Predicting the Next Dominoes to Fall in 2014 NBA Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Predicting the Next Dominoes to Fall in 2014 NBA Free Agency

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    For being this late in the summer, the 2014 NBA free-agent pool is surprisingly deep.

    Granted, the heavy hitters of this class are largely off the board, but major moves aren't always the ones that have a major impact on the standings. Under-the-radar additions can make their presence felt at the most critical times, whether that's Boris Diaw unlocking the cheat codes for San Antonio's video game offense last June or Mike Miller catching fire in 2012.

    These moves matter, even if we don't always realize it at first.

    The next round of free-agent dominoes won't produce seismic readings when they drop. Not until we're praising their brilliance next summer, at least.

    With size, shooting, toughness and leadership all up for grabs, there is still plenty of value to be had. So, let's look ahead to see which players could be coming off the board soon and where they might wind up.

Ray Allen's Decision

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    When the NBA's all-time leader in three-point makes says he needs time to plot his next move, teams are more than willing to give it to him.

    In addition to a three-point cannon (career 40.0 percent success rate from distance), the 39-year-old brings a wealth of championship experience (two rings), a commitment to his craft seldom seen in any profession and a bag of crafty offensive tricks inside the arc. Yes, he had the worst scoring season of his career in 2013-14, but he still put up 9.6 points on 44.2 percent shooting.

    He can contribute on a championship contender—if he still wants to.

    After 18 years in the league, he is understandably uncertain about committing to No. 19.

    "I've had a great career, I'm content with what I've done," Allen told reporters after the Miami Heat's Finals loss in June. "One thing is for certain, to [make retirement decision] on my terms is the most important thing."

    If Allen wants to gut out another 82-plus-game grind, he'll have no shortage of potential landing spots. Every team with roster space could stand to add another shooter, although a reunion with a certain four-time MVP could be his best option.

    A league source told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe that Allen "is leaning towards" joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Allen's agency later tweeted that their client has not decided where he'd like to go or even if he wants to keep playing.

    Assuming he wants another shot at a title, he should be spacing the floor for the King once again.

Shawn Marion Finding a Contender

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    All is quiet on Shawn Marion's free-agency front at the moment, save for perhaps a few cricket chirps.

    "I'm just chilling," Marion told Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram"I ain't talked to anybody. I ain't got nothing going on right now."

    It's more than mildly surprising that no one has taken a shot at The Matrix, but this falls short of being a major shock. At 36 years old, he's no longer the athletic specimen that used to give opposing scorers fits.

    In fact, the numbers graded him as more of a sieve than a stopper with the Dallas Mavericks last season. The Mavs allowed 4.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Marion was off the floor (103.4) than when he was on it (107.5), per NBA.com.

    Still, he has value around the league, particularly in a part-time role. He logged 31.7 minutes a night in 2013-14, and that's simply no longer a realistic workload.

    For a team in need of veteran frontcourt depth, Marion could be an impact addition. He might be able to find that team without leaving the state of Texas.

    "The Houston Rockets are one of the few contending teams with major assets like the mid-level and bi-annual exception left," noted Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster. "You have to think they’ll put those to use, and going after a versatile defender like Marion would be a perfect fit."

    Marion's phone might be silent for now, but it should start chirping with a Houston area code calling soon.

Someone Gambling on Michael Beasley

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    For one reason or another, former No. 2 pick Michael Beasley's NBA career has never really gotten on track.

    He has suited up for three teams in six seasons, including two separate stints with the Miami Heat. Off the court, he has run into some legal problems. On the court, he has had trouble with the details of the game.

    NBA sources told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe that LeBron James "was not pleased with Beasley's focus" last season, a campaign that saw his playing time dip below 20 minutes for the first time in his career (15.1).

    All of that said, Beasley has obvious talent. He has averaged 13.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game for his career, while hitting a respectable 45.0 percent from the field and 34.8 percent of his long-range looks.

    There's a difference between struggling to get on track and being completely derailed, and Beasley hasn't reached the latter quite yet. He worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, and Heat team president Pat Riley told reporters that bringing back Beasley is "still a consideration, absolutely."

    Still only 25 years old, Beasley has enough skill to warrant a roster spot somewhere. Given their glaring void at small forward, the Lakers should be the team that rolls the dice.

    "For them, and for the situation they're in, this is a gamble they can make," Bleacher Report's Dan Favale wrote. "Because for them, and for the situation they're in, Beasley isn't much of a gamble at all."

Emeka Okafor's Return

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    Emeka Okafor pocketed more than $14.5 million last season, per ShamSports.com, despite being sidelined for the entire campaign by a serious neck injury. Assuming he can put his medical problems behind him, he could provide frontcourt production at a considerably lower rate than he was paid before.

    Given his year-long absence, he'll be eyeing a backup role and nothing more. Even before the injury, though, he may have been headed that direction. He set career lows in playing time during each of his last two healthy seasons, bottoming out at 26 minutes a night for the Washington Wizards in 2012-13.

    Still, he could be an ideal find as a first or second big off the bench.

    He's always been an intimidating presence near the basket. He has averaged 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes over his career, per Basketball-Reference.com, an identical rate to that of Golden State Warriors rim protector Andrew Bogut.

    Okafor doesn't bring a lot to the offensive end, but his career 51.2 field-goal percentage shows that he doesn't try to step out of his lane. As a rebounder, he's always ranked among the league leaders, corralling 10 or more per game in five different seasons.

    With the Golden State Warriors having waived reserve center Hilton Armstrong, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group, they should take a long look at Okafor. Bogut's injury history is frightening, Festus Ezeli is returning from his own season-long absence and 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal hasn't decided if he wants to continue playing.

    If Okafor would accept a low-level salary, the Warriors might be risking more by looking elsewhere than bringing him on board.

Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe Staying Put

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    The markets for Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe couldn't be any different, but the outcome for both will likely be the same. They entered the offseason in search of maximum contracts, but the funds simply are no longer available to satisfy that desire.

    Bledsoe's situation has been more public, and therefore easier to read. As sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, the Phoenix Suns have offered him a four-year, $48 million deal, but he's been trying to get a five-year, $80 million contract.

    That isn't going to happen.

    The Suns aren't going to bid against themselves, and the contract they offered is more than fair for a player who has twice undergone surgery for a torn meniscus in the same knee. Considering Bledsoe has only made 78 starts in his entire career, there is even less motivation to meet his demands.

    As for Monroe, his story is even murkier.

    The Detroit Pistons have expressed a desire to keep him around, but they have left all options open. David Mayo of MLive.com wrote that it's "true" Monroe wants a max deal, but his throwback game could keep him from seeing that money in this or any market.

    "On offense he is tethered to the paint and the post, the only spaces on the floor from which he can score," wrote Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney. "Defensively, Monroe is big enough to get in the way of opposing scorers but blocks shots at the same rate as Mike Dunleavy."

    Bledsoe doesn't have the history to warrant a max-contract commitment, and Monroe might not have the game for one in today's pace-and-space NBA. Expect both to return to their current clubs, either for their one-year qualifying offers or on longer deals that fall well short of their coveted salaries.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.