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NBA PM: Free Agency Predictions

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What will happen with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this offseason? Where will Carmelo Anthony end up? Which team is a sleeper as free agency gets underway tonight? Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy discusses his free agency predictions with CineSport’s Noah Coslov.

James Wants Max Contract, Won’t Be At Early Meetings

In the weeks leading up to free agency, a popular storyline was that the Miami HEAT’s Big Three were going to opt out, take significant pay cuts and then recruit another star to South Beach. Carmelo Anthony was mentioned as a possible new teammate for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Other notable free agents like Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat were discussed as options for Miami as well.

While James, Wade and Bosh did all opt out – along with Udonis Haslem – to free up plenty of cap space for the HEAT, Miami may not have as much money to throw around as previously expected.

Today, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that sources close to James say that the four-time MVP won’t be taking a pay cut this summer, choosing instead to sign a maximum contract that would start at approximately $22.2 million. This is different from James’ approach in 2010, when he took less so that Miami could field the most talented team possible.

While this doesn’t mean that James will leave the HEAT, it certainly changes Miami’s approach to the offseason and makes things a little bit tougher for Pat Riley and his staff. Even if Miami is able to re-sign James, Wade and Bosh, this wrinkle makes it much more difficult to put a quality team around the Big Three (especially if Wade and Bosh decide not to take pay cuts either). Rather than being able to splurge on a significant free agent or two, the HEAT may once again be forced to assemble their supporting cast using the mid-level exception and minimum contracts.

This new development also gives hope to a number of teams – such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks – that have the necessary cap space to sign James to a max deal.

If James is set on taking the max, this suddenly puts those teams ahead of other rumored destinations like the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers that would’ve required James to take less money if he does decide to leave Miami.

The Lakers and Suns are intriguing options for the superstar, as both teams have the cap space to sign James to a max deal and add a second significant player alongside him. Los Angeles and Phoenix will pitch this scenario to James, giving him the chance to maximize his earnings and then choose who he plays with. The Lakers and Suns will try to attract James as well as a sidekick like Anthony, Bosh or even Kevin Love (through trade). Or, if James prefers, he could pick three or four cheaper free agents for the team to pursue, choosing to construct much of the roster rather than just adding one star teammate. The Lakers also have a head coaching vacancy and would allow James to provide input into that search as well.

Another surprising twist in James’ free agency plan is that he isn’t going to be present at the initial pitch meetings that his agent Rich Paul holds with teams, according to Windhorst. Paul will talk with teams and then James will likely get involved later in the process, rather than meeting every team face-to-face in the early stages as he did in 2010 when he had six meetings with teams at his offices in Cleveland over the first three days of July.

While James wants a maximum contract in terms of salary, it’s possible that he’ll opt for a short-term deal rather than a four- or five-year contract that he’s eligible to sign. This would allow James to weigh his options again in the near future, while being able to influence his team’s moves since the threat of him leaving would hang over the organization.

Over the next few weeks, all eyes will be on James to see what he does. He changed the landscape of the NBA in 2010 when he joined the HEAT and now everybody in the basketball world wants to know where he’ll land next.

Free Agency Resources

The NBA’s free agency period will get underway in several hours, and Basketball Insiders has all of the information you need to stay up-to-date.

Click here for a complete list of 2014 NBA free agents.

Click here for a breakdown of every team’s salary cap situation.

Click here for some free agency notes so you can better understand the process.

Also, check out some of Basketball Insiders’ recent free agency articles:

NBA Free Agency By Tiers

The Knicks and Carmelo Anthony Should Break Up

Kyle Lowry Opens Up About Free Agency

Isaiah Thomas Discusses Upcoming Free Agency

A Look At the Next-Tier Free Agents

Can the Hawks Lure a Marquee Free Agent?

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About Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy is a Senior NBA Editor of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons.