There is something of a league-wide standoff in the 2014 NBA free-agency period. The majority of teams appear to be waiting on the decisions of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. These two are the real power brokers in the Association right now.
As soon as they make their moves, everything should start to fall into place, piece by piece. Teams will either toast to plan A (aka landing James or Anthony) or quickly resort to plans B through Z.
Until that fateful hour comes, let's take a look at some of the latest buzz surrounding three of the top players on the market.
Is Pau Gasol Willing to Stay in Los Angeles?
Pau Gasol won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers as the team's second option after Kobe Bryant. The delicate big man with the soft touch knows how to contribute to a contender and apparently is committed to aligning himself with the biggest stars on the market.
Via ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne:
Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season despite playing out of his comfort zone in coach Mike D'Antoni's offense.
He does carry an injury risk—he hasn't played more than 65 games in a season since 2010-11—but he is still a bona fide building block for a top team.
If Anthony and James return to New York and Miami, respectively, Gasol could go to almost any team with enough money to pay him. It is extremely unlikely he will return to the Lakers without either of those two in tow. Los Angeles would have to resort to full-on rebuilding mode with younger stars or mid-level veterans.
A reunion with Phil Jackson in New York would be tempting for Gasol and would follow the logic of Shelburne's report regarding his enthusiasm for teaming with Anthony or James.
Isaiah Thomas Pursued by Pistons, Lakers
The latest rumblings on Sacramento Kings restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas come to us from Bleacher Report's own Jared Zwerling:
Thomas is a good bet to leave the Kings after the team reportedly inked point guard Darren Collison to a three-year contract worth $16 million, per ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi. The Clippers went 12-6 with Collison as a starter, and Collison averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 assists per game in that time, per Markazi.
It's been noted before, but Thomas was quietly one of the strongest point guards in the league last season. Here are his stats compared to Kyrie Irving's:
|Thomas vs. Irving, 2013-2014 Stats|
|Basketball-Reference.com (all stats per game)|
The Pistons would be a strong option for Thomas, although they would have to move Brandon Jennings to make room for Thomas.
The Lakers can clearly offer Thomas a starting role right away, and they have the cash to back up their commitment.
If the Lakers do go for Thomas, the pursuit would likely take place after an Anthony/James decision and could signal the team's intent to build around a younger crop of stars. Thomas has been rather demure regarding his future, but he did say that it's nice to be wanted by teams, including the Lakers.
"It would mean a lot,” Thomas said in June, via Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy. “Not even just the Lakers, but just to have other teams trying to get you, it means you’re wanted. Like I’ve said in interviews before, I just want to be wanted."
Thomas is still just 25 years old and won't break the bank. He made roughly $880,000 last season and is currently a $1.14 million cap hit for the Kings as a restricted free agent.
With players such as Julius Randle and (probably) Kendall Marshall in the fold, the Lakers could ride out the Kobe Bryant era with talented players and secure a very bright future in Los Angeles.
Mavericks Still Interested in Gordon Hayward
The Mavericks desperately want a small forward to pair with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as they make another run at a title. They entered the Anthony sweepstakes, per ESPN's Marc Stein, but according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price, the team has another tempting player on its wish list:
The danger with a restricted free agent is that a team throws more money at the player than he's worth. Hayward is currently set for a base salary of $4.6 million this season, and it would likely take an offer greater than that to pry him away from the Utah Jazz.
The Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons is another small forward in a similar situation. Both players will benefit from a desperate market once Anthony and James are off the table.
Hayward averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game last season. There are signs that Hayward has room to expand his game.
The 24-year-old stalwart had a usage percentage of just 23.1 percent last season, per Basketball-Reference.com. He could certainly be earmarked as a player of the future in Dallas.
If the Mavericks do go for Hayward, he could be a very important building block for their future and make them a dark-horse contender this upcoming season. They can take a chance, but they must be wary of overpaying Hayward.
All contract and salary-cap information courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise noted.