The NBA rumor mill isn't quite as dim as it often is at this point in the offseason, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the catalyst for all the action.
LeBron James' return to northeast Ohio has already resulted in the likes of his former Miami Heat teammates in Mike Miller and James Jones joining the Cavs. It has also led to an agreement on a trade that will send Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love to Cleveland.
In this latest edition of buzz from around the Association, Ray Allen's future may depend on reuniting with James as a Cavalier. Meanwhile, another veteran in Shawn Marion is considering taking his talents to join the likely favorites in the Eastern Conference.
There is also a bit of news out of New York concerning the Knicks, who are positioning themselves for contention in the East by attempting to clear out the roster for a big next two summers in free agency.
Here is a more detailed look at the rumors swirling about Marion, Allen and the role players who could be on the way out of the Big Apple.
Conflicting Reports Surround Ray Allen's Future
The 39-year-old is perhaps the best three-point shooter in NBA history, with enough in the tank to at least consider coming back to the court as he flirts with retirement.
ESPN's Chris Broussard has felt that Allen is indeed gearing up for another season, even reporting as much and citing the Cavs as the heavy favorite to land him:
I heard weeks ago that Ray Allen will join Cavs if they get Kevin Love. We'll see....— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 7, 2014
Source: Ray Allen has told those close to him that he'll play next season. Cleveland frontrunner but not 100 pct definite— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 9, 2014
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Allen's agent had different things to say to Yahoo Sports:
Agent Jim Tanner tells Yahoo that his client Ray Allen is still undecided on whether he will return to play another season in the NBA.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 10, 2014
The latest from Broussard suggests Allen will play this season.
Whether he can still produce or not may be a question, but Allen's desire to only join a contender—particularly one featuring the likes of James, Love and Kyrie Irving—would make his job far easier.
Steve Fall of The Sports Resource highlighted how strong Allen has been even in the latter stages of his illustrious career:
Ray Allen is only player in NBA history to make 1200 three-pointers before turning 30 & 1200 after turning 30.— Steve Fall (@StatsMan) August 10, 2014
The chemistry Allen has with James would be a big addition to the Cavs' current roster, which is full of unproven players—and the most important ones haven't played with James before. For a team with championship expectations, it would also help to have someone with multiple NBA titles in the fold.
It seems as though the ball is more or less in Allen's court to decide.
If he's hesitated this long, it means he must be struggling with the decision at length. But with a whole season to adjust, rest when he needs to and an exciting potential situation with the Cavs, Allen just has to be ready come playoff time.
Shawn Marion Reportedly Leaning Toward Cleveland
At age 36, Marion can still offer the Cavs what they desperately need at the moment, and that's defensive versatility. You name the position, Marion can guard it pretty well.
His combination of length and explosiveness continues to impress even with his advanced age.
According to a recent report by Wojnarowski, the Indiana Pacers are trying to lure Marion to them in the wake of All-Star small forward Paul George's broken leg suffered in a Team USA basketball scrimmage:
The Indiana Pacers wanted to pursue Marion as a short-term replacement for injured forward Paul George, and will likely soon be armed with a $5.3 million disabled player exception that would allow them to trump the Cavaliers' offer of the veteran minimum of $1.4 million per season.
The Pacers are applying for the exception in the wake of George's broken leg, sources said. Nevertheless, Indiana has started to move on from Marion, believing he's headed to the Cavaliers, and search elsewhere for a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
However, the Cavs appear to have the inside track, which makes sense. Indiana lost Lance Stephenson to Charlotte and now likely won't have its best player for the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
Jim Park of Sheridan Hoops notes how much of a menace Marion can be to the opposing offense, be it in the open floor or with his suffocating on-ball defense in half-court sets:
Shawn Marion is one of five NBA players ever with at least 1500 steals and 1000 blocks. At age 36, still usually the best defender on team.— Jim Park (@SheridanBlog) August 10, 2014
Marion would bring a nastiness the Cavs badly need on defense, not to mention an intriguing complement and massive energy boost off the bench. That's something the Dallas Mavericks enjoyed, though Marion hinted to the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko last month that he wouldn't be back:
It was memorable, baby. It's hard to say it wasn't fun. We had a great run and made the playoffs four of five years and won a championship. We set goals every year, and most years we reached them. And to win a championship, it was unbelievable. I wish we could have made a couple more runs at it, but it is what it is.
More memories could be made by Marion if he decides to team up with James and Co. in Cleveland.
Miller is a bit lead-footed and he's become more of a spot-up specialist due to a history of injuries. It's also unclear how much Jones will contribute, and even Allen's arrival isn't going to upgrade Cleveland's defense at all.
That's why it's pivotal for the Cavs to get the best remaining free agent on the market.
Otherwise, questions will persist about how Cleveland plans to defend beyond James and center Anderson Varejao on the inside.
It's not an area Love and Irving have proven anything in. Making it more of a legitimate concern is the fact that the Cavs are set to ship away No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, who has athletic and defensive skills comparable to Marion's and is of course far younger.
Cleveland is clearly in win-now mode, though, given its pursuit of aging stars such as Allen and Marion, who have seized the Larry O'Brien Trophy before.
Knicks Seeking to Trade Pablo Prigioni, Wayne Ellington
Now for the less thrilling news, though it is in line with the Knicks' forward-looking paradigm. Having acquired Ellington in a trade with the Sacramento Kings, New York is already trying to get rid of him.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, veteran backup point guard Prigioni may be shipped out of Madison Square Garden too:
How 'bout a Knicks rumble? I'm told they're trying to find a new home for Pablo Prigioni as well as Wayne Ellington to create roster room— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 6, 2014
Attempts to move Ellington solo have been unsuccessful, so Knicks said to be weighing prospect of attaching Prigioni to deal as a catalyst— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 6, 2014
When will the Knicks be a contender in the East?
Adding Prigioni to the mix would indeed sweeten any prospective return, though the assets would only net the Knicks something in the neighborhood of a second-round draft pick, cash or a comparable player.
Extrapolating his numbers as if he played 36 minutes per contest compared to the 19.4 he averaged in 2013-14, Basketball-Reference.com indicates Prigioni would have posted averages of 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists to just 1.7 turnovers.
That is a pretty strong line, so perhaps Prigioni would be a sneaky steal for some fortunate suitor.
However, that's a bit of an optimistic projection and presumes Prigioni could handle that type of time on the floor. He's only been in the NBA for two seasons, but Prigioni is already 37 years of age.
The Knicks are trying to cut costs, get younger and develop what they can before chasing marquee stars on the open market next summer and in 2016.
Carmelo Anthony was sold enough on president Phil Jackson's pitch to build a contender in New York to stay with the team for the long haul. Whether it comes to fruition depends on a number of factors, but the Knicks are making the proper deck-clearing preparations to ultimately deliver for Anthony.
Until that day comes, though, the new-look Cavs team—which may yet get better with Allen and Marion potentially coming to town—has the star power and goods today that the big-market Knicks will dream of having tomorrow.