Now that the NBA season is over, the focus shifts to the offseason, namely where the marquee free agents will land.
This year's crop of stars doesn't disappoint. Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Paul Pierce, Zach Randolph, Marcin Gortat and Luol Deng are among those who could hit the open market this summer.
The six players below—broken down by free-agent designations—will be some of the most in-demand over the coming months.
Note: You can view the full list of free agents on NBA.com.
Restricted Free Agents
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns took a gamble when they didn't offer Eric Bledsoe an extension to his rookie deal back in October 2013. It's a decision the team is likely regretting after the 24-year-old averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists this past season.
Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears reported that Bledsoe will be seeking a max deal this offseason. As a result, the point guard could be dangled as bait with which to lure in Kevin Love as well:
Suns interested in Love deal w/best assets Dragic, Bledsoe & picks.NBA sources say it will take full max deal to control free agent Bledsoe.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 7, 2014
The Suns are certainly in a tough position. They still have the ability to match any offer sheet Bledsoe signs with a new team, so they have as good of a chance as anybody of signing him. The only concern for management is whether or not making a heavy commitment to the point guard is a worthwhile investment.
Given his performance last season, it would certainly seem so.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
It's a buyer's market out there for teams hoping to add a point guard this season, so Isaiah Thomas might be had for a reasonable price.
The Sacramento Kings point was very good in his first two seasons and then made a huge jump in Year 3. His per-36 scoring average rose from 18.7 points to 21.1 points, and his PER saw a three-point increase from 2012-13 to 2013-14 (17.5 to 20.5).
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee reported the Kings will extend a qualifying offer to Thomas before June 30:
Kings also have until June 30 to extend a qualifying offer to Isaiah Thomas. Formality. They'll do that before the deadline.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 1, 2014
Judging by how the 25-year-old has handled this offseason so far, staying with the team is something he cares about. He recently made a trip to India as an ambassador of the Kings and NBA as a whole:
“I’m honored to be representing the Kings and the entire NBA in India this offseason.” - @Isaiah_Thomas2— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) June 5, 2014
Jones praised Thomas' commitment to the organization despite his future being in doubt:
Isaiah Thomas is a class act. Repping Kings/NBA in India when he might not be a King next season. Could easily have said no.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 5, 2014
Whatever team does land the player will be getting one of the more underrated players of this year's free-agent class.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Good luck trying to figure out how Lance Stephenson's offseason will unfold. Fans got the whole Stephenson spectrum in the Eastern Conference Finals, between his 25-point performance in Game 2 and subsequent meltdown over the rest of the series.
The 23-year-old is clearly a talented player, but like a J.R. Smith or Stephen Jackson, a team will have to determine whether his output on the court is worth the eccentricities inherent in his game.
Grantland's Zach Lowe produced a comprehensive look at Stephenson's possibilities in free agency and how much he'd ultimately be worth. Lowe ended up landing on the Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons as his three best situations.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
As Eric Koreen of the National Post wrote, the Toronto Raptors are in a bind when it comes to Kyle Lowry's impending free agency:
While it feels likely that both (Lowry and Greivis Vasquez) will stay in Toronto, as there appears to be little natural market developing for point guards in free agency, that is not a guarantee. Free agency generally plays out over the first week of July, and some time drags on longer than that.
That can complicate a team’s preparation for the June 26 NBA Draft. What should the Raptors do if the best player on the board with the 20th pick is a point guard — say, for example, Brampton-via-Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis?
Lowry has shown promise before, but last season is when everything came together. He averaged career highs in points (17.9), assists (7.4), and three-point percentage (.380).
The 28-year-old stated his desire to remain with the franchise already, per The Canadian Press, via CBC Sports.
"I love this place. I love this situation. It's as simple as that," he said. "We just went to Game 7, first round. Nobody expected us to be there. Of course I can see that."
Speaking of his teammates, he added, "It's a good mixture. It's a great mixture, actually. I said it yesterday: It's the best 14 other guys I've had in a locker-room in my career."
Last year was Toronto's first in the postseason since the 2007-08 season. The pieces are there for the Raptors to be a contender in the Atlantic once again, but they'll have to retain Lowry in order to make that happen.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Carmelo Anthony is considering opting out of his deal with the New York Knicks. If that happens, the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets are in pole position to sign the star forward:
Sources: As Carmelo Anthony leans toward leaving New York, Chicago and Houston emerge as free agency frontrunners. http://t.co/16harTcrBx— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 14, 2014
Anthony is certainly one of the more compelling players to follow this offseason. He is almost this generation's Dominique Wilkins—an offensive force but not good enough on his own to win a title. Moving to a ready-made contender is a logical next step for him.
ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein reported the Miami Heat might be a possible landing spot, but so many moving pieces have to fall in line to make that happen.
The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds had some fun with all of the rumors surrounding Miami.
Heat starters next year: Big 3, Melo, Lowry and Kevin Love. Yes, they'll start all six.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 12, 2014
Anthony's ultimate decision could shift the power of the NBA.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
No player would be more coveted this offseason than LeBron James. Whether or not he stays in Miami, it would make sense that he terminates his current contract early. Either he can get more money with a new team or he can sign a more team-friendly contract with the Miami Heat in order to lure in a player like Anthony.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne reported back on June 14 that LeBron already had his mind made up as to his future regardless of what happens in the NBA Finals:
The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn't hinge on that happening.
The Heat's success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James' decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
James has always been careful to handle his career with the utmost care and planning. It wouldn't be a surprise that one playoff series wouldn't radically alter his long-term vision.
No matter what happens with the four-time MVP, at least this time fans won't be subjected to "The Decision" again.
Note: All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.