7 NBA Players Who Stand to Benefit from Quiet 2014 Free Agency

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

7 NBA Players Who Stand to Benefit from Quiet 2014 Free Agency

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Quiet NBA free-agency periods have a way of making consolation prizes very, very rich.

    Names like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh dominate free-agency headlines—and for good reason. They're superstars who can instantly alter the direction of an entire franchise, turning fringe contenders into championship hunters and thrusting irrelevant squads into significance. 

    But what happens if nothing happens? If James and Bosh stay in Miami? If Melo sticks with New York? If the max-contract-seeking Eric Bledsoe stays in Phoenix?

    What happens then?

    Others get paid. 

    Furious or distressed—or outright panicky—after missing out on this summer's top-flight talent, slighted teams will fill on-court voids and overindulge off-court egos by throwing wads of cash at contingency plans and last-ditch opportunities. 

    Consolation prizes—talented as they are—will have the chance to ink fat pacts, making a whole lot of money and noise courtesy of inaction and relative quiet higher up the food chain.

Gordon Hayward, SF

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 41.3 percent shooting, 16.2 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    No matter what happens this summer, Gordon Hayward is barreling toward a lucrative contract. Whether it's the Utah Jazz doing the paying remains to be seen.

    Hayward's situation is complicated, as Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey explained at the end of a detailed free-agency analysis:

    This is going to sound like a cop-out, but the decision of whether or not to keep Hayward is truly dependent on the dollars and cents.

    If he signs a deal that pays him $10 million per year or less, Utah needs to match it. Hayward does too much to let him walk at that price.

    Again, it gets tricky if he agrees to anything more than that.

    Although Hayward struggled as the primary offensive weapon in Utah this past season—the first time he held such a role—he still joined James, Durant, Michael-Carter Williams and Russell Westbrook as the only five players to average at least 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal a night.

    Point forwards are hard to come by in a point guard's league, and while Hayward's production can be chalked up to playing on a bad team, his per-game numbers—shooting percentages aside—are flashy enough to warrant attention.

    The only other true point forward available would be James. If he remains in Miami, there will be teams in big markets that throw more than $10 million annually at Hayward, knowing he is the rare, poachable restricted free agent.

Kyle Lowry, PG

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 38 percent three-point shooting, 20 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Kyle Lowry is so going to get paid this summer.

    After spearheading an end to the Toronto Raptors' six-year playoff absence, Lowry finds himself in good shape. Retired New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey clocked his annual value between $10 and 12 million in May, putting him in line to sign a contract similar to those Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson inked.

    Point guard is a deep position, which could curb Lowry's value slightly, but if Bledsoe re-signs with the Phoenix Suns, he becomes the unchallenged best floor general available.

    Put it this way: Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com indicated that Lowry and the Miami Heat share mutual interest, affections that will never turn into anything. Short of the Big Three taking more than $5 million less per year each, the Heat cannot afford him.

    Not even the Raptors are locks to pay him. General manager Masai Ujiri believed that Lowry would price himself out of Toronto's range as recently as February, according to NBA.com's David Aldridge.

    Coming off a career, All-Star-worthy season and entering a free-agency class that may wind up lacking attainable star talent, that's just what Lowry could do.

Trevor Ariza, SF

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 45.6 percent shooting, 15.8 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Trevor Ariza isn't a star. He isn't a No. 1 option. He isn't going to turn a lottery dweller into a championship contender. 

    But he is still going to need deeper pockets if he's to comfortably carry all the money teams are dangling in his face.

    There aren't a lot of three-and-D guys on the open market, if there are any at all. Ariza can light it up from deep while guarding most teams' best wing scorers. He still has some lift left in those 28-year-old legs of his too. 

    Like most other forwards, he'll have to wait and see what happens to James and Anthony before contract offers are hurled his way. If they both stay where they are, it will be worth the wait. 

    He won't command anywhere near as much as they will, yet he's still equipped to enter games as a stretch 4 at times. And he's a cheaper alternative to Luol Deng. A better shooter too.

    Look for teams trying to clear cap space in hopes of landing Anthony or James—like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, among others—to send a glance or two and ultimately a hefty contract offer Ariza's way in the aftermath of their decisions.

Lance Stephenson, SG

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 49.1 percent shooting, 14.7 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Lance Stephenson's impending payday stands to be enormous. 

    Teams that whiff on top targets and are desperate to make a splash will chase him. We always knew that. But Stephenson is also the best shooting guard on the market, among those who are actually accessible.

    Dwyane Wade isn't leaving Miami. He's been there his entire career, has won three championships and isn't walking away from nearly $42 million over the next two seasons at his age. Pat Riley confirmed as much at his end-of-year presser, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.

    That leaves Stephenson.

    Red flags are all over the place with him. He has heart and energy on the floor, but his bravado and inconsistent decision-making could damage his stock, as the Sporting News' Sean Deveney explained: 

    "One league executive said the problems that have arisen—the public ones, remember, not the behind-the-scenes ones—with Stephenson will cut deep into his value on the free-agent market, and that a deal worth $7 million-$8 million per year is more likely to be Stephenson’s range now."

    Antics in mind, Stephenson could still be looking at more.

    Only two other players averaged at least 13 points, seven rebounds and 4.5 assists per game last season—Nicolas Batum and Kevin Durant. Batum is the cheaper of the two, and he still cost the Portland Trail Blazers $11.3 million.

    Eclipsing eight figures annually is not out of the question for Stephenson, even after the Indiana Pacers' late-season collapse and his purported character issues.

    Two-way guards always get paid. This two-way guard will get paid even more if there's nothing save for silence on other fronts.

Chandler Parsons, SF

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 47.2 percent shooting, 15.9 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted (?)

    Things could get interesting with Chandler Parsons.

    According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets plan to decline his team option, in what they hope is a move that precedes an even bigger one:

    Houston plans to pursue the major stars who could be available upon opting out of deals, including Miami's LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and New York's Carmelo Anthony, league sources said. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be a target too.

    The Rockets are pursuing Minnesota's Kevin Love in trade talks too, and Parsons could hold sign-and-trade possibilities.

    Letting Parsons hit restricted free agency is no big deal. The Rockets have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs, so if their plans to use him in a sign-and-trade or sign Anthony or James outright fall through, they can retain him rather easily.

    Maybe.

    Some spiteful, bordering-on-ingenious team can come along and throw a max offer at Parsons. What do the Rockets do then? Sign him? Let him walk for nothing? 

    For our purposes, it doesn't matter. By making Parsons a pawn in their superstar game—even if they intend to keep him—the Rockets have opened the door for their small forward-turned-model to make bank. 

    And if you don't think it's possible Parsons nets a max offer from at least one team, think again. He, James and Durant were the only three players to average at least 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal while shooting 37 percent or better from deep in 2013-14.

    That will count for something. A whole lot, actually, when there's a case to be made for him as the premier free agent available if the established superstars stay put.

    "I want to be here," Parsons told Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston. "I love Houston."

    So much so that he would turn down the absurd contract he'll be offered if those ahead of him remain loyal to their incumbent teams?

    Er...

Greg Monroe, PF

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 49.7 percent shooting, 18.1 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    Knock, knock.

    Who's there?

    A max contract for Greg Monroe.

    Possibly.

    When the dust settles, Monroe could be vaulted into the first tier of available free agents. Deveney noted that if teams swing and miss on this summer's superstars, Monroe is primed for offseason glory. He also reported that Monroe's camp is seeking a max contract—an asking price more than one team could end up meeting.

    Talented bigs are hard to come by no matter what. Monroe is on the cusp of becoming a double-double machine and capitalizing on a dearth of free-agent towers.

    Kevin Love's fluid situation with the Minnesota Timberwolves could come into play here too. If they don't trade him—and Bosh, James and Anthony go nowhere—there will be a desperately heightened market for frontcourt scoring and rebounding.

    One in which Monroe could sit atop, sporting an unabashed smile as he puts pen to paper on the max contract the Detroit Pistons were forced to match or another team gladly handed him.

Luol Deng, SF

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    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 43.1 percent shooting, 15.2 PER

    Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Think of Luol Deng as a two-time All-Star and lockdown defender who will moonlight as a mercenary this summer.

    Months after being dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Deng doesn't appear prepared to return, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

    "Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Cavs could increase their chances of retaining free agent Luol Deng should they hire Griffin to be their coach, but the Cavs tried trading Deng at the trade deadline three months ago and haven’t expressed much interest in bringing him back."

    Deng doesn't need Cleveland's interest to boost his stock. James and Anthony can increase its value for him.

    Let's assume they stay in Miami and New York, respectively. Where will interested teams turn?

    Parsons, Ariza and Hayward, among others, will receive attention. Backsplash attention. Deng is the most established of the bunch and the only All-Star. Should the biggest names stay put, he instantly becomes the biggest name available. 

    Bigger than Lowry. Bigger than Parsons. Bigger than anyone else—something his next contract would reflect.

     

    *Stats via Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary information courtesy of ShamSports.