Kent Bazemore, Gordon Hayward and other lesser-known names don't have the same ring as a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but they're providing just as much drama on the NBA rumor mill.
More importantly, these mostly non-household names will have just as big of an impact in altering the landscape of the NBA as we know it.
Fans have been beat over the head with the example of the San Antonio Spurs by now, but it's true that a team can reach the Finals by assembling a quality roster through savvy additions on the market.
That would explain why so many teams have an alleged interest in the following names.
Kent Bazemore Bidding War?
As expected, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Lakers allowed Old Dominion product Kent Bazemore to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason in the hopes of keeping enough cap space free on the chance a big name wants to join Kobe Bryant and Co.
A two-year pro, Bazemore proved his worth when given a bigger role this year after joining the Lakers:
According to Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears, the Lakers remain in play for his services, as do another dark horse:
Lakers unrestricted free agent G Kent Bazemore could re-sign & expects interest from the Suns, source said. Warriors haven't shown interest.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 30, 2014
The Phoenix Suns are an interesting participant in the sweepstakes, but the franchise is coming off a stellar year, just added three more first-round rookies, have three more picks in the same round in 2015 and, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, are apparently interested in attempting to bring James and Anthony to town.
Translation—the Suns do not figure to be major contenders for Bazemore's services.
That seems to give the Lakers an edge. At 24 years old, Bazemore surely wants to play in Los Angeles—especially with a star like Bryant—as he continues to develop. Plenty of other teams could use a strong rotational piece and may develop interest, but for now, the Lakers appear to have an edge.
Gordon Hayward Market Set to Explode
Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey calls the chances his franchise retains budding star Gordon Hayward "very, very strong," per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News.
That would make sense considering his stance on the 24-year-old swingman, but Genessy does acknowledge that other teams are set to make it a serious competition:
The Phoenix Suns are expected to make Gordon Hayward a significant offer, possibly a max deal, but Utah Jazz will match, per sources.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) June 29, 2014
The fact that the Jazz previously tendered a qualifying offer in Hayward's direction this offseason spoke volumes about their desire to keep the Butler product around in a lineup that includes the likes of Alec Burks, Trey Burke and now rookie Dante Exum.
Gordon has gradually seen an uptick in opportunities and production throughout his development with what is one of the NBA's most promising, young rosters:
But yet again, here are the Suns set to make things interesting. Jazz broadcaster David Locke detailed why the Suns, and potentially other teams, have so much interest in Hayward:
NBA teams don't look at Gordon Hayward as last year's shooting of 41% FG and 30% 3 - they see career 44% 37% with upside— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) June 30, 2014
Look, unless the Jazz pull a complete reversal, Hayward is not going anywhere. Any interest drummed up on him at this point is another Western Conference team driving up his price so Utah has to spend more than it would prefer. Should the Jazz pull out, another team gets a quality young player.
This is the price the Jazz have to pay for not working out an extension with Hayward earlier. No matter how it plays out, he emerges the winner.
Atlanta Has One Name in Mind With Cap Space to Blow
The Atlanta Hawks have a ton of new cap space to work with as the front office continues to re-tool the roster, and it views forward Luol Deng as the top priority, as Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details:
The Hawks cleared salary cap space Sunday night by agreeing to trade Lou Williams and the rights to first-round draft pick Lucas Nogueira to the Raptors for John Salmons, who will be waived upon the completion of the deal Monday. With the move the Hawks have more than $15 million to spend in free agency but it is not certain that the team will use it all to sign Deng.
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski had earlier noted the Hawks' interest:
One strong candidate for that $15M-plus of fresh salary cap space in Atlanta, league sources tell Yahoo: Free agent forward Luol Deng.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 30, 2014
Hawks fans may shudder at the thought of bringing on Deng, who had a down year last season with averages of 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
Would Deng be a good signing for the Hawks?
It is important to remember, though, that the Duke product's struggles while fighting nagging injuries on a woeful Cleveland squad equate to a lower market price—meaning the Hawks will likely be able to bring in another free agent on top of Deng to help round out the roster.
Deng is 29 years old and is a quality veteran to have around, not to mention he is a strong fit for the schematics in Atlanta. A few contenders may have their eye on him at this point, but if the Hawks truly have him as their No. 1 target, it is difficult to imagine he lands anywhere else.