Free agency is one of the few things that fans of nearly half the NBA’s franchises have to look forward to at this juncture. While the playoffs are ongoing, these lottery-bound organizations are watching and plotting how to get there in the near future.
While the draft is obviously instrumental in acquiring talent for many of these clubs, free agency is the other primary method of improving the roster during the summer.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest rumblings and buzz surrounding the league’s top targets in Wednesday’s NBA rumor roundup.
Salary-Cap Increase Opens Door for Melo Suitors
The Association is doing well right now, which has resulted in the league’s decision to increase the salary cap and allow players to earn a larger share of that money.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the NBA has informed its franchises that the cap is projected to rise by more than $5 million ($58.6 million to $63.2 million per team) for the coming campaign. This would make the race to acquire premier free agents extremely interesting.
Carmelo Anthony may be the player most impacted by this newfound flexibility, as suitors like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets will find it easier to carve out the space to offer the superstar forward a maximum deal.
Stein suggests that the Bulls have had Melo on their radar prior to this cap increase and feel confident that they can pry him away from the New York Knicks after he opts out of his current deal this summer:
It's believed that the Bulls would still have to shed some veteran salary in addition to releasing former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer via the amnesty clause this summer to be able to make a competitive offer that could persuade Anthony to leave the new [Phil] Jackson-led Knicks and the Madison Square Garden stage he loves so dearly. But a higher cap figure than anticipated would naturally make things easier for Chicago.
The ESPN.com reporter went on to note that Houston would also throw its hat into the ring if it is able to rid itself of the contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik—the two talents are set to make nearly $30 million combined in 2014-15.
While Melo is one of the most gifted scorers in the league, he has yet to win a title during his 11-year tenure in the league and just missed out on making the playoffs this season.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer pointed out that his presence might not result in championship banners for the Bulls or Rockets:
With that said, Anthony has yet to play with teammates as talented as he would have on either of those squads. He could push them to the next level and may be the missing piece. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens this summer.
Pistons Likely to Face Tough Choice
The Detroit Pistons are coming off a disappointing 2013-14 campaign and have seen plenty of change at the top of the organization heading into a critical offseason.
With no general manager tabbed to replace Joe Dumars, the organization must act quickly to have the proper pieces in place to build this team into a playoff contender in just a few months.
Once the Pistons find the right person to captain the ship, their first task will likely involve sorting out the Greg Monroe situation. The emerging big man is set to hit restricted free agency and could receive some massive offers from competing franchises.
Monroe earned just a shade over $4 million in 2013-14, but his production and upside should command a double-digit yearly salary on the open market.
However, with Andre Drummond also developing into a star, the Pistons will have to make a difficult decision.
According to David Mayo of MLive.com, the Pistons will be able to match any offer that comes Monroe’s way this summer, but they may not be willing to if it is deemed excessive.
Should that happen, Mayo writes that the organization would try to orchestrate a sign-and-trade over letting him walk for nothing.
Monroe himself weighed in on the situation, saying that he is seeking a four-year deal worth $12 million and that plenty of changes are still to come in the Motor City. "There will be a lot of changes, a lot of personnel changes, on this team. A lot of guys' contracts are up. So you will see some changes," he told Mayo.
Make sure to monitor this situation after the Pistons hire a general manager, as he could greatly impact whether Monroe stays in Detroit or heads elsewhere to blossom into one of the league’s best bigs.
Salary information courtesy of HoopsHype.