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NBA Free Agents 2014: Ranking Most Likely Destinations for Available Stars

Jan 9, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) defends Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the fourth quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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David DanielsSenior Writer IJune 25, 2014

A pair of 2014 NBA free agents are so talented that teams are willing to rearrange nearly their entire rosters for them.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are those free agents.

Here are the most likely landing spots for each superstar.

 

SF Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

GREENBURGH, NY - JUNE 10:  Phil Jackson, President of the New York Knicks speaks at a press conference to announce Derek Fisher as Coach of the New York Knicks on June 10, 2014 in Greenburgh, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

3. New York Knicks

Anthony has met with Phil Jackson to talk about a potential future in New York, and Anthony called the meeting "great," according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. There's three great things the Knicks are offering Anthony.

One is Jackson. He has 11 NBA Championship rings as a coach and two as a player. He's a genius who knows how to win better than anyone in the league.

Nov 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and fans react after he was fouled late during the fourth quarter of a game against the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sp
USA TODAY Sports

Two is New York City. This is what ESPN's Ian Begley reported about Anthony's interest in the Chicago Bulls: "According to league sources, Anthony has talked to at least one high-profile person who lives in Chicago about what it's like to be famous in the Windy City." Anthony cares about having a prestigious brand, and no market in the nation offers what New York City does in that regard. 

Three is money. According to Begley, Anthony can sign a five-year deal worth $129 million in New York versus a four-year deal worth $96 million anywhere else.

However, Anthony is 30 years old. This will be the last major contract of his career. As brilliant as Jackson is, he can't guarantee title contention like the following two teams can.

 

Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

2. Houston Rockets

If Anthony wants to form a Big Three with LeBron James and another player, Houston is his best chance to do it. ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that the Rockets could send James Harden to New York in a sign-and-trade for Anthony (h/t RealGM). Houston could then deal Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to make room for LeBron James.

But even if the Rockets settle for a Big Three of Anthony, Harden and Dwight Howard, it'll instantly become one of, if not the favorite to win the Western Conference. New York can't offer such immediate success.

The issue with Houston, though, is it doesn't have enough basketballs to please a Big Three of Anthony, Harden and Howard. Who takes a back seat? Houston scored the second-most points in the league last season—offense isn't a need.

 

1. Chicago Bulls

However, offense is a desperate need for the Bulls. No one scored fewer points in the regular season than them this year. It's no wonder why the New York Post's Marc Berman reported that Chicago's head coach Tom Thibodeau is "very excited" about the idea of coaching Anthony.

And Anthony will get very excited about being the focal point of the Bulls' offense. He'll have to share the ball with Derrick Rose, but that's it. And surrounding Anthony will be the best defense in the league.

Houston, which surrendered 11.3 more points per game than Chicago this year, can't compare. While Chicago doesn't have New York's market, it's still third in the United States only behind New York City and Los Angeles. The Bulls are a near perfect fit for Anthony.

 

SF LeBron James, Miami Heat

Feb 24, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (left) looks over at Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (right) as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott (center) looks on during the second half at the American Airlines A
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3. Cleveland Cavaliers

ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein reported that the Cavaliers are one of several teams aiming to add James and Anthony. Pairing them with Kyrie Irving would make quite the Big Three. And Cleveland still has the whole home-state thing going for it.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Team owner Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks to the media prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
Jason Miller/Getty Images

But that's about it. The Cavaliers are just a horrible franchise in general. They haven't won more than 33 games in the past four years.

While the PR for James would be magnificent, signing in Cleveland is a huge risk given its questionable management. It traded two second-round picks in the best draft class since 2003 to rent Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes for a playoff push in one of the worst conferences in professional sports history. And it missed the playoffs.

Plus, Dan Gilbert's Letter happened.

 

Ben Margot/Associated Press

2. Golden State Warriors

The best Big Three that James could form wouldn't be on the Cavaliers or Rockets. It'd be on the Warriors. ESPN's Chad Ford reported that Golden State is reconsidering trading for Kevin Love to attract James (h/t Contra Costa Times). And pairing James, Love and Stephen Curry together would be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Aug 12, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Spain forward Pau Gasol (middle) is boxed out between USA forwards Kevin Love (11) and LeBron James (6) during the men's basketball gold medal game in the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena. Mandatory
Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

I paraphrase. But Ford did say the three were "perfect complements" to each other. While James, Love and Curry are all offensive juggernauts who need their touches, they're all just as effective at playing off the ball as they are at creating their own shot.

However, pulling off a blockbuster trade for Love and signing James is easier said than done. This is the best destination for James if he wants to go to four more straight NBA Finals, but it just isn't as likely as a return to South Beach.

 

1. Miami Heat

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix asked around if James would leave the Heat after opting out.

An Eastern Conference executive told him, “I'd be surprised if he didn't go back to Miami. Another said, “Why would he go anywhere? He has everything he wants in Miami.” And a "source familiar with James' thinking" said the Heat remains favored to sign him.

Then why opt out?

May 5, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (center) holds his fourth MVP trophy next to head coach Erik Spoelstra (left) and Heat president Pat Riley (right) at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODA
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James knows Miami needs to improve to pull off another run of four straight NBA Finals appearances. The desire to win another ring should be enough motivation for the Heat front office to improve the team. But then again, the threat of losing James gives it even more motivation.

Pat Riley is just about as brilliant as Jackson. He'll make the moves necessary to impress James, like trading up in the draft for Shabazz Napier, according to Ford. And unless the Warriors pull off a miracle, James will re-sign.

 

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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