The NBA free-agency period is a long, slow process with a multitude of moving parts. It's poker, a chess match and an old-fashioned game of chicken all wrapped into one and played out over a long summer.
Players listen to multiple offers and overtures, then sit back and wait until teams get desperate and sweeten the deal. Executives and owners watch carefully to see where the big stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony go, then activate their contingency plans.
This means the summer is going to be full of rumors and reports as insiders try to separate the wheat from the chaff in the deluge of information that teams will leak about offers, meetings and trades.
So let's have some fun with it. Here are the latest rumors surrounding some of the top players on the market, along with predictions for their eventual destinations.
Pau Gasol Receiving Interest From Thunder, Carmelo Anthony
Pau Gasol may not be aging gracefully, but he is still considered an important free agent by some. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Carmelo Anthony could try to convince Gasol to join him in New York:
A conversation that Carmelo Anthony had been pursuing in recent days, sources tell Yahoo: With Pau Gasol, about playing together w/ Knicks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
This isn't Gasol's only option, as ESPN's Marc Stein reports the Oklahoma City Thunder believe they have a good shot at landing the four-time All-Star:
Still remains to be seen if Pau Gasol can really stomach big pay cut, but one dialed-in observer insists OKC believes it has real shot here— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2014
Gasol could be tempted to join Anthony in New York due to the presence of team president Phil Jackson, who was Gasol's coach for four seasons—and two championships—with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The lanky Spaniard averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season, but has battled injuries for the past three seasons and might not be enough to help Anthony win a championship in New York.
Gasol did say he would listen to Jackson after he learned of his new position with the Knicks back in April.
"I'm happy for him and the position that he got," Gasol said, via Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears. "I'm always going to be a big fan and a friend. I would listen."
According to Spears, Anthony recently told the Houston Rockets winning is his No. 1 priority:
While Carmelo Anthony gave off the impression if would not be easy to leave NY, he also said in Rockets meeting his 1st priority is to win.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 2, 2014
If that's the case, then Anthony's best shot at winning lies not in Houston or New York, but with the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau give Anthony a sound defensive platform and plenty of talent to make a run at an NBA championship. ESPN's Nick Friedell showed the grand nature of the Bulls' overtures:
Melo signs, with championship trophies, wrapped all around the United Center. pic.twitter.com/uxlv8MEiDS— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 1, 2014
Which team will Carmelo Anthony suit up for next season?
Gasol would give the Thunder a tyrannical trio of players 6'10" or over by teaming up with Durant and Serge Ibaka. He's also the scoring outlet the Thunder need beyond Durant and Westbrook.
The Thunder did pickup Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon at the 2014 NBA draft, but none of the rookies are likely to step in as a third or fourth scoring option right away.
The Thunder know the window of opportunity may be closing with Durant's impending free agency in 2016; Gasol gives them a third option and a very realistic chance at emerging from the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.
Prediction: Anthony goes to Bulls, Gasol to Thunder
Mavericks Interested in Parsons, Deng
The Mavericks' Plan A is apparently Anthony teaming up with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, but as ESPN's Marc Stein reports, they have a couple of players in mind for a solid backup plan:
Mavs, I'm told, determined to run out ground ball on Melo til the end but plan to move quickly onto Chandler Parsons & Luol Deng if snubbed— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2014
Of those two players, Chandler Parsons would be the tougher player to snag. He is a restricted free agent and the Rockets would be remiss to allow one of their emerging players move to an in-state rival. It is likely they would do all they could to match an offer sheet from the Mavericks.
Where is Luol Deng most likely to end up?
Parsons averaged 15.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 2013-14. These numbers are just a slight uptick over the previous year's average, but the 6'9" swingman is 25 years old and entering his prime.
If the Rockets can't land the likes of Anthony or LeBron James, they can take a risk and bank on Parsons' imminent ascendancy, giving the team a great complementary piece to James Harden and Dwight Howard.
He's 29 years old and has already hit his ceiling as an NBA player, but he's been incredibly consistent over the years. Deng offers a very similar package to that of Parsons, but the Mavericks might have competition for his attention.
Deng could be interested in another Western Conference power, according to Wojnarowski:
Free agent Luol Deng intrigued with Clippers sign-and-trade possibilities, sources tell Yahoo. He's expected to speak with Doc Rivers today.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
This deal would give Deng the teammates that suit him best in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Paul is a selfless distributor who would allow Deng to get plenty of open looks and provide a much better situation than playing alongside a volume-scoring combo guard like Ellis.
The Clippers would likely need to offload the likes of Jared Dudley and Danny Granger to clear the logjam at small forward. Both players could fit in as complementary trade pieces if Cleveland went ahead with a sign-and-trade.
Prediction: Parsons stays with Rockets, Deng goes to Clippers