With one of the most stacked free-agent classes in recent memory in place, teams are making their pitches and looking to change the course of their franchises and the NBA as a whole.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and others could be the missing piece to a championship puzzle for several different organizations. While going back to the teams they played for this past season remains a distinct possibility, they could just as easily leave them high and dry for a better situation.
As July 10 approaches and top free agents get closer to making a decision, the rumors and speculation have started to reach a fever pitch.
Here is the latest buzz surrounding James, Anthony and Bosh as they begin to narrow down their potential choices ahead of the signing period's commencement.
After leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in favor of the Miami Heat several years ago, many believed that LeBron James would refrain from doing something similar in the future. Now that LeBron finds himself in free agency once again, however, the probability of him playing somewhere other than Miami next season appears to be increasing.
While James himself has yet to meet with any teams, his agent has been hard at work. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Rich Paul met with four different organizations that made their respective pitches to land LeBron:
ESPN sources say reps from Cavs, Suns, Rockets and Mavs have all met with agent Rich Paul in Cleveland while LeBron has been on vacation— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2014
In addition to those four franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the mix as well, per David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Lakers did have their meeting in Cleveland today with LeBron James's agent, Rich Paul, per source familiar with the discussions.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 4, 2014
James' case is an interesting one since he could go in any number of directions. It is his prerogative to go into business for himself if he so chooses, but he also has some responsibility in terms of working things out with Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
The three of them combined to form one of the most powerful trios in NBA history, but LeBron may be willing to throw it all away. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bosh and Wade simply aren't on the same page as James at this point in the process:
Says official who was part of meetings ESPN reported on: "There's clearly a breakdown in communication between LeBron and (Wade and Bosh)."— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 4, 2014
If that is the case, then James could very well be planning on spurning the Heat in favor of another franchise. LeBron was heavily criticized for doing something similar to the Cavs, but much of that had to do with the fact that he set up a television special entitled The Decision.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports is reporting that there will be no such pageantry involved when James makes his final decision this time around:
Am told LeBron decision on next team will be delivered suddenly, with little fanfare. "Bam, this is where I'm going," source described.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 4, 2014
LeBron is already one of the all-time greats, and he has a chance to set himself up for more championship glory moving forward. James is the most powerful man in basketball right now, and he seems poised to milk it for as long as he can.
Although LeBron is clearly the top prize in free agency, Carmelo Anthony wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. Like James, Melo has the option of maintaining the status quo by returning to the New York Knicks, but there is no shortage of teams courting him at the moment.
One team in particular that could make some noise in the Melo sweepstakes is the Houston Rockets. With Dwight Howard and James Harden already in place, Houston may be one big-time player away from contending for a title. Houston is in on LeBron as well, but their main focus appears to be Anthony, according to Stein:
Sense I'm getting is Houston is fully focused on Melo front & merely on outskirts of LeBron chase as much as they'd like to be factor there— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2014
Which free-agent saga interests you most?
The Chicago Bulls emerged as a potential favorite when free agency began, but the likelihood of Melo going to the Windy City may be decreasing. Per Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, a source with knowledge of the situation labeled the Bulls as "pessimistic" in terms of landing Anthony. That source also suggested that a return to New York seems quite possible for Anthony.
While the Knicks don't have much leverage when it comes to convincing Melo that they can win now, they finally have a solid foundation in place with Phil Jackson in the front office. One can only assume that he'll make the moves necessary to turn New York into a contender. Keeping Carmelo is the first step toward accomplishing that.
It ultimately comes down to what Anthony truly desires. If he wants to win immediately, then the Knicks face an uphill climb. If he loves New York and wants to build something there, though, it remains a definite possibility.
With the Rockets in position to add another superstar player to the mix, they are entertaining several different options. Signing Anthony may top the list, but there are other plans in place if that doesn't work out. According to Stein, Houston will make a run at Bosh if it is unable to secure Melo.
All signs initially pointed toward LeBron, Bosh and Wade remaining together in Miami, but the fact that James' agent is listening to other teams may not bode well for that being the case. If LeBron decides to sign somewhere else, then it seems like a near certainty that Bosh would follow suit and leave the Heat as well.
Per Stein, that scenario is one that the Rockets are now preparing for:
Many league observers still think Miami finds way to keep its three aces together, but sudden Heat uncertainty gives Houston fresh Bosh hope— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2014
Bosh would add another dimension to Houston's offense due to his ability to step out and hit jumpers. Harden creates his own shots and Howard dominates the paint, so Bosh would seemingly be a perfect complement to them.
Houston is in a tough position, though, because it is essentially being held hostage by LeBron. If the Rockets wait around only for LeBron, Bosh and Wade to remain in Miami, then it is entirely possible that they will miss out on signing an impact player.
The Rockets have to be careful in that regard, but it certainly makes sense for them to pursue someone like Bosh. If Houston is able to sign him, then it may very well emerge as the new favorite in the Western Conference.
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