NBA Free Agents 2014: Predicting Destinations of Underrated Available Players

David DanielsSenior Writer IJune 29, 2014

Jan 24, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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The Big Three and Carmelo Anthony aren't the only important 2014 NBA free agents.

Many more will make a significant impact on their teams next season, whether they're the franchises these free agents played for in 2013-14 or not.

Here are three underrated free agents in the rumor mill lately and a prediction for where they'll sign this summer.

 

PF/C Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

Prediction: New York Knicks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench next to Pau Gasol #16 and Derek Fisher #2 prior to Game Five of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 15, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER
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ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported that the Lakers may want to re-sign Pau Gasol. Key word: may. Only if they can't sign LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will they settle for Gasol.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16:  Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Pau Gasol #16 after Fisher stole the ball and scored a break away basket against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on January 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California
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This is exactly why he'll sign with the Knicks.

ESPN's Marc Stein reported that Knicks president Phil Jackson will make a "determined attempt" to recruit Gasol. If Gasol has any self respect—which I have to assume he at least has a sliver—he's New York-bound.

Gasol is still one of the top big men in the league, yet he's the Lakers' plan B, again. They traded him for Chris Paul in 2011 before not second thoughts, but basketball reasons kept him in Los Angeles after the NBA nixed the deal.

Of the top 40 scorers in the league this season, Gasol had the 11th-highest field-goal percentage. He still has a couple strong years of basketball left, and the familiarity of Jackson and New York head coach Derek Fisher would bring best out of him. There'd be no better way to spurn Los Angeles than to team up with his former associates whom, like himself, Los Angeles has spurned. 

 

SF Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards

Prediction: Toronto Raptors

May 5, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (1) points after scoring against the Indiana Pacers in game one of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 102-96. Mandato
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His name is drawing few headlines, but Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy reported that Trevor Ariza will have several pursuers this summer.

Feb 18, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) shoots the ball as Toronto Raptors small forward Terrence Ross (31) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The 28-year-old Ariza averaged 15.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals against the Chicago Bulls in Round 1 of postseason, helping the Wizards win their first playoff series since 2005. He hasn't been on a legitimate contender since he left the Lakers, though. And he's talented enough to start on a contender now, but by the time his next contract rolls around, he likely won't be.

Toronto isn't exactly a contender, but it's a playoff team that needs a way to convince Kyle Lowry to re-signespecially after drafting small forward Bruno Caboclo 20th overall in the NBA draft. Signing Ariza could do it, and Canada.com's Kevin Rashidi reported the Raptors are interested in doing just that.

 

PF Josh McRoberts, Charlotte Hornets

Prediction: Charlotte Hornets

Apr 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts (11) reacts against the Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (30) in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA T
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Josh McRoberts opted out of his contract and the Hornets drafted power forward Noah Vonleh ninth overall, but according to The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, their interest in keeping McRoberts hasn't wavered.

Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Noah Vonleh (Indiana) shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number nine overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner
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And it shouldn't. Charlotte is a playoff team.

Vonleh is promising. Cody Zeller is promising. But neither are yet capable of starting on a playoff team that plans on advancing. 

While Vonleh and Zeller are raw talents, McRoberts had a career year last season. In the playoffs, he averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, and shot 47.1 percent from downtown. Charlotte will take a small step backward if it replaces him with Vonleh or Zeller immediately.

 

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