The amount of free-agent talent that has already come off the board in the 2014 NBA offseason is dizzying.
LeBron James went home to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony stayed in New York, Chris Bosh flirted with Houston and ultimately returned to Miami, Pau Gasol went the Chicago and Lance Stephenson joined Michael Jordan in Charlotte. No wonder the NBA has been dominating the sports airwaves well into the summer.
However, there are still some marquee free agents that have yet to pick a destination. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three in particular.
Ray Allen, Shooting Guard
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders pointed out that Ray Allen is deciding more between retirement and playing than between multiple teams:
Ray Allen is still unsure if he'll play next year. Teams interested but he may retire to be with family. Same reason he told me no coaching.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 16, 2014
If he does play next season, the situation in Cleveland has to be intriguing. His buddy James is running the show now in Northeast Ohio, and former Miami Heat players Mike Miller and James Jones have already signed. Plus, the Cavaliers could end up with Kevin Love in a trade.
In a weak Eastern Conference, that is a dangerous combination of talent.
Regardless of whether he plays next year or not, Allen has nothing left to prove at the NBA level. He is a 10-time All-Star who sits atop the game’s all-time made three-pointers list. He is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame and has two rings on his fingers, one of which was the direct result of his series-saving three-pointer against San Antonio in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Allen would have a litany of open three-point looks playing with James next year and a chance at a third ring. That has to be enticing.
Eric Bledsoe, Shooting/Point Guard
Eric Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, but there is no guarantee that the Phoenix Suns will match an offer from a different team anymore after drafting Tyler Ennis and acquiring Isaiah Thomas.
Bledsoe should be on the radar of a number of squads because he is one of the most underrated players in the entire NBA. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds a game last year for the Suns and could certainly warrant a max contract offer this offseason.
However, there are some durability concerns because he only played in 43 games.
Still, Bledsoe was always overshadowed in Los Angeles with the Clippers early in his career and didn’t get a chance to play a full season last year. If there is a player in the NBA who is ready to blossom into a star, it is Bledsoe.
The question now is which team will enjoy his prime.
Greg Monroe, Center
Greg Monroe is something of an unknown commodity for many fans because he played for the Detroit Pistons last season. Had he reached the playoffs elsewhere, he could be a household name at this point.
Where will Monroe play next year?
Monroe has the potential to be a double-double machine every time he steps on the floor and averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a game last season. What’s more, he is only 24 years old and oozes potential.
The frontcourt is somewhat crowded in Detroit on paper, so it may be time to display that potential somewhere else.
Ideally, Monroe would be paired with a rim-protecting power forward because defense is still a concern with the big man. Were he to land somewhere with an excellent interior defender already in place, Monroe can focus more on rebounding than blocking shots in the paint.
Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit broke down the number of options facing Monroe and the Pistons this offseason:
As a restricted free agent, Monroe can either sign a qualifying offer from the Pistons, remaining with the team one more season and entering unrestricted free agency in 2015; sign an offer sheet from another team that would force the Pistons to choose whether to match it or let him walk; or sign a long-term deal with the team. The Pistons could also deal Monroe in a sign-and-trade.
If he were to sign an offer sheet with another team, Monroe could be another max-contract guy alongside Bledsoe. However, it is a matter of which teams even have the money to afford that at this point.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy certainly hopes Monroe remains in Detroit, via Dunkak:
[We] tried to make a very strong case for ourselves and for our organization. I think that we’ve tried to make him understand what we’re trying to do and why we think he’s an important part of it, but again, he’s got some decisions to make, too.
Those decisions on Monroe’s plate are some of the most important ones still to be made in the NBA offseason.
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