Now that the 2014 NBA draft has officially come to a close, basketball fans can finally breath a sigh of relief. Make it a quick one, though, because the NBA free agency period starts in less than a week.
Though teams can't officially negotiate with players until the open of free agency on July 1, the rumor mill has been churning prior to the end of the regular season. Several of the top names on the market will be courted by franchises looking to make a huge move to vastly improve in the coming years.
He switched teams. He’s not the first guy to do it. He decided to opt out. He’s not the first guy to do it. Sometimes a lot of people criticize him for doing normal things. Tim Duncan went into free agency before and he got courted by a few teams. We’ll see what happens with me, but everybody has done the same thing and he’s not the first.
We'll leave that last tidbit alone and revisit it when 2016 rolls around and Durant potentially becomes a free agent.
For now, let's take a look at some of the latest rumors swirling around the NBA following the draft, starting with how King James' decision could affect others.
Kevin Love Interested in Cavaliers...if James is Brought In
While Kevin Love isn't set to become a free agent until next summer, teams around the league are doing everything they can to acquire the big man. One franchise with hopes of attracting the Minnesota Timberwolves forward is reportedly the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Initially, it appeared talks between the two teams were dead, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported:
Apparently those discussions have been revitalized after the draft—but only under one condition: The Cavs must find a way to bring back James after losing him four years ago to the Heat.
Chris Broussard of ESPN has the latest on the possibility:
While, in theory, this seems like a dream come true for Cleveland fans, it probably is just a fantasy. Though, having said that, what player wouldn't want to join forces with James on a team with an already established point guard like Kyrie Irving?
Add on top of that the fact that the Cavaliers just drafted Andrew Wiggins, a prospect who looks like a potential superstar in the next few years, and the Cavs would have a championship contender. Once again, that all depends on James leaving a franchise he's won two NBA titles with already.
There's no denying that Love might join forces with James in Cleveland, but there's a slim chance that the four-time MVP doesn't re-sign with the Heat.
Prediction: James stays in Miami; Love dealt before trade deadline.
Lakers Looking to Attract Two Superstars This Summer
Did we mention that James is the most highly-coveted player in this year's free agent class?
Since he is, of course another high-profile NBA team hopes to acquire his services for the next several seasons.
This time, the Los Angeles Lakers hoping to bring the forward in and turn around the once-proud franchise. But for the Lakers, it's apparently about more than just James, as they want to immediately bolster the roster with multiple superstars from the free-agent crop—starting with Carmelo Anthony.
Along with Anthony, L.A. is also interested in potentially bringing in James and/or Chris Bosh this summer, as Broussard explains:
Once again, this rumor is hinging on quite a few different things going the Lakers way. My belief is still that James will re-sign with Miami, killing the first part of this potential blockbuster signing before it ever occurs.
As for the second one, Bosh has said in the past that he thinks the Big Three in Miami will stay together, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
That leaves Anthony as the lone player the Lakers would look to sign and save the franchise. Unfortunately, the best landing spot for Anthony is ultimately an established team that is ready to contend for titles—which the Lakers clearly are not.
After doing some soul searching and mulling over his options, Anthony should see that the Chicago Bulls make too much sense for him not to head to the Windy City. Thanks to an already outstanding defense, the all-around brilliance of Joakim Noah and a bona fide scoring threat in a healthy Derrick Rose, Anthony will be the missing piece in Chicago.
Prediction: Bosh remains in Miami with James; Anthony signs with Bulls
Pacers Looking to Negotiate with Lance Stephenson
After all of the antics and buffoonery from Lance Stephenson, it's time for the shooting guard to get down to business.
That's exactly what Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird is planning on doing with the emerging star on the first day of free agency. Mark Monteith of Pacers.com also reports he has a price set for the guard:
Despite the fact that Stephenson was at times an enigma for the Pacers, he also shined throughout the year. The 23-year-old had his best statistical season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebound and 4.6 assists per game, all career highs.
As for the clear superstar on the Indiana roster, Paul George believes the team needs to keep the current core to contend in the Eastern Conference. George shared his thoughts on Stephenson, via Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan:
Following a four-year stint with the Pacers, Stephenson has every right to look elsewhere to continue his NBA career. But with the management and coaching staff the franchise offers, the best fit is still in Indiana.
It might not be as simple as a sit-down conversation with Bird to hash things out—or maybe it will be; he is Larry Bird after all—but Stephenson will realize he's got a good thing going with the Pacers. If he continues to mature, Indiana might just have an All-Star to help contend for several years to come.
Prediction: Stephenson re-signs with Pacers.
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