NBA Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors Surrounding Coveted Difference-Makers

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors Surrounding Coveted Difference-Makers
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

There is no shortage of talent on the market this offseason, and NBA free agency will likely reshape the landscape of the Association if the big names available end up changing homes.

There are a lot of teams with ample cap space to attract free agents, so we could see a few teams rise up the power rankings with a strong few months this summer. Teams like the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and others could look drastically different come training camp.

Below you'll find the latest rumors surrounding a few of the most coveted difference-makers available.

 

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is one of the many free agents the Lakers will have to make a decision on this offseason. Despite drafting Julius Randle to be the team's power forward, general manager Mitch Kupchak might still have plans for Gasol. Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com wrote about a possible scenario:

Although the Lakers' ideal free agency scenario involves convincing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come play for them this summer, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking, they are not ruling out the return of the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Gasol by any means.

In fact, should it appear that James and Anthony are not pursuing a mutual destination as a package deal -- especially with Dwyane WadeUdonis Haslem and Chris Bosh opting out of their deals with the Miami Heat -- the Lakers believe that having Gasol back on the team could be vital in their solo pursuit of Anthony.

With Gasol back in purple and gold, Anthony will be presented with a rather strong core group of Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Randle and potentially Steve Nash. While not much is expected of Nash next season, he would be a solid fourth option on a team filled with stars.

Gasol wouldn't only be brought in as an attraction, though. The 7-footer is still a very productive player, even if the injury bug has bitten him more than he'd have liked over the past few years.

In 31.4 minutes per game last season, he dropped 17.4 points and grabbed 9.7 boards. A good passing big man, Gasol also racked up 3.4 assists and has averaged 3.3 per game during his lengthy career.

With the ability to hit a mid-range jumper, Gasol would make an offense led by Melo and the Black Mamba very versatile. His ability to step out would help Anthony and Bryant drive to the rim and finish because of the space left open in the paint.

This is a smart move by Kupchak, even if Anthony passes on the Lakers. Gasol is a very, very good player.

 

Gordon Hayward

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Utah Jazz are faced with their star, Gordon Hayward, potentially leaving via free agency. Jody Genessy of the Deseret News reports, however, that the Jazz will even match big offers for their free agent:

Genessy broke down a few teams that might make a run at the guard:

The 6-foot-8 restricted free agent is expected to receive a significant contract offer, possibly upwards to a max deal, from the Phoenix Suns this coming week, according to sources.

Boston and Charlotte are two other teams that the Jazz anticipate could throw large offers at Hayward.

A max deal would certainly be a tough contract to hand out, but Hayward is certainly worth it—especially for a franchise that has been reeling in recent years. The 24-year-old was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and he has developed fantastically since entering the league.

Just look how much he has improved over the years:

Gordon Hayward Career Marks
Season PPG RPG APG FG%
2010-11 5.4 1.9 1.1 48.5
2011-12 11.8 3.5 3.1 45.6
2012-13 14.1 3.1 3.0 43.5
2013-14 16.2 5.1 5.2 41.3

basketball-reference.com

The restricted free agent could very well be on the move, but I don't think the Jazz will let him go easily. He's an integral part of their offense and the current face of the franchise. While Dante Exum and Trey Burke would create for an exciting backcourt combination, Hayward is the No. 1 option on the perimeter for this team.

He should be priority No. 1 for Utah.

 

LeBron James/Carmelo Anthony

The Suns weren't far off from a playoff berth last season, and that speaks volumes about the talent on the roster. Thought to be in rebuilding mode last year, they competed up until the very end in an incredibly tough Western Conference.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports wrote about a possible string of deals that might shift the balance of power in the conference in their favor:

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.

But how can the Suns make that work? Wojnarowski has the answer:

The Suns have $33.5 million in salary-cap space and could shed the next $10 million needed to sign James and Anthony to maximum contracts without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee that pushed the franchise to 48 victories in the Western Conference last season.

Playing in the Arizona desert has probably never looked so good for James or Anthony.

Adding both players would instantly make the Suns a favorite in the West. A starting five of Dragic, Bledsoe, Anthony, James and Plumlee would easily represent the best in the conference. Already with quality bench depth following the draft, the Suns are stocked with both weapons and assets.

If Phoenix can somehow make this happen, it'll easily be the talk of the offseason. Multiple teams covet multiple big names, however, so there might be stiff competition.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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