Halfway through the 2014-15 NBA season may not seem to be the time to consider free agency. Oh, wait a minute! It sure is. It is only several months away for players to make their decision about free agency. In the meantime, the process does not mean that they will get it right, especially due to the current NBA climate. The economic scene changed entirely when the NBA league secured a 9-year, $24 billion contract rights with ESPN/ABC and TNT in October, which will begin in the 2016-17 season. Lebron James signed a short-term contract with Cleveland for that reason.
So, there is uncertainty to what lies ahead. Due to the heightened salary caps, players who are currently under the radar may sign contracts as a bargaining chip. This means that the upcoming offseason is going to be even more significant than other seasons. For all those fans and franchises that are looking at top named players like Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol and Kevin Love, a crop of amazing talent not yet in the spotlight like those big names are being assessed and sought-after by NBA executives who may want to take them to another level.
The preparation for free agency is already in motion. Teams like the Knicks and Lakers are restructuring their financial stance to be ready for what is coming. The offseason endeavor is to land the big names and stealing valued players from their current teams. Who might fall into the flight risk category? That is what many want to find out. To consider which one of the unrestricted free agents wants to leave their franchise will come down to circumstances, opportunities and positional gridlock. A selected player must fit into the longterm plans of the team and he must have not lost his luster for the game. The main focus, however, will be on the unrestricted free agents and an interest in household names. Let us know see which ones meet the criteria.
12 Thaddeus Young - Minnesota Timberwolves
Thaddeus Young of the Minnesota Timberwolves may be on his way out, even before his free agent status kicks in. The team’s franchise may be considering moving Young in an attempt to rebuild the team. This makes sense for the franchise. Why? Well, the Knicks and 76ers are inching their way on the Timberwolves' lottery terrain. If the franchise swaps Young for a few draft picks and roster feed, this will only make the team tank even more. It also safeguards the Timberwolves in not losing Young for nothing.
Before Young was traded from the 76ers, it is said that his plans were to get out of his contract during the summer. Now he could opt in the contract for $9.7 million and still try to benefit from a forthcoming cap windfall, therefore, taking control of his future. It is difficult to argue about that. The ball is in his court (no pun intended). He currently has high market value so he can join a team and circumstances of his choice. He averages about 13 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal per game. So you can bet that he has options. For Minnesota’s personal taste, though, the 27-year-old may not be in their long-term plans. With his innate ability to space the floor by himself, this guarantees that he will have a field of lucrative offers worth the $9.7 million that he will otherwise earn. Why wouldn’t he be tempted to go elsewhere then?
11 Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies
It may be hard for Marc Gasol to leave the Grizzlies. Of course, the franchise can offer him a contract deal. Moreover, he has a close bond with the city of Memphis. However, the Grizzlies have put themselves in a corner. The Jeff Green trade did improve their wing athleticism since he is more valuable on the wing than Tayshaun Prince. However, if Green decides to opt into a $9.2 million deal, there will be a salary cap created, making it harder to re-sign Marc Gasol. Gasol, on the other hand, has a viable suitor in the San Antonio Spurs. Would he be interested in leaving the Grizzlies and going to a powerhouse team?
10 Rajon Rondo – Dallas Mavericks
Many think that Rajon Rondo of the Dallas Mavericks and previously Boston Celtics is the best match for the Miami Heat, even though he has been a hated rival in Miami. No one can argue, though, that Rondo, when healthy, is a force to be reckoned with. He has excellent passing and playing skills. As he ages, his shooting percentage could be improved.
He doesn’t have a good history to Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. So for that reason, this could deter Miami from signing Rondo. Rondo has also said that he would never go to the Miami Heat. Even though a remote proposition, Pat Riley could still seek him out, teaming him up with Wade and Bosh. If the Miami Heat were to sign Rondo, this would open up opportunities for 2016 free agents Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant to come to Miami where Pat Riley could form an even better team than the previous Miami NBA champions.
9 Goran Dragic – Phoenix Suns
Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns is 28 years old and youth is no longer on his side as he approaches 30. However, this is his 7th season in the NBA and he has established himself as an intimidating talent for those who play against him. His status has been elevated since the last two seasons. Now he has found himself on the threshold of a higher salary, one that he never imagined. The Houston Rockets would love to see his return, but even though the GM has tried to land a deal with him this season in a trade, it has not worked. The L.A. Lakers are interested in teaming him up with Kobe Bryant. The list of interested teams is getting longer. Let’s see what he does.
8 Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons is going to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. With the departure of Josh Smith, the Piston placed their eyes on another big man, Andre Drummond. To use both Monroe and Drummond on the team would be overindulgence for the coach since the play tactics contradict. Even though they both are starters, they are only playing less than 16 minutes per game since Smith left. Monroe averages 29.3 minutes per game.
Why then would he want to stay with Detroit when he can get more playing time and a better contract somewhere else? And why would the Pistons spend more money on Monroe when they have other urgent needs? Monroe took a big risk when he signed for a qualifying offer at the release of Josh Smith. However, since he is playing better with the team, Monroe stands a good chance of landing a lucrative contract deal with the Lakers, Knicks or Hawks. Right now, the partnership with the Pistons seems threatened to be dissolved. Out of preference, both may be rushing toward being without each other in the future.
7 Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
Failing to reach a contract extension, many say that Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls is gambling with his future. Of course, his play has improved dramatically. He is a strong defender on the perimeter and he has certainly bloomed into a terrific offensive player. It is considered that several teams are going to seek him out and bring an offer that he may not be able to resist. Watch out Bulls! You may want to match any contract deal that he receives.
6 Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
Paul Millsap signed his most recent contract with the Hawks in the summer of 2013. It was an amicable decision for the player, the franchise and the team. The Hawks, of course, wanted a longer contract deal, but Millsap wanted to leave his options open for a bigger deal at the age of 30. If the relationship didn’t work out, at least both weren’t locked into an iron-clad deal. As it stands now, Millsap and coach Mike Budenholzer is an ideal fit. So, the Hawks may try to extend his contract before he hits free agency, especially since Atlanta is vying for an NBA title.
5 Tobias Harris – Orlando Magic
Tobias Harris is not putting all his eggs in one basket. He wants to see what kind of deals are on the table before he commits to any team as a restricted free agent. You can bet that he will have tons of offers so the Orlando Magic should be prepared to match any qualifying offer before he escapes to another team. Or is Harris interested in signing a qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent next year?
4 Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler signed a four year, $58 million contract with the New York Knicks back in 2011. The Mavericks traded for Chandler this past summer, acquring the last year of his contract. In lieu of more money streaming into the franchise and a $24 billion TV deal for the NBA with ESPN and TNT Sports, many think that the team will re-sign him, even though he has had his share of injuries. The Mavs have learned from past mistakes that it is ideal to keep the team together as long as they can remain healthy throughout the upcoming season.
3 Amar’e Stoudemire - New York Knicks
The New York Knicks need size added to their current player’s roster since their big man, Amar’e Stoudemire has been plagued with injuries. If Stoudemire decides to depart from his team in free agency, Phil Jackson and his entourage will definitely rethink this union. As it stands, the Knicks franchise needs some rejuvenation. The answer may be in younger talent. You've also gotta believe that Stoudemire wants to go to a contender at 32 years old.
2 Kevin Love - Cleveland Cavaliers
It's not a certainty that Kevin Love will be a free agent, but he can opt out of his contract at the end of the season. There's been constant speculation around Love that he will hit the open market and questions of him fitting in with the current Cavs roster. LeBron recently posted a cryptic tweet, addressing Love.
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
The good news for Love is his team is now winning and he should find himself with a contender next season, whether it's Cleveland or somewhere else.
1 LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers
Some think that the San Antonio Spurs could make a dash at free agency for LaMarcus Alridge. The Portland Trail Blazers don't want this to happen. The Spurs were patient with Kawhi Leonard’s extension to reserve the maximum salary cap space, just in case Duncan and Ginobili were to retire. The Spurs also will make a wise decision for a solid contract or trade offer if LaMarcus Alridge shows interest in the team. However, at the moment, Alridge seems to be in a good spot as the superstar point guard on the Trail Blazers. He could get an offer of one year in Portland with more pay than his other suitors may want to give him.