It is a shame LeBron James is getting so much attention in free agency.
James, he of The Decision infamy, might just end up back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cute, but the spectacle around him is taking away from other stars who can very much reshape the landscape of the league upon landing with a new team.
Whether it is an aging veteran who can be the spark that puts a contender over the top, or a young star just now blossoming into a threat all on his own, the market is littered with talent silently being courted by teams that know full well not to buy into the hype of a player like James because he may choose to go elsewhere.
Let's take a look at some of these names and nail down the franchise they should choose to join based their situation and other integral factors that go into such a decision.
For a player going on 37 years old, Paul Pierce has been able to remain rather consistent despite the evolving game around him and the unavoidable facet of life that is a body deteriorating with age.
As the numbers show, Pierce has been his usual self for much of the past five seasons, even with a change of scenery that impacted his role:
According to ESPN's Marc J. Spears, the wily veteran is prepared to pour two more years of his life into the sport:
Nets FA Paul Pierce wants to play at least 2 more seasons, likes the way his body is holding up & is still very high on Nets, a source said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 7, 2014
But, it sounds as if he would also like to cash in on the final years of his tenure, as noted by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix:
Paul Pierce's representatives have told teams Pierce is seeking a two-year contract in the $9-10 million per year range, per sources.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) July 7, 2014
What's the best way to go out for Pierce? Outside of the obvious, which is competing for a title, it would be to reunite with a former coach whom he had a fruitful relationship with in past years.
That would be Doc Rivers, the lead man in Los Angeles. The only problem with the scenario is that the Clippers have a bevy of players on the roster at the spot already.
Regardless, if the Clippers truly wanted to make it work, they could ship Matt Barnes or some other piece out of town in order to clear cap space and playing time. There, Pierce would get his shot at a title and play routine minutes while feeding off the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Best location: Los Angeles Clippers
Unbeknownst to many, Gordon Hayward is rapidly ascending the NBA ladder and is highly coveted by many teams around the league.
Now, Hayward is a restricted free agent, and Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey does not seem too keen on letting him get away, calling the odds he returns "very, very strong," per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News.
It is important for the future that the Jazz do whatever it takes to keep Hayward in town, even if it means dishing out a max contract. The numbers, as well as the justification provided by Jazz broadcaster David Locke, speak for themselves:
NBA teams don't look at Gordon Hayward as last year's shooting of 41% FG and 30% 3 - they see career 44% 37% with upside— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) June 30, 2014
Want an underdog franchise that can rather easily steal Hayward away and give him the perfect opportunity to shine?
Try the Boston Celtics, a franchise that has recently been on the hunt for his services, per Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:
Have been told that both Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have contacted Utah’s Gordon Hayward. #Celtics— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) July 1, 2014
It gets real when the general manager and head coach reach out. In Boston, Hayward could slide to the 3-spot when necessary and help groom rookie Marcus Smart, not to mention act as a deadly recipient of the creative assists one Rajon Rondo is known for dishing out.
The spotlight and historical prestige of a franchise like Boston is impossible to ignore for a 24-year-old star with explosive offensive tendencies, and it seems a rather perfect pairing all things considered. That said, the odds the Jazz simply back down and don't match a potential offer are slim.
Best location: Boston Celtics
At just 25 years old, Chandler Parsons is very much in position similar to Hayward's.
He's young, one of the better players on the market at his position, only going to continue to grow into one of the top stars the league has to offer and is restricted, meaning he may not be able to escape his current franchise, should he desire to do so.
The jury is still very out on that one, as how the Houston Rockets roster will look next season, sans Dwight Howard because he is not going anywhere, is very hard to discern. Plus, as ESPN's Jeff Goodman points out, there are a ton of teams that have shown interest in the Florida product:
Lakers have expressed interest in Chandler Parsons, source told ESPN. Others include Dallas and Chicago. Phoenix also interested.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 1, 2014
One of those franchises is not like the other.
Dallas and Phoenix have plenty of names and not a ton of cap space to work with. Chicago seems adamant on grabbing a James or nothing at all.
That leaves the Los Angeles Lakers, a team with a young building block in Julius Randle, a boatload of cap to build with and an aging star in Kobe Bryant—not to mention perhaps the biggest market of all, which he would inherit when Bryant decides to hang up his sneakers.
A year removed from averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals and nearly two successful tries from deep per game while being the third option on the offense at best each night, Parsons is a star in need of a proper role.
That role is with the Lakers, should the Rockets have eyes on bigger fish and let Parsons slip away upstream to Los Angeles.
Best location: Los Angeles Lakers