On to the next stage of the NBA offseason.
After all the predictions and analysis in the months leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday night has come and gone. Now the free-agency period is set to kick off on Tuesday with several notable names expected to hit the open market.
Superstars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will likely be wined and dined by every franchise with open cap space—with one possible franchise looking to secure both players. Though both will attract much of the attention this summer, several other players will look to find the best fit in the league.
Even NBA veteran Pau Gasol could be on the market this summer after spending the last six seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Though there will likely be several options on the table for the big man, he might have plans to rejoin the Lakers next year.
Before the free-agency period officially begins, here's a look at the latest rumors about some of the top names this summer.
Phoenix Suns Plan 'Aggressive Pursuit' of James, Anthony
Two of the best players in the NBA, without a doubt, are James and Anthony. After being selected No. 1 and 3 overall, respectively, in the 2003 NBA draft, they have carved up the league and secured their place as two of the most prolific scorers.
Now imagine this: both playing for the same team. Apparently, it might just be a possibility.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports provides us with the latest on both superstars:
Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make – a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender – the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.
Any talk of such moves at this point is simply wishful thinking, but that seems like an enticing deal for all three sides. Anthony having a chance to play alongside James (and vice versa) would present both with an equally deadly scoring presence to take pressure off one another.
Tack on the fact that the Suns already have offensive threats like Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe along with recent draftee T.J. Warren, and Phoenix would have an overwhelming offense. With just a few days remaining before free agency gets underway, Phoenix is clearly an option for both James and Anthony.
As for where James might end up, his teammates in Miami aren't going down without a fight.
Big Three Mulling Options for Contracts
In the NBA, it seems like the entire world currently revolves around King James.
Everyone wants to know exactly how "The Decision Part II" will go down and where he might likely take his talents next. That destination might once again be South Beach with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, per Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:
After agreeing to all opt out of their contracts together, Miami Heat stars LeBron James,Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been discussing financial terms of new contracts among each other, sources told ESPN.com.
...The talks between the three players is the strongest indication yet that James plans to re-sign with the Heat after he becomes a free agent on Tuesday.
Windhorst and Shelburne also went on to say that the deal this time around would likely be more lucrative for James than the other two members of the Big Three. After winning two regular-season MVP awards and both NBA Finals MVPs, it only seems fair.
Another great selling point for the Heat is the money the franchise can offer compared to others interested in James. The disparity for any other team is a huge one, with the Heat also being able to offer an extra year, as CPA Robert Raiola notes:
Like it or not, the best fit for all three players still appears to be in Miami. After falling short of a three-peat to the San Antonio Spurs, the franchise simply needs to be invigorated with some youth and try to keep the core together to bring several more championships back to the Heat franchise.
Pau Gasol Considering Return to Lakers, Targeted by Knicks
As for the Lakers, this once-proud franchise might be in the mix for a familiar face themselves.
Though he's not exactly of the caliber of James or Anthony, Gasol is still a great player who hasn't shown dramatic signs of slowing down. Shelburne offers the latest news on Gasol's decision this summer:
While free-agent forward Pau Gasol grew tired of the persistent trade rumors that followed him for the better part of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he would give strong consideration to re-signing with the team, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
After winning two championships with the Lakers, Gasol has seen the highs and lows with the franchise. Last season was clearly the lowest of lows, but he might be a key to the turnaround in the coming years.
Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and dished out 3.4 assists per game last season while playing in 60 games. Though age is clearly a factor in how he'll hold up for the next few seasons, Gasol is still a great veteran presence for any young team.
That might all hinge on another possibility for the big man. After proving his worth last season, it appears the New York Knicks might also be interested in bringing him in, per Marc Stein of ESPN.co (via Shelburne):
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.
Either would be attractive to the forward and put him in a large-market city, but where will his loyalty ultimately lie? Will he go with the Lakers, whom he has spent six full seasons with, or Phil Jackson, the man who earned him two shiny rings on his finger?
It seems unlikely that the big man would walk away from the Lakers after the career he's had, but rejoining with Jackson seems like the most likely destination for the big man. With an entire summer for things to change, this likely won't be the end of Gasol rumors during free agency.
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