Teams have started lining up to acquire the services of some of the NBA's most coveted free agents, and even a few surprise teams have emerged as favorites for a few stars on the open market.
NBA free agency is a frenzy categorized by which teams jump into the mix for major players at the right time. Sometimes all it takes is one offer to snatch a player away from negotiations with another squad. While that's yet to happen this offseason, I'm sure it will before training camp begins.
The latest NBA rumors are all about a trio of stars who would be fantastic complementary pieces on teams already close to winning. By adding guys like these, those franchises can take the necessary steps to the next level.
You can read about those rumors below.
Lance Stephenson is known for his on-court antics, but he can also be a valuable piece to a contending team. The Indiana Pacers recognize this, and they have been courting him heavily in free agency. That said, ESPN's Chris Broussard reports that the two sides can't agree on a deal:
Such an offer seems fair for a player of Stephenson's caliber, but the guard is probably banking on even more improvement next season and beyond. He certainly isn't seeking a max contract, but a five-year pact in the $60 million range might be on his radar.
Indiana really wanted to make it seem like he was welcome back to the Pacers, however, especially after all the things the team went through to impress him, via Broussard:
While money is a factor, Stephenson will not simply go to the highest bidder, sources said. He wants to go to a team that is either a contender or a competitive up-and-coming club.
The Pacers pulled out all the stops Tuesday by hosting Stephenson and his family at a local theater and surprising him with a movie about his life.
In regards to the other teams interested, I like the Charlotte Hornets as a potential fit.
He would provide the Hornets with great punch alongside Kemba Walker on offense. Stephenson is known for his skills as a lockdown one-on-one defender, so the offensive aspect of his game is just a bonus.
The Hornets are not far off from being a real threat in the Eastern Conference, and Stephenson would help put them over the top.
The Miami Heat have been linked to Luol Deng, but Broussard reports that Deng won't make it easy for the franchise to sign him:
By not taking a cut to sign with Miami, Deng pretty much eliminates himself from the discussion in South Beach. The Heat currently have more pressing issues in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. If all three re-sign, then there probably won't be enough room to bring in Deng at his asking price.
Deng is the type of wing player that the Heat need, as he can play strong defense and shoot the three. ESPN's Marc Stein noted that he is one of Miami's priorities this offseason:
Many teams will court Deng during the coming weeks—and for good reason. He has been one of the most consistent small forwards in the game for quite some time, and his tenure with the Chicago Bulls showed that he can compete at a high level and for a winning team.
The Bulls could very well swoop back in and grab Deng if Carmelo Anthony signs elsewhere, but I like a dark-horse team like the Dallas Mavericks. They have money to spend, making it an attractive option for a player looking to win.
The Mavericks gave the San Antonio Spurs a tough test as the No. 8 seed in the West this season. With a few more pieces, who knows what might have happened.
Another presumed target of the Mavericks, Pau Gasol has a long list of suitors. It makes sense too, because every team in the league should want a 7-footer who can pass the ball and shoot from mid-range, while also providing stability on the glass and in the paint.
Not many people thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would be major players, but ESPN.com's Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported that they have emerged at the front of the pack:
The Oklahoma City Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook acting as lead recruiters, have unexpectedly emerged as a leading contender for the services of Los Angeles Lakers free-agent center Pau Gasol, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Durant and Westbrook made a face-to-face pitch Wednesday to Gasol in Los Angeles to join them in Oklahoma City despite the financial limitations the Thunder would face in signing him.
A Big Three of Gasol, Durant and Westbrook would make the Thunder extremely dangerous. This wouldn't be your traditional trio, though, as the Heat's triumvirate comprised three players who play mostly outside. Bosh was supposed to be an interior player, but we all saw this postseason how much he loves to shoot from the perimeter.
Gasol would give Durant and Westbrook a legitimate safety net down low alongside Serge Ibaka. If a deal like this occurs, one would have to assume that Kendrick Perkins will be on his way out.
This is a great signing if the Thunder can swing it.
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