NBA Free Agents 2014: Rumors and Predictions for Best Players Still Available

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Rumors and Predictions for Best Players Still Available
USA TODAY Sports

Just because most of the major free agents have long since chosen their destinations doesn't mean there aren't still valuable guys left on the market.

Some guys have more complicated situations than others, but each player listed on this short list could play a major role for a team next season.

 

The Restricted Free Agents

Eric Bledsoe

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns want to keep Eric Bledsoe, but the team doesn't want to pay him a max contract. Because he's a restricted free agent who hasn't received an offer sheet from another team, Phoenix won't have to.

Back on July 18, referencing league sources, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported: "The Suns have offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million contract, but the point guard wants a maximum five-year, $80 million deal, league sources said."

With such a wide gap between the two, it seems certain an extension isn't in the cards this offseason. 

Because the Suns have made it known they will exercise their rights to match any offer an interested team would make, most of the clubs that had the cap room to force the Suns' hand have already moved on.

Bledsoe scored 17.7 points per game and also tallied 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. As it stands, Bledsoe is on the Suns' book for an astoundingly low $3,726,966 for the upcoming season.

The Suns will likely enjoy another dynamic season from the 24-year-old do-it-all point guard at a rate below what his stats suggest he's worth.

 

Prediction: Bledsoe will remain with the Suns for now but leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

 

Greg Monroe

Richard Rowe/Getty Images

Like Bledsoe and the Suns, Greg Monroe and the Detroit Pistons are far apart in their contract negotiations. Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, who appeared on Aime Mukendi Jr.'s podcast, Monroe badly wants out of Detroit.

Wojnarowski said:

Detroit has tried to help him with some sign-and-trade possibilities around the league. Monroe doesn’t really have a great interest in going back and playing with the Pistons. But if they’re going to move him in a sign-and-trade, they’ve got to get value for him. And they’ve got to get back some significant players, some significant talent, to compensate for that loss. They haven’t been able to find a deal for him.

With the Pistons unable to find a deal for Monroe and his unwillingness to re-sign with the team, the two sides are at a stalemate. With new head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy attempting to change the team's culture, there's a chance Monroe could change his mind if the team gets off to a good start.

His finesse game and back-to-the-basket prowess led to a season that saw the 24-year-old average 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He and Andre Drummond make for a formidable and young frontcourt, but Monroe still seems to want out.

If he doesn't waver in his desire to leave the Motor City, his time with the Pistons is likely coming to an end sooner than later.

 

Prediction: A midseason trade or departure as a free agent in 2015.

 

The Unrestricted Free Agents

Ray Allen

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Right now it seems Ray Allen is still wrestling with the concept of retiring and chasing one more ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe previously reported that Allen was leaning toward signing with Cleveland.

The Cavs are set to be a strong contender for the NBA championship with the return of Allen's friend LeBron James and the seemingly inevitable addition of Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Love.

It's obviously a tantalizing opportunity for Allen to win his third NBA championship ring, but he is also compelled to call it a career to spend more time with his family.

Per Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, Allen said: "My family is very important in making the decision. Right now, there is nothing that I need to do. If I ultimately decide this will be it for me, I'm content with that."

When you're an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer and a classy guy who isn't starved for money or attention, you can experience the freedom that Allen enjoys. 

Allen still has the endurance and shooting stroke that has him headed to Springfield once he does call it a career. He just turned 39 on July 20, but last season for the Miami Heat he averaged 9.6 points per game (the first time in his career he didn't average double figures), shot 37.5 percent from three-point range and appeared in 73 games, playing 26.5 minutes per contest.

Allen can still ball, but the question is: Will he continue to? We'll know soon enough, but here's my guess.

 

Prediction: He'll sign with Cleveland for one last run.

 

Shawn Marion

Glenn James/Getty Images

Despite the fact that he's 36 years old, Shawn Marion can still produce. He's still an above-average defender who scored 10.4 points, grabbed 6.5 rebounds and came up with 1.2 steals per game last season.

He also shot 48 percent from the field, 78 percent from the line and 36 percent from three-point range. 

In light of those numbers and Marion's durability, it's hard to believe he hasn't signed yet. What teams should be checking on the Matrix? Quite a few could use him, but one team sticks out in particular.

When Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders was asked if Marion would be a good fit for the Chicago Bulls, Ingram responded by saying: "I could see Matrix, for sure. He is still a good defender and capable scorer. That would be a great fit, actually!"

Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram also sees the Bulls as a potential suitor.

Marion's defensive prowess and unselfishness would make him a favorite of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Adding Marion to Chicago's roster would also make a group that is already the deepest in the Eastern Conference even deeper. 

Because Marion is likely to want a chance to win another championship this late in his career, a contender like the Bulls should be attractive to him. At this stage of the offseason, a modest deal is all that is practical—especially if Marion wants to play for a contender.

He's played the last five seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, but the team may not have the minutes available  for him at small forward.

In contrast, it's possible Marion could start at small forward in Chicago ahead of Mike Dunleavy Jr. At the very least, he could play 20 minutes per night between the two forward positions in Chicago.

Let's also not forget that Marion is from Waukegan, Illinois.

Ready for a bold prediction?

 

Prediction: Marion signs with the Chicago Bulls.

 

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