The 2014 NBA free-agency period officially begins on Tuesday, and due to the vast amount of top-tier players on the open market this year, we can expect a frenzy of early activity.
It may not take long for some of the Association's biggest names to find new homes, so that leaves us with little time to speculate.
Based on what we currently know about each team's salary-cap situation, free-agent interest and the latest rumors around the Web, let's predict where a few top-notch players who are set to hit the open market are likely to wind up.
Just four years ago, James took to the airwaves to announce his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers and his subsequent choice to join the Miami Heat in "The Decision."
Could we get an hour-long special once more?
James has plenty to think about while he makes his decision this time around.
First, it's not as if he's leaving a bad team—the Heat are coming off of four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
Also, after Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade opted out of their contracts on Saturday—and with Chris Bosh following suit on Sunday, per the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds (h/t Zach Harper of CBS Sports)—the team has a bevy of cap space to tinker with.
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck is assuming the players re-sign with cap-friendly deals:
This leaves room for the Heat to nab some free-agent help and make a solid run at keeping James.
Although the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers may be looking to make a run at James as well, factors such as staying in a favorable Eastern Conference, being able to acquire a max contract from Miami and his familiarity with the team ensure that he won't be undergoing a change of scenery this summer.
Predicted 2014 team: Miami Heat
Anthony was one of the bright spots for a lackluster New York Knicks team last season. Even at the age of 30, he's a highly coveted free agent after averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season.
Several teams were already reported to have significant interest in the forward, and NBA on ESPN tweeted the teams he's planning to visit:
The Houston Rockets are an intriguing option, but their lack of cap space may prove to be a hindrance. The team is making an all-out push to acquire Anthony, as it is looking into multiple trades, including one involving James Harden, according to Fox Sports Live:
The Chicago Bulls may be the best fit for Anthony. Joakim Noah is always solid, Derrick Rose is phenomenal when healthy, and the addition of Doug McDermott through the draft is huge. Adding Anthony could make this team an instant contender.
Although, we can't overlook the forward's return to the Knicks.
With Phil Jackson residing as president, anything seems possible for this organization. According to a report from Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Jackson has a plan to keep his star forward:
Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks officials, while not willing to trumpet it publicly with free agency fast approaching, are quietly confident about their odds of retaining Anthony thanks in part to the idea that new team president Phil Jackson and the high-scoring forward have 'connected' to some degree.
Furthermore, one source close to the process told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks' front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.
If New York's cap situation was slightly better, the team would be the pick here. However, in its current state, Jackson would have to make some significant moves to free up enough room to bring in Gasol and keep Anthony.
That being said, Anthony will be looking to join a contender, and with his services in the fold, that's exactly what the Bulls will become instantly.
Predicted 2014 team: Chicago Bulls
Lowry really lit it up with the Toronto Raptors last season. The point guard was instrumental in the team's success, averaging 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game last season.
This do-it-all player is already considered to be a highly sought after target in free agency. Per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, the Lakers could make a run a the guard: "If they are unable to land Anthony or James, the Lakers are also expected to have a strong interest in Washington free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Detroit center Greg Monroe and Phoenix forward Channing Frye, according to sources."
It's likely the Lakers won't get their first or second choices in Anthony or James, so the possibility of adding Lowry may not be too far-fetched.
Of course, the Raptors will be in play to retain their guard as well. However, Lowry appears happy to test the market, according to a tweet from Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:
One team that's pursuing Lowry is the Rockets, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:
This makes sense due to the fact that the team is attempting to bolster its roster in an effort to lure James or Anthony. However, the guard should be considered as Plan B for Houston.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Heat could be in play for Lowry as well: "If Wade and James are willing to accept reductions in pay as well, the Heat potentially would be able to open a salary slot to add another player. The team is known to be interested in Toronto Raptors free agent point guard Kyle Lowry."
There's only one problem with that scenario: LeBron wants a max contract. That may not leave enough room to sign such a high-profile free agent like Lowry.
It all comes down to this: Which of these teams has the tools to sign Lowry and contend this coming season? That would be Los Angeles.
Predicted 2014 team: Los Angeles Lakers
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