2014 NBA Free Agency: Predicting Biggest Winners and Losers of the Offseason

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2014

2014 NBA Free Agency: Predicting Biggest Winners and Losers of the Offseason

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    LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have opted out of their contracts, making the Miami Heat and New York Knicks potential losers during free agency.
    LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have opted out of their contracts, making the Miami Heat and New York Knicks potential losers during free agency.USA TODAY Sports

    The NBA season may be over, but with free agency on the horizon, players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have successfully piqued fans' interests during the early days of summer.

    At this point in the free-agent process, there's no sure-fire way of knowing where each superstar will land. That said, it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that the Miami Heat and New York Knicks would suffer from such significant losses, and conversely celebrate such significant re-signings.

    Despite the fact that the Heat and Knicks will dominate headlines in July, there are other teams hoping to strike gold as well. Not every franchise will be a clear winner or loser, but a handful will stick out at the end of the day for better or for worse.

Loser: Dallas Mavericks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Dallas Mavericks have acquired Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks, and according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, the big man is ready to recruit free agents:

    Absolutely I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team and the organization...At the end of the day free agency is kind of an individual thing. It comes down to your family and what’s best…but I’ll tell you one thing, Dallas isn’t a bad place. It’s not a hard place to sell.

    I’m going to do whatever I can.

    Chandler's statement specifically pertains to former teammate Carmelo Anthony. Melo would be a strong addition to the team's already-potent offense, but B/R's Zach Buckley has even broken down what kind of pitch Mark Cuban could make to LeBron James. 

    But doesn't this story sound familiar? This is the same organization that has whiffed on players such as James, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard in recent years, and while shooting for the stars has become a theme, so has missing out. 

    The past doesn't determine the future, but in Dallas' case, it doesn't lend much confidence, either. The Mavs proved they can do damage with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis leading the way, but with the former reaching the end of his career, a big-name acquisition has to be the goal, whether attainable or not.

Winner: Houston Rockets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Houston Rockets have traded Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans in a move that could very well be a first step toward acquiring a superstar—a la LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.

    Best-case scenario for Houston is that it does indeed acquire one of the aforementioned talents. Placing James or Anthony alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden would create for arguably the best trio in the league, and more importantly, it would create a title contender in 2015.

    Worst-case scenario is that the team swings and misses on both LeBron and Melo, yet it has a whole slew of cap space to sign solid role players to fit in with what this group already has going for it. 

    Houston's early postseason exit was surprising to most observers, but it's hardly indicative of the team's ceiling. There's plenty of room to grow, and adding another piece—even in the form of a modest acquisition—will only help.

     

Loser: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Steve Yeater/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a lose-lose situation when it comes to the Kevin Love saga. If the team deals its franchise player, it's nearly impossible that it gets in return a player to match the night-in, night-out production it loses.

    If it keeps the 25-year-old, the team will be tasked with the inconceivable chore of wooing the superstar with the roster as is.

    Neither scenario is a recipe for success, and neither offers much improvement entering 2014-15.

    Although Love isn't a free agent, which is the primary focus of the league at this juncture, he will impact what certain teams do following the Association's July moratorium. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they have virtually no cash to spend, meaning they enter the new year where they are today as a best-case scenario.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago Bulls cannot enter free agency assuming they're going to land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. If they do, the summer has the potential to be a drastic disappointment.

    That said, if the organization recognizes small steps as significant, this group will be one of the most improved rosters entering 2015, which is saying something considering how well it played this past season. 

    Starting with the man underneath the microscope, let's look at Derrick Rose. The former MVP is not a free agent, but he's going to be a massive acquisition considering he missed all but 10 games last year. 

    According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, "Rose is playing 5-on-5 on a daily basis" as of June 21.

    On top of Rose's return, Chicago is expected to amnesty Carlos Boozer, via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley. That will make room in the rotation to bring in Nikola Mirotic, which will add a young, hopefully productive piece to the roster next season.

    There is, of course, the chance that Chicago grabs Melo in free agency, but significant moves would have to be made to see such a pickup take place. Chicago fans need to keep their sights reasonable and their expectations under control, because the Bulls will come out smelling like a rose whether they land a big name or not.

Loser: New York Knicks

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    When the New York Knicks jump-started the offseason by trading for Jose Calderon, they indirectly made a pitch to Carmelo Anthony. As B/R's Howard Beck put it, "[...] this is a move to win now."

    Unfortunately for the Knicks, you have to ask yourself if the move was big enough to actually woo Melo to stay.

    That answer is likely a resounding no.

    As B/R's Grant Hughes breaks down, this move is likely an indication that the team is preparing for life after Anthony. Getting out from behind the eight ball, as it pertains to this situation, is crucial. In fact, some might say this move helped the team in the long run, which would actually make them winners this offseason.

    The truth is, though, even a potential sign-and-trade scenario is going to leave New York without its current face of the franchise. If Melo is truly good as gone, that's hardly a good thing for an organization in flux entering 2014-15.

Winner: Miami Heat

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    USA TODAY Sports

    See that image? The one above?

    That's LeBron James telling Miami Heat fans to settle down.

    James has opted out of his contract, causing a stir for fans in South Beach—not to mention dreamers across the Association. Everybody wants a piece of the four-time MVP, but as B/R's Dan Favale put it, "Prepare for an anti-climatic end to James' latest decision."

    If James uses his opt-out to help—not spurn—the Heat, Miami will be the big winner of the summer. This is a team that's still wreaking havoc on the Eastern Conference as is, and if James (not to mention Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) takes a pay cut, it will give the franchise an opportunity to restock the roster.

    On the contrary, losing James would unequivocally make the Heat big-time losers. With no disrespect to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a James departure changes the foundation of the organization even if the other two-thirds of the Big Three stays.

    A return from James, however, sets this team up for success both immediately and into the future, and it gives Miami the chance to win its fifth-straight conference title in 2015.