The NBA’s free agent process will start back up in July, less than a week after the June 26 NBA Draft.
A number of teams could have significant cap room this summer although the list of free agents isn’t nearly as strong as it projects to be in 2015. Interesting spenders could include the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats and possibly the Memphis Grizzlies.
Who exactly will be on the free agent market also isn’t yet clear. A number of players have to decide on opt outs before July, which could dramatically change the free agent puzzle.
Draft-centered trades could also change the landscape, but there’s a good chance many potential free agents stick with their existing squads. Here are some free agency predictions:
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stay with the Miami HEAT
James can opt out of the final two years on his contract, leaving behind $42.7 million to re-sign for up to $115.1 million in Miami or $85.5 million with another team.
Best guess, James opts in for another year with Miami, exploring free agency instead in 2015.
Also pencil in a return for the rest of the “Big Three” as Wade and Bosh also opt in for at least another year with the HEAT at $20 million apiece.
Carmelo Anthony re-signs with the New York Knicks
While the Miami trio each have two years left on their deals, Anthony has just one at $23.4 million. He’s all but certain to opt out, given he’s eligible to re-sign with the Knicks for up to $129.1 million.
Anthony will flirt with free agency, but can a team open up enough cap space to fit in his $22.5 million? Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, who won’t initially have enough cap space, may make moves to make a bid on Anthony.
The Knicks want Anthony back, but preferably at a discount.
When the dust settles, look for Anthony to re-up with New York, perhaps on a five-year, $106.4 million contract starting at $18.5 million.
Dirk Nowitzki gives the Dallas Mavericks a discount to stay
Nowitzki has had a long, positive relationship with the Mavericks. He’s also likely to stay, but at a discount so Dallas can add additional talent around him.
A contract starting at $12 million (perhaps for two or three season) would put the Mavericks in a strong position.
Greg Monroe leaves the Detroit Pistons for the Dallas Mavericks
The Pistons might match an offer to Monroe, who will be restricted, but with Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and little sign the group has chemistry, Detroit may let him go if the price is too high.
The Mavericks need help at small forward and center, Monroe would be an interesting, young big to pair with Nowitzki.
Restricted free agents typically come at a premium. Detroit might not match a max, four-year offer to Monroe (starting at roughly $14 million, $57.9 million total).
Dallas might be able to re-sign Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris, while keeping Nowitzki and adding in Monroe.
Zach Randolph leaves the Memphis Grizzlies for the Charlotte Bobcats
The offseason may not see too many high-level free agents willing to change teams, which could lead Randolph to opt out of the final year of his contract at $17 million.
The Bobcats have not been an NBA destination throughout most of their existence, but the landing of Al Jefferson along with Coach Steve Clifford, has changed the perception of the soon-to-be-Hornets.
Charlotte may have up to $19.5 million in cap space this summer. Would a $47-64 million contract with the Bobcats (over three or four years), starting at roughly $15 million, do the trick?
How high will the Grizzlies go to sway Randolph to stay?
Luol Deng leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Atlanta Hawks
While the Hawks didn’t finish the season above .500 (38-44), they gave the Indiana Pacers a scare in the first round, despite playing without Al Horford (torn pectoral).
Deng didn’t mesh in Cleveland. He’d be a nice addition to the Hawks, both as a scorer and defender.
A three- or four-year deal ($37.6-$51.2 million) starting at almost $12 million might be enough to sway Deng, who doesn’t appear likely to re-sign with Cleveland regardless.
Kyle Lowry re-signs with the Toronto Raptors
Lowry helped lead the Raptors through an impressive regular season (48-34) and strong playoff push, although the team ultimately fell short in a seven-game loss to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
The market for point guards may be soft this summer as most teams under the cap are already stocked at the position.
Lowry should get a deal comparable to Jeff Teague’s $8 million a season with the Atlanta Hawks.
Rudy Gay opts into his final year, Isaiah Thomas re-signs with the Sacramento Kings
Gay won’t get $19.3 million in the open market, which is why he’s likely to opt into the final year of his deal.
Thomas has proven to be a prolific scorer for the Kings. He could be back as a restricted free agent, signing in the $8 million a season, Teague range.
Utah Jazz re-sign restricted free agent Gordon Hayward
The Jazz should have a lot of cap space this summer. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to let the rapidly-developing Hayward go.
Derrick Favors recently extended for about $12 million a season.
A contract averaging $10 million per year may sense for the Jazz and Hayward.
Eric Bledsoe re-signs with the Phoenix Suns, joined by Washington Wizards’ Trevor Ariza
Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent, but teams may be wary to give him an offer sheet, given the likelihood that the Suns match.
Pencil in Bledsoe on a deal in the $9 million a season range, slightly higher than Teague and what Lowry might get from Toronto.
The Suns would like to add a veteran forward. An argument could be made that the Wizards should re-sign Ariza, given how well he’s played through the postseason.
With Martell Webster and Otto Porter under contract, the Washington may balk at an $8 million or $9 million starting salary for Ariza.
Marcin Gortat re-signs with the Washington Wizards
Gortat and Nene have shown they can play together. The Wizards have advanced to the second round.
Big men are paid a premium in the NBA. He could land at least a three-year deal worth more than $30 million to stay in Washington.
Lance Stephenson re-signs with the Indiana Pacers
The Pacers haven’t looking quite right since the All-Star break and Stephenson is rumored to have a volatile personality.
While Indiana has some chemistry issues to resolve, bringing Stephenson back should be a priority — also at the $8 million a year price tag.
Pau Gasol sticks with the Los Angeles Lakers
Finally, the Lakers hope to improve in the draft but may be saving their free agents dollars for 2015.
Keeping Gasol for a year at a large salary, perhaps $14 million, might be enough to keep the team’s former All-Star in L.A.
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