as the Pistons knew last fall, is that Monroe's agent is David Falk. He has gotten the price he said he'd get for his clients for two decadesand he says the price for Monroe will be a max contract.

    Two years ago, when a big deal for Indiana's Roy Hibbert, a Falk client, seemed doubtful, Falk created a one-team market. Portland dropped a four-year, $58 million sheet on Indiana for Hibbert. The Pacers matched, and are no doubt happy they did, but Falk proved he can still find suitors when he has to for his guys.

    While it would obviously sting to let a talented, young big man simply walk away, negotiating a sign-and-trade isn't out of the equation. With Joe Dumars stepping down as the team's general manager, it will be interesting to see what his replacement thinks of the big frontcourt, Monroe's value and the overall direction the team should take.

    Don't be surprised if Josh Smith's name pops up in trade talks quite a bit as well. If the Pistons plan on matching and retaining Monroe this offseason, something likely has to give. 

Chandler Parsons

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    The Houston Rockets may have one more opportunity to get another big star on their roster, but Chandler Parsons' contract situation could complicate things.

    The Rockets own a team option on Parsons for under $1 million for next season. If that is exercised, Parsons will become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. 

    However, if Parsons' team option is declined, he'll become a restricted free agent this offseason. That would allow Houston the right to match on any offer sheet he receives, essentially locking in the core of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Parsons.

    Will the Rockets do that or take one more year of cheap labor? Here's Tom Ziller at SBNation.com with his take:

    In the meantime, keeping Parsons cheap in 2014-15 allows Morey to potentially add a piece (depending on what he wants to or can do with Asik and Lin) in his quest to get Howard, Harden and Kevin McHale a championship. Paying Parsons earlier to remove the risk of losing him doesn't help get the Rockets any further in 2014-15. Houston needs to swing for the fences early and often, and playing risk management with Parsons' contract isn't worth it.

    We'll see what Houston's grand plan is this offseason, and you have to believe a lot of that will revolve around the decision on Parsons. 

Eric Bledsoe

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    Eric Bledsoe is another enticing talent headed for restricted free agency, but other teams around the league might not have much of a shot at adding him. Here's what Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told the Doug & Wolf show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM earlier this year about whether the Suns would match on Bledsoe, as transcribed by Adam Green at ArizonaSports.com:

    Yes. If you ask me today, I would say absolutely we are going to match any offer, but I hope it doesn't come to that. I hope Eric has developed enough of a feeling, and my instincts are that he likes it here.

    Given the success of the Suns and how well Bledsoe has played with Goran Dragic, you can safely assume that the Suns will do whatever is necessary to retain Bledsoe this offseason.

    It wouldn't make much sense to trade for a player in a "rebuilding" year only to let him walk, so at the least, the Suns should get a nice haul in a trade for Bledsoe if it comes to that.

    More likely, though, he'll be one of the cornerstones for an exciting young franchise. You'll probably hear about a lot of teams having interest, but Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough holds all the cards.

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