With the NBA season finally over, there are already more than a few free-agency rumors as teams and players begin planning ways to make a run as championship contenders next year.
The San Antonio Spurs were able to absolutely dominate the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, winning the title in just five games. Now, the Heat have more questions than answers, while other teams will be looking to convince the members of the Big Three to leave Miami and go elsewhere.
Carmelo Anthony Leaning Towards Leaving New York Knicks
There have been rumors surrounding New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony since the season began, and now that it's finally over, it doesn't look likely that the team will be able to bring back their best player.
Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports reported that the 30-year-old is leaning towards leaving the Knicks, with the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls as front-runners, saying:
Anthony's meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.
Chicago and Houston front-office executives are working diligently on contingencies to clear the space to sign Anthony outright – or engage sign-and-trade scenarios with New York, sources said.
Publicly, Anthony claimed that his meeting with Phil Jackson went well.
"It was great meeting with Phil, it went well," Anthony told reporters, according to Ian Begley from ESPN.com. "I like what Phil is doing."
According to Spotrac, Anthony has the option to opt out of his contract for next year, with the remainder of his deal worth over $23 million. While that would be an easy choice for most people, Anthony may want to take a slight pay cut to play for a championship contender, or at least have other stars to work with.
There are a number of teams that will push to acquire Anthony, and one in particular is also beginning to generate some buzz.
Houston Rockets Want Another Superstar
This past season, the Rockets had one of the best offenses in the league, ranking second in scoring with 107.7 points scored per game. However, an early exit in the playoffs has the Rockets reportedly looking for another key player to put them over the top.
At first glance, it doesn't look like the Rockets would be able to afford another superstar. According to Basketball-Reference, the team currently has around $63 million in payroll, making it very difficult for them to afford another big contract. However, according to Lang Greene from Basketball Insiders, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has a plan, saying:
The Rockets currently have $56 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for next season, which on the surface limits the franchise from becoming an active force in free agency. However, rumors are swirling that Morey would be more than willing to package center Omer Asik and guard Jeremy Lin in a trade to free up additional cap space.
Asik and Len combine to represent $16.8 million on the team’s committed salary for next season. Other assets could also be included to clear up more space, or get a team to bite on the Asik-Lin package. The Rockets are reportedly confident that they can move Asik and Lin, freeing up the necessary space to land another star and form a Big Three of their own in Houston.
For a team with the cap space to deal with the move, it's realistic to believe that they'd be interested in trading for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. The two aren't elite players, but Asik is an incredibly solid defender down low while Lin can be a serviceable backup point guard.
As for the Rockets, if they could trade away those big deals, they'd have more than enough cap space to convince someone like Carmelo to join James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. In the event they could sign Carmelo, they would have more than enough talent to make a run in the Western Conference, and they'd likely become the most hyped-up team in the NBA next season.
Kyle Lowry and Miami Heat Have "Mutual Interest"
The next few months will be very interesting to watch in Miami. In fact, the entire roster could look different, as Norris Cole currently has the only guaranteed contract for the Heat right now. Meanwhile, LeBron, Wade and Bosh all have player options to become free agents.
In order to convince the Big Three to return, the Heat may need to add another key player. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and the Heat are mutually interested in making a deal.
Now that Mario Chalmers is a free agent, it doesn't seem likely that he'll return, especially after his performance in the Finals. Offensively, Lowry could provide more of a spark on offense, as he averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the field.
The problem with adding Lowry is that he'll likely be asking for quite a bit of money, and if the Heat do intend to bring back LeBron, Bosh and Wade, that will give them little room to work with for the rest of their roster.
Along those lines, Lowry will likely be hoping to get a big pay day after a career season, and the Raptors would likely be willing to give it to him. According to Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders, Lowry is happy in Toronto:
It would be exciting to see Lowry on the Heat with the Big Three, but it's a long shot, as the talented point guard will most likely be playing with the Raptors again next season.