Though the most desirable unrestricted free agents have been gobbled up, there are still multiple avenues for NBA teams to make a big splash this offseason. Restricted free agency still offers multiple intriguing young talents, the amnesty market made a reappearance and the trade market looms as a year-round option.
Teams saving up for the biggest fish might have a cap surplus, thus catalyzing a flurry of activity in the recent days. With a couple more wild cards looming as potential surprise transactions, teams that have struck out thus far in the offseason still have hope.
For basketball fans looking to get the latest scoops before the NBA enters its dead period, check out the buzz surrounding some of the biggest names available.
Bledsoe's Future Cloudy?
Following a breakout debut season in Phoenix, it appeared nearly impossible to imagine Eric Bledsoe in another uniform for the upcoming season. However, ESPN's Chris Broussard has reported that Bledsoe's representatives and the Suns brass remain far apart in contract-extension negotiations:
The future of one of the most talented free agents left on the market remains cloudy, as Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns remain far apart in contract talks, according to sources close to the situation.
Bledsoe's representatives have been engaged in discussions with Phoenix, but the Suns' offer is far below what Bledsoe is looking for.
It's a surprising turn of events, considering that in an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby had previously pledged to match any offer Bledsoe received in restricted free agency. That was during the season, when Bledsoe was still recovering from a shin injury, and before he returned strong to dissuade any doubts about its lingering effects.
Nevertheless, Phoenix did raise eyebrows when it inked Isaiah Thomas to a four-year, $27 million deal, a seemingly exorbitant price for a third guard. With Bledsoe now possibly available, it would appear as though three teams have expressed interest in the budding 24-year-old star:
Report: As Suns' Bledsoe talks stall, Kings, Bucks, Rockets have interest http://t.co/7ziKVPkmWd— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 17, 2014
Which team would be the best fit for Eric Bledsoe?
Of those three teams mentioned, the Bucks seem like the only reasonable financial fit, especially if Bledsoe commands the max offer as expected. With just $51.8 million in salary commitments for next year, per ShamSports.com, Milwaukee is well below the $63.1 million cap and actually needs to add money to reach the $56.8 million floor.
Phoenix is in a bit of a jam, as they still need wing help and a stretch 4 who can replace Channing Frye's productivity on pick-and-rolls. But losing Bledsoe would be an unequivocal blow and a step backwards for a team that was last year's best Cinderella story.
Pistons Moving Smith?
The Josh Smith era in Detroit might end after a single unceremonious campaign. ESPN's Marc Stein has reported that the Pistons and Sacramento Kings have engaged in trade talks centered around the former All-Star forward:
Sources told ESPN.com the Kings have continued to express interest in Smith and the parties are on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal.
As ESPN.com reported last month, Detroit and Sacramento have engaged in trade discussions that would potentially land Smith in the same frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Initial talks called for Sacramento to send Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry to the Pistons for Smith, but those discussions reached an impasse and were pushed into July along with the rest of both teams' free-agent business, sources said.
However, the deal is far from a certainty. It appears that there are doubts on both sides, perhaps a prudent approach given the players rumored as part of the deal:
SVG has met with Josh Smith and hasn't made any promises about keeping him. He'll move Smith but he wants value— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) July 17, 2014
Here's what I do know: Kings GM wasn't too enthralled with the deal. If anything, seems like it's being pushed by coach Mike Malone— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) July 17, 2014
Which is the most likely scenario for the Pistons?
While the Kings do need a defensive anchor more than virtually any other team in the league, Smith's post-centric offensive strengths could clash with DeMarcus Cousins' budding post game. When forced to the wing as part of Detroit's "three-bigs" lineup last season, Smith posted historically disastrous results, per Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry.
For the Pistons, dealing away Smith could both resolve a severely incongruous fit and allow them to clear up enough cap space to re-sign restricted free-agent Greg Monroe. Monroe has his flaws, but as a younger option who could mature along with franchise center Andre Drummond, he likely fits clearer into the team's long-term vision.
Market for Boozer?
The amnesty axe hanging over Carlos Boozer for years finally dropped when the Chicago Bulls shed the final year of his deal, worth $16.8 million. Now, Boozer will be open to a bidding process for teams that still have cap room (for a further explanation, see this from SBNation's Tom Ziller).
It's entirely possible that no one bids and Boozer becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, considering that Boozer in a down year still averaged 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com, there figures to be interest in the 32-year-old.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, a pair of Eastern Conference teams seeking to climb up the conference ladder have emerged as the early front-runners for Boozer's services. Wojnarowski also laid out what the minimum bid on Boozer must be:
Plenty of teams with salary cap space, but two early favorites to make bids on Carlos Boozer: Charlotte and Atlanta.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 15, 2014
One GM tells me: A team needs to have $1.448M in cap space to bid on Boozer. That's what Boozer's minimum salary is.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 15, 2014
The Hornets only had roughly $40 million in salary commitments before signing Lance Stephenson, per ShamSports.com, so they could be an interesting fit. Charlotte already has a post big in Al Jefferson, but their interior scoring suffered mightily whenever Jefferson was resting or injured. Boozer would provide a bit of range for a team that has sought out shooting this offseason.
Which team would be the best fit for Carlos Boozer?
A more interesting fit could be the Los Angeles Lakers. Stein noted that Boozer and Kobe Bryant share an agent, and Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times noted that Nick Young and Jordan Hill have yet to formally sign their contracts. Because the Lakers can retain both using their Bird rights, Los Angeles could theoretically delay inking Young and Hill to use their cap space on Boozer first.
Regardless, it's a tough blow from Boozer, who is leaving one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference to likely play for a fringe playoff contender at best. But after the turmoil he went through last season, a fresh start on a short deal could be exactly what Boozer needs to reestablish his value.