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NBA Free Agents 2014: Final Top-50 Big Board

D.J. FosterContributor IJune 30, 2014

NBA Free Agents 2014: Final Top-50 Big Board

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    The 2014 NBA free agency class is almost all locked up now.

    Even though the focus is justifiably on the stars, this free-agent class has some nice depth as well. There are plenty of young players with potential and veterans ready to join contending teams. 

    First, let's establish a few basics.

    When you see the label "RFA" next to a player's name, that stands for restricted free agent. What that means is the player's former team can match any offer the player receives in free agency.

    UFA stands for unrestricted free agent, which means the player is free to sign anywhere.

    TS% stands for true shooting percentage, which takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws.

    All stats listed are per 36 minutes via Basketball-Reference.com to better compare players. All advanced stats are also via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

    There are players with contracts that aren't fully guaranteed for the 2014-15 season who are not listed here, primarily because I'm expecting their deals to be picked up or they already have been. Here's a list of non-guaranteed players who would otherwise be on this list: Jamal Crawford, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, Pero Antic, Amir Johnson, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert and Kosta Koufos.

    In regards to the order of the list: every scout or analyst has their weakness or biases, and personally, I tend to overvalue three-point shooting and strong defenders. On the flip side, I tend to undervalue players who can create their own shot and break down a defense off the dribble. 

    With all that in mind, let's get to the top 50 free agents of the 2014 NBA offseason.

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    50) Jameer Nelson: UFA (editor's note: replaced Mo Williams at No. 50 after being bought out)

    2013-14 Stats: 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 13.9 PER, 51.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)  

    Jameer Nelson has been a starter essentially  his whole career, but those days are likely numbered. With his shooting stroke failing him a bit over the last two years and his mobility waning, Nelson is no longer one of the better point guards in the game like he used to be, but he still knows how to run a team and get guys the ball in the right spots. As far as veteran backups go, you could do far worse.  

     

    49) Jodie Meeks: UFA

    July 1: Signed with Detroit Pistons, three years, $19 million. 

    2013-14 Stats: 17.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 14.7 PER, 60.1 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    The Mike D'Antoni stat bump is always worrisome, but for the first time in his career, Meeks was able to sustain his sweet shooting and become a deadly threat from beyond the arc. Although he's clearly a specialist, Meeks has a quick release and perhaps a new-found confidence to let it fly from deep. He needs to stay at these percentages to warrant playing time, but he should find a spot in a rotation this year.

     

    48) Kevin Seraphin: RFA

    July 18: Signed with Washington Wizards for one year, $3.8 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 12.5 PER, 53.3 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Seraphin has everything you want physically, but it hasn't clicked for him quite yet. Big men often take a little longer to develop, so a team that can invest playing time and remain patient while Seraphin figures out defensive rotations and when to give up the ball could reap the rewards down the line. 

     

    47) James Johnson: UFA

    July 10: Signed with Toronto Raptors, two years, salary TBA. 

    2013-14 Stats: 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 18.5 PER, 55.2 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Johnson would be higher on this list were it not for character and contract-year concerns. He could still be a great value pickup, as he forces tons of turnovers, defends big wings very well and has a surprisingly high skill level with the ball. He's just missing a jumper.

     

    46) Greivis Vasquez: RFA

    July 9: Signed with Toronto Raptors, two years, $13 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 14.1 PER, 53.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Just a year removed from leading the league in total assists, Vasquez has proven to be a capable first guard off the bench who can add solid play-making at either spot thanks to his size. While his days as a starter are probably numbered due to his lack of defensive mobility, Vasquez is a safe option who must keep improving his spot-up jumper to become a more versatile offensive threat.

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    45) Marvin Williams: UFA

    July 12: Signed with Charlotte Hornets, two years, $14 million.

    2014-14 Stats: 13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 14.0 PER, 54.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Williams has had a disappointing career after such high expectations that came with being the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft. That being said, he's remained a solid yet unspectacular rotation forward. Last year with the Utah Jazz was one of Williams' best campaigns, and the league trending toward more mobile, versatile forwards at the 4 certainly helps his cause. He's a good enough rebounder and shooter to occupy that role, and his defensive ability makes him worthy of playing time on just about any roster.

     

    44) Thabo Sefolosha: UFA

    July 3: Signed with Atlanta Hawks, three years, $12 million. 

    2013-14 Stats: 8.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 10.4 PER, 51.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    The timing on Sefolosha's stinker of a season couldn't have been worse. Sefolosha battled through injuries and struggled mightily with his three-point stroke, which is the one weapon he has offensively. That being the case, Sefolosha is a prime buy-low candidate, as he had an incredible 61.7 true-shooting percentage in 2012-13 and was an elite on-ball defender. If he's healthy going forward and his shot recovers, he should bounce back and be a solid rotation player. 

     

    43) Kris Humphries: UFA

    July 15: Signed with Washington Wizards, three years, $13 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 18.2 PER, 55.2 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    He provides a very particular skill set, but teams hard up for rebounding in the second unit could do much worse than bringing Humphries off the bench. Individually he's a pretty solid post defender who isn't afraid to get physical, and he has a nice little mid-range jumper offensively. He won't provide length or much help defense, but he's a decent rotation big man in a free agency period that doesn't feature many.

     

    42) Anthony Morrow: UFA

    July 12: Signed with Oklahoma City Thunder, three years, $10 million.  

    2013-14 Stats: 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 13.9 PER, 57.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    It's one of the NBA's great mysteries why Morrow hasn't been able to find his way onto a contender or even stick with a bad team, but his shot is still one of the purest the game has. Morrow had a bit of a revival with the New Orleans Pelicans late last year once he actually got playing time, knocking in 45.1 percent of his threes. He doesn't give you much of anything else on the floor, but defenses simply can't leave him. He's an elite floor spacer. 

     

    41) D.J. Augustin: UFA

    July 13: Signed with Detroit Pistons, two years, $6 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 17.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 16.2 PER, 56.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    There wasn't a waiver-wire pickup that paid bigger dividends than D.J. Augustin did for the Chicago Bulls, but it's hard to say which player teams will be getting in free agency. Augustin looked like he was on his way out of the league prior to Chicago, then he looked like a starting-caliber point guard. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle, and so Augustin should land a backup role somewhere and come down to earth a bit.

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    40) Darren Collison: UFA

    July 3: Signed with Sacramento Kings, three years, $16 million. 

    2013-14 Stats: 15.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 16.2 PER, 57.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Collison was pretty solid filling in for Chris Paul when he went down with injury, and he even had some success next to Paul in small lineups.

    That was the regular season, though, and after Collison's poor playoff shooting and standard matador defense, any visions of him being a full-time starter went down the tubes. He's stuck right in the thick of it with other backups like Vasquez, Augustin and more.

     

    39) Nick Young: UFA

    July 11: Signed with Los Angeles Lakers, four years, $21.5 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 22.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 16.0 PER, 56.4 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    What's a team willing to pay for scoring? Young gives up a lot of what he gets by being lazy on the defensive end and careless with the ball. But he can certainly score in bunches and get his own offense, regardless of whether you want him to or not.

    Teams starved for offense could definitely do worse than Young off the bench, but he'll cause his fair share of headaches. He's helped by positional scarcity quite a bit.

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    38) Ramon Sessions: UFA

    2013-14 Stats: 16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 16.0 PER, 53.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Throw another point guard into the pile. Sessions is already a journeyman at 28 years old, and he's played for some truly awful teams along the way.

    There's still hope, though, that Sessions lands on a competitive team that can use his special knack for drawing fouls. Last year, Sessions averaged 6.7 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes, an elite number for a guard. He's far from perfect, but Sessions is an efficient scoring guard that puts a lot of pressure on a team's interior defense.  

     

    37) Mario Chalmers: UFA

    July 13: Signed with Miami Heat, two years, $8.3 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 14.0 PER, 56.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Here's another guy that left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Chalmers put together a solid regular season, but he completely collapsed in the Finals while the Heat were extinguished. He may have cost himself a few million with that poor performance, and given the depth of the point guard free-agent pool, it's no sure thing he'll retain a starter's job in Miami or find one elsewhere.

    That being said, good on-ball defenders who can spot up usually can find playing time pretty easily. Chalmers doesn't lack confidence, and while there's some fear he may call his own number too much in a different system with less-heralded players, he's a talented guy that will have something to prove next season.

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    36) Josh McRoberts: UFA

    July 7: Signed with Miami Heat, four years, $23 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 10.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 13.8 PER, 54.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    McRoberts improved his stock as much as anyone with his performance this past season (which had to be a big reason he declined his player option to become a free agent). What should have been a nightmare defensive frontcourt for the Charlotte Bobcats turned into one of the league's best, and offensively McRoberts provided critical floor spacing with his jumper and great passing ability out of the high post.

    McRoberts may not strike you as a typical stretch 4, but that's exactly the role he can play. If he continues to improve his shooting touch from deep, he'll be a threat any team would be lucky to have.

     

    35) Mike Miller: UFA

    July 15: Signed with Cleveland Cavaliers, two years, $5.5 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 12.5 PER, 61.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    If you're looking for a shooter, there aren't many in the business better than Miller.

    Although he's getting up there in age at 34, Miller surprised everyone by playing in all 82 games last season, something he hadn't done since his rookie year. While he isn't the rebounder or defender he once was, Miller is a smart veteran who shot a blistering 45.9 percent from beyond the arc. He'll get calls from contenders once again.

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    34) Spencer Hawes: UFA

    July 4: Signed with L.A. Clippers, four years, $23 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 15.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 15.7 PER, 55.4 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Buyer beware. It feels a little weird having Hawes this high, as he doesn't give great effort defensively like you typically want from your big men. Hawes does compensate for that a bit by being the rare stretch 5 who can draw opposing big men out and hit the three. For teams desperate for space, Hawes could be a great third big man. He can pass pretty well, his size will allow him to rebound and he'll shoot at a high percentage.

    It's hard to explain, but there's just a lot of area Hawes doesn't fill, even though he has his strengths. He doesn't rotate well or play any significant help defense, but the offensive production will likely get him paid this offseason. Hawes getting anything over the mid-level exception (which seems likely) and a starting job would make me nervous, but he could be very good for less money and a decreased role.

     

    33) Andray Blatche: UFA

    2013-14 Stats: 18.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 18.8 PER, 53.2 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Buyer beware again! Blatche was one of the key players in Brooklyn's revival this season, as he provided better spacing and defensive mobility in a big role thanks to Kevin Garnet's limited status and Brook Lopez's injury.

    With that said, you probably don't want to rely on Blatche as a starter for 82 games, as he's prone to streaks where he thinks he's a perimeter player. While he possesses a lot of those skills, Blatche can get a little ambitious offensively and careless defensively, although he's gotten better on that end over the years. Not unlike Hawes, Blatche is a good signing so long as the expectations and price are kept low.

     

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    32) Devin Harris: UFA

    July 5: Signed with Dallas Mavericks, four years, $16.55 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 13.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 14.6 PER, 51.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    There are an awful lot of quality backup point guards available, but Harris is probably the best distributor and all-around player of the bunch. After battling health issues for a few years, Harris looked spry once again with the Dallas Mavericks, hitting big shots and performing well in the postseason.

    Harris still has a good deal of speed, but his best attribute these days is his ability to run an offense correctly and get players the ball in the right spots. The veteran guard should appeal to teams ready to win now, as Harris can definitely lead a strong bench even with his lack of shooting touch. He's a solid player.

     

    31) Chris Andersen: UFA

    July 13: Signed with Miami Heat, two years, $10 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 12.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 18.5 PER, 68.3 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    One of the biggest things that hurt the Miami Heat's championship chances was Chris Andersen not being at full strength. Miami was just a different team without his shot blocking, offensive rebounding and energy. He wasn't the only one to go missing in the Finals, but he might have been the most important role player to not show up.

    That shouldn't hurt Andersen's stock much, though, as he'll still be valued as a defensive-oriented big man who runs the floor well and protects the rim. Andersen is a player that knows to stay in his lane, and he'd be a solid get for just about any team so long as he's healthy.  

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    30) Ed Davis: UFA

    July 16: Signed with Los Angeles Lakers for two years, $2 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 13.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 15.9 PER, 54.2 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Davis is one of the tougher free agents to rank, if only because we haven't seen much of him lately. Although the Memphis Grizzlies kept him on the bench, Davis was a capable big man in starter's minutes with the Toronto Raptors.

    While he's limited offensively, Davis hits the glass hard and is a very good shot-blocker thanks to all that length. Combine that with his mobility, and you would think he could be a solid third big man, if not a starting power forward for a lesser team.

    The biggest thing Davis needs to work on is his mid-range jumper, as he'll clog the paint unless he's next to a center who can space the floor. It's strange, because Memphis had that with Marc Gasol, but Davis was still rarely used. Whether that's because he didn't earn playing time or just didn't receive it is tough to say, but he should be readily available despite his restricted tag in free agency. He's a good gamble for a team in need of a big man.

     

    29) Patrick Patterson: RFA

    July 4: Signed with Toronto Raptors, three years, $18 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 14.6 PER, 53.3 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    We're double-dipping with the stretch 4 love here, as Patrick Patterson can also spread the floor with his sweet shooting touch. Patterson is especially adept in the corners, which is useful since he often filters out there after running the floor hard.

    In addition to his offensive efforts, Patterson is a strong rebounder who isn't afraid to play physical defense and mix it up in the paint. He's limited as a rim protector, but with the right center next to him, Patterson could be a perfect asset for a team that likes to play fast and shoot lots of threes. He's a strong worker that should have a role off the bench for a long time in the league.

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    28) Jordan Hill: UFA

    July 11: Signed with Los Angeles Lakers, two years, $18 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 19.3 PER, 57.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    It feels like nobody put up better numbers in fewer minutes than Hill, as he was an absolute energizer bunny for the Los Angeles Lakers off the bench last year. Hill is a garbage man who hits the offensive glass incredibly hard and scores around the rim, but his mid-range jumper is actually decent as well, which gives him a leg up on many of the other glass-eaters around the league.

    The 26-year-old forward isn't a great individual defender, but he gives good effort even if he's out of position quite a bit. There are limitations here, but Hill should be lined up nicely to receive the mid-level exception, which is what a comparable player in J.J. Hickson received last year from the Denver Nuggets. His career was left for dead prior to the past year or two, but you could do much worse than having Hill as your first big man off the pine.

     

    27) Vince Carter: UFA

    July 12: Signed with Memphis Grizzlies, three years, $12.2 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 15.9 PER, 53.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Carter has shown in the past that he's willing to play for much less than his actual value, and that alone should make him a big-time target for teams already over the cap who have legitimate title hopes.

    VC has done a fantastic job over the years altering his game, as he's become a deadly spot-up shooter and a more focused defender. He doesn't get enough credit for his intelligence, as he's great at finding the open man on the perimeter and exploiting whatever weakness a defense gives him. He'll be recruited for a bench role at age 37, but Carter could absolutely swing a few playoff games this upcoming season. He'll have his pick of contending teams to choose from. 

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    26) C.J. Miles: UFA

    July 2: Signed with Indiana Pacers, four years, $18 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 18.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 16.0 PER, 56.9 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Believe it or not, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't sink the value of every player to don the uniform over the last few years. In fact, 27-year-old swingman C.J. Miles has thrived the past two seasons, becoming a prolific three-point shooting threat to supplement his appetite for scoring.

    Miles has always been a streaky shooter, but now he's at least taking the right shots. Last year Miles hit 3.0 threes per 36 minutes at a 39.3 percent clip, which was one of the highest numbers in the league. Thanks to his time spent in Utah playing the flex offense, Miles is pretty adept at getting open and making smart cuts off the ball, which makes him a little more dangerous than just a pure spot-up threat. Thanks to his size, he can reasonably guard both wing spots.

    The big issue here is health, as Miles has been banged up plenty over the last two years. If a team can look past that, he could very easily slide into the mid-level exception somewhere this offseason. Shooting kills.
     

    25) Channing Frye: UFA

    July 7: Signed with Orlando Magic, four years, $32 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 13.2 PER, 55.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Frye is a specialist, but there aren't many guys who can reasonably play the 5 and shoot like he can. The 31-year-old big man is a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter, and his 81.5 percent career free-throw shooting is an asset late in games as well.

    While he's not a great rebounder or defender, he's at least serviceable, and offensively he's an incredibly low-mistake player. On a good team with players who can create for him, Frye is a weapon that can play pick-and-pop, trail fast breaks and space the floor from the top of the arc or the corners.

    It seems likely he'll re-sign with the Phoenix Suns long-term, but contending teams everywhere are chomping at the bit for the veteran's sweet shooting touch.

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    24) P.J. Tucker: RFA

    July 10: Signed with Phoenix Suns, three years, $16.5 million. 

    2013-14 Stats: 11.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 13.3 PER, 54.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Tucker has transformed his career over time, going from an overseas journeyman to a legitimate three-and-D rotation player in the league. Tucker has always been a high-energy forward with a big body and a knack for physical defense, but his improvements as an outside shooter have made him more of a viable option to receive substantial minutes.

    So long as Tucker keeps shooting at a clip similar to last year, he can feasibly start for more than a few teams. He's a great rebounder, he's built like a mack truck and he'll take the toughest defensive assignment on the wing every single night. Players like that have value even if they can't score for themselves, and so it wouldn't be a surprise if a team needing a veteran wing forces Phoenix to match a decent offer in restricted free agency for the 29-year-old forward.
     

    23) Ray Allen: UFA

    2013-14 Stats: 13.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 12.8 PER, 59.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    He can't move as well, he's not going to score at the rim, and defensively he'll give up his fair share of penetration. But, boy, can Ray Allen still shoot it. Whether he's coming off screens or simply spotting up in the corners, defenses always have to account for where Allen is.

    While there are only a handful of teams that can legitimately vie for his services, Allen is a great playoff performer who can provide clutch shooting while staying within himself. That's not easy to find, even though this year's free-agency class features some pretty solid shooters. Allen is the most accomplished of them all, and thanks to his tireless work ethic and commitment to health, he should still have one good year left in him.

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    22) Avery Bradley: RFA

    July 2: Signed with Boston Celtics, four years, $32 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 17.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 12.7 PER, 51.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Bradley most definitely isn't a point guard, but when you defend like he does, positional labels don't mean all that much. Bradley is only 6'2", but he puts as much pressure on ball-handlers as anyone in the league. And that's something Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens seems to covet.

    There are questions about whether he can be the long-term backcourt mate with Rajon Rondo, but Bradley is still just 23 years old and improving, particularly with his jumper. If Bradley can shoot somewhere near his 39.5 percent clip from beyond the arc, he'll be a valuable contributor on both ends. There's a lot of potential here yet to be untapped, and Boston is going to need to pay up to keep him in green.

     

    21) Shaun Livingston: UFA

    July 1: Signed with Golden State Warriors, three years, $16 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 14.5 PER, 55.1 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Here's another guard who makes his impact known on the defensive end. Livingston has bounced around the league because of injuries, but he's an incredibly smart player who can distribute, use his length to get shots in the paint, rebound and defend multiple positions. If he had a three-point game, he'd be much higher than this.

    I try not to throw around the term lightly, but he's a glue guy in every sense. He was critical to the Nets' turnaround last year, but he may be out of their price range this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. After all he's been through, Livingston deserves to cash in no matter where he ends up and get some long-term financial security. He's an ideal third guard who can easily start with a variety of different backcourt partners if need be, so he should be hotly recruited.

     

20) Patty Mills: UFA

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    Patty Mills: UFA

    July 2: Signed with San Antonio Spurs, three years, $12 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 18.7 PER, 58.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Cha-ching! Mills should be ready to cash in after an excellent season where he was finally in shape and given ample opportunity to show off his great shooting touch and scoring ability.

    Although he may not fit the classic profile of a big wing that plays sixth man, Mills can light it up in a hurry off the bench and pressure ball-handlers into turnovers on the defensive end.

    There shouldn't be any misconceptions about Mills being able to run a team full time, but he's a game-changer off the bench, as we've seen. It seems unlikely anyone will steal him away from San Antonio to fill a similar role, mainly because other teams tend to worry about the production translating to their systems. 

    Here's Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News with more:

    But one Western Conference team executive cited the very Spurs system that allowed Mills to succeed this season as a red flag for other teams.

    Call it the Gregg Popovich effect.

    “With guys like him, people wonder, 'Can he do it elsewhere?'” the team executive said. “Patty never had great success until this season, and he's been in the league since 2009.

    The ability to turn castoffs into valuable role players has helped San Antonio win titles and retain talent plenty of times before, and it could happen again with Mills.  

19) Boris Diaw: UFA

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    Boris Diaw: UFA

    July 6: Signed with San Antonio Spurs, three years, $22.5 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 14.1 PER, 57.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    It's hard to explain, but Boris Diaw is one of those players who looks ordinary by himself or with bad teammates, but outstanding when the caliber of player around him is high.

    That's mainly because Diaw is one of the most unselfish players in the game, as he's always looking to pass or create an opportunity for someone else. There aren't many big men who see the floor better than he does, and his surprising defensive ability on the likes of guys like LeBron James makes him invaluable to a team with championship aspirations.

    With that in mind, it seems highly unlikely that Diaw will leave San Antonio as the crew comes back together for another title run.

    Diaw is great friends with Tony Parker, his French national teammate, and so even the allure of a bigger payday probably won't be enough. Diaw wants to play intelligent, beautiful basketball, and no team on the planet is more capable of that than San Antonio is.

    After being written off by many teams, Diaw has proven that his high skill level and basketball IQ makes him a key cog when paired with the right players.

18) Paul Pierce: UFA

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    Paul Pierce: UFA

    July 12: Signed with Washington Wizards, two years, $11 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 16.8 PER, 59.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Paul Pierce still has some game left, as his footwork and body control allow him to get off shots that he probably shouldn't be able to.

    While he's certainly not near the player he once was, Pierce would be a valued veteran addition to a contender that needs some scoring pop off the bench or another spot-up shooter.

    Pierce's numbers were still pretty impressive last season, and even if he shouldn't be playing big minutes anymore, saving him for the postseason seems like a worthy investment given how many clutch moments he's had in recent playoffs.

    He's probably worth more, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Pierce slide into the mid-level exception for a title team. Whether he stays with Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn is tough to say at this point, but it seems like Pierce has at least one good season left in him, despite all the wear and tear.

17) Shawn Marion: UFA

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    Shawn Marion: UFA

    2013-14 Stats: 11.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 13.7 PER, 53.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    The value of having a versatile defender who can cover positions 1-4 gives a coach lots of options, and Shawn Marion has done just that for the Dallas Mavericks over the years. Marion is still a great on-ball defender; he'll play passing lanes and fly around like a man much younger than him.

    There is some fear that as Marion's athleticism begins to wane more and more, he'll become less effective. Still, Marion didn't appear to lose a whole lot last year, and he's still a pretty strong rebounder and transition player. You don't want to rely on him for scoring, but he's a guy who can still fill up the rest of the stat sheet and defend all over the floor.

    Marion can start for a number of teams at small forward, and he hasn't shied away from a payday in the past. This might be his last major long-term contract, and so depending on his priorities, he could end up in a few different situations.

    It's not hard to imagine Marion making more than the mid-level exception, but if he wants to play for a contender, he'll probably need to play for that amount. There isn't a team in the league that couldn't use Marion in some capacity. Versatile, effective defenders are always needed. 

16) Trevor Ariza: UFA

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    Trevor Ariza: UFA

    July 12: Signed with Houston Rockets, four years, $32 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 15.8 PER, 59.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    How much can you trust Trevor Ariza? Has he really accepted that he's a strong role player and a three-and-D guy? Is his shot selection truly fixed?

    It's hard to say, if only because Ariza's best year, once again, came in a contract season. Ariza earned a big payday from the Houston Rockets after playing well with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-09 season, and it's possible he's going to do it again after a great year playing next to Bradley Beal and John Wall.

    Ariza has become one of the elite corner three-point shooters in the league, and his length and athleticism allow him to gamble and shoot passing lanes with regularity. When he sticks to those things, he's great, but when he gets off course, things can get ugly quickly.

    It's definitely a risk signing Ariza to a big contract, who could demand in the area of $9 million a year on the open market. The only thing that may limit Ariza's price would be his desire to return to the West Coast, as David Aldridge of NBA.com reported earlier this year:

    But they [Washington] can't pay Ariza, who also pines to return to the West coast, what he'll likely ask for as a free agent. Ariza recently hired Rob Pelinka as his agent, a man not known for taking 70 cents on the dollar.

    For a team with established stars and an offensive hierarchy, it might be worth the risk that Ariza wasn't just playing hard and smart for his next paycheck. He'd be a strong pickup at the right price.

15) Pau Gasol: UFA

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    Pau Gasol: UFA

    July 12: Signing with Chicago Bulls, three years, $22 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 19.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 19.3 PER, 52.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    There are definite concerns over whether Pau Gasol can stay healthy for a full season and the playoffs, but if a team is cautious about his health and plays him like the San Antonio Spurs use Tim Duncan, this could be a heck of a signing.

    Even though his mobility is limited these days, Gasol is still one of the most skilled big men in the game. He can play out of either post, he can shoot from range, he can score with his back to the basket, and, perhaps most importantly, he can pass the ball incredibly well. Any team looking to improve their ball movement would be wise to target Gasol, especially if they can protect him defensively with a shot-blocker at center.

    Gasol should have a number of options in free agency, and we probably can't rule out a return to the Lakers entirely, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com reported:

    While free-agent forward Pau Gasol grew tired of the persistent trade rumors that followed him for the better part of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he would give strong consideration to re-signing with the team, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

    Gasol has strong ties to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who has advocated for his return, and a deep affinity for Los Angeles and the franchise he won two NBA titles with. 

    Teams that are ready to win now know that a healthy Gasol is one of the best values they'll find in free agency, so expect him to be hotly pursued.

14) Lance Stephenson: UFA

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    Lance Stephenson: UFA

    July 16: Signed with Charlotte Hornets, three years, $27 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 14.7 PER, 56.4 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    This is a tough one. On talent level alone, Stephenson needs to be in the top 10 of this list. Once you factor in character concerns and the lack of a long production history, Stephenson becomes a little dicier.

    With that said, Stephenson has the potential to become one of the most dynamic shooting guards in the league. He's a great playmaker, he gets to the rim with his strong frame and speed, and when he's motivated and engaged, he's a nasty defender.

    A lot will depend on whether Stephenson can continue to evolve as a spot-up shooter and be a little more willing to play off the ball, but the raw potential for greatness is here. The rest of Stephenson's development will come mostly between the ears.

    As an unrestricted free agent, teams willing to take the leap with Stephenson better be prepared to pay up. It's not often a player this talented and this young enters unrestricted free agency, and when he does, he usually gets paid.

    The Indiana Pacers can't afford to lose Stephenson for nothing, but the decision will rest in the young guard's hands. His choice could impact the Eastern Conference greatly, and once teams realize they aren't getting Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, they'll likely come calling for Stephenson. 

13) Marcin Gortat: UFA

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    Marcin Gortat: UFA

    July 1: Signed with Washington Wizards, five years, $60 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 14.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 17.6 PER, 56.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Nothing Marcin Gortat does is going to "wow" you, but consistent big men who are solid on both ends always get paid handsomely when their contracts come up. Gortat should be no exception.

    While the Washington Wizards will certainly want to retain the guy who solidified their frontcourt for the entire season, they're going to have to pony up to do so. Anything less than $10 million annually for Gortat would be a surprise, as that dollar point seems to be the average for free-agent centers. 

    Essentially, you have to overpay solid big men, and there's a good chance Gortat is the best true center that will be unrestricted and readily available. 

    Again, Gortat is not a spectacular talent, but he rebounds the ball well, sets beefy screens for guards and rolls hard to the rim. There are very few blatant weaknesses in his game, and he's shown he can produce in virtually any situation. Free agency can be a minefield for teams to walk through, but Gortat is one of the safest bets out there.

12) Isaiah Thomas: RFA

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    Isaiah Thomas: RFA

    July 11: Signed with Phoenix Suns, four years, $27 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 21.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 20.5 PER, 57.4 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Too high? That might be true given the depth of the point guard position and the scarcity of starting jobs around the league. But Thomas is an electric young talent who is one of the very best scorers available in free agency.

    It's odd that the Sacramento Kings have never seemed to be all that comfortable with Thomas running the show, especially since it's clear that he's one of the very few players DeMarcus Cousins seems to trust and enjoy playing with. The two have developed a nice chemistry in the pick-and-roll, and Thomas has made strides as a distributor when his playing time has become more consistent.

    Speaking of consistent, his shooting stroke has been the definition of that during his first three years in the league. Thomas has somehow recorded the exact same true shooting percentage three years in a row, and his sparkling PER helps paint the picture of how efficient he's been overall.

    While he's limited defensively because of his size, Thomas isn't afraid to fly into the trees and get to the free-throw line. He's the total package offensively, and next to a three-and-D guard, he could be a part of an elite backcourt.

    With Sacramento nearing the luxury-tax line thanks to Rudy Gay's giant contract, a sizable offer sheet for Thomas in restricted free agency could have him wearing a new uniform next year. A sign-and-trade situation could be at play here as well. Teams that need some help in the backcourt and a scoring punch should look no further than Thomas, as his reputation hasn't quite caught up with his immense production. There's a lot of value to be had here. 

11) Luol Deng: UFA

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    Luol Deng: UFA

    July 13: Signed with Miami Heat two years, $20 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 15.2 PER, 51.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Although his short time with the Cleveland Cavaliers left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, Deng is a solid veteran player who knows his role and can help a team away from the ball, which is almost always underrated in free agency.

    Deng is a strong stopper with length that can take on the other team's best wing each night, but he's also a smart help defender and a great cutter on the baseline offensively. Intelligence is his biggest strength, so it's not hard to see Deng fitting with multiple teams, despite his lack of a consistently dangerous three-point shot.

    One of the worries with Deng is that he won't be able to hold up over the life of his next contract because of the heavy minutes he played while with the Chicago Bulls under Tom Thibodeau. But Deng is pretty good at fighting through injuries and gutting it out. He's lost a little something off his fastball because of that, but he has a lot of good basketball left in him.

    It's easy to see Deng going to a fringe contender, particularly if he wants to get paid over $10 million annually. Teams that can't typically recruit the top stars would be wise to target Deng, as he's one of the best two-way players available who might be open to joining a team that isn't in a major market.

10) Chandler Parsons: RFA

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    Chandler Parsons: RFA

    July 10: Signed with Dallas Mavericks, three years, $45 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 15.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 15.9 PER, 56.5 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    The Houston Rockets surprised some people when they declined the team option worth less than $1 million for Chandler Parsons, but in doing so, they ensured they'd at least have the chance to retain Parsons in restricted free agency this offseason.

    It seems like something bigger is cooking here for Houston, and whether Parsons is willing to play along should dictate how much time in free agency Rockets GM Daryl Morey has to play with.

    If the Rockets can trade or sign another star before having to match an offer sheet or negotiate a new deal with Parsons, everything will have worked out as planned. If they have to match a big deal for Parsons beforehand, however? That could spoil things.

    Parsons will certainly have his suitors both for his play and because teams will want to keep Houston from becoming even more dangerous. Parsons can play the 3 or a small 4 fairly easily, and his level of athleticism combined with his outside shooting makes for a pretty dangerous player. He can slash-and-kick, spot up and even pick-and-pop, which makes him a pretty versatile offensive threat. And that's reflected in his stat line.

    One would assume Parsons has a handshake deal to not sign a huge offer sheet the minute free agency starts, but business isn't pretty. Chances are he'll be back in Houston next season, but keep your eye on this going forward.

9) Gordon Hayward: RFA

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    Gordon Hayward: RFA

    July 12: Utah Jazz match Charlotte Hornets' offer for four years, $63 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 16.2 PER, 52.0 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    After a few seasons of not receiving nearly enough playing time, Gordon Hayward showed his versatile all-around game last year for the Utah Jazz. Although he has no one dominant asset, Hayward can function as a third scorer, rebound fairly well and act as a point forward who can initiate offense.

    Hayward's size and skill on the wing will certainly be coveted by other teams, but it's hard to say if he's truly worth the max coming off his rookie deal. While there's potential to grow, Hayward is by no means a great defender or a No. 1 option on a playoff crew. How much should a team be willing to pay for a sidekick?

    Free agency can often inflate a player's value, and that might happen with Hayward. Teams know that Utah will match any reasonable offer, so if Hayward does sign an offer sheet elsewhere, there's a good chance it will be near his max. Here's Jody Genessy of the Deseret News on what Utah might do in that situation:

    "Jazz are prepared to match any offers to restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, per sources. Phoenix, Boston and Charlotte all interested."

    Utah isn't anywhere close to competing quite yet, but there's a nice core in place. Dropping serious money into Hayward at this point isn't ideal, but Utah can't afford to lose assets for nothing. He should be retained by the Jazz, but it's fun to imagine Hayward's game next to elite players. Hayward would look much more impressive on a team where defenses can't totally hone in on him.

    Hayward has the chance to be one of the league's best wings for a long time coming, and Utah likely knows that. Despite Charlotte's best attempts, he should be in a Jazz uniform next year.

8) Kyle Lowry: UFA

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    Kyle Lowry: UFA

    July 2: Signed with Toronto Raptors, four years, $48 million. 

    2013-14 Stats: 17.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 20.1 PER, 56.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Lowry was truly one of the best two-way forces in the league last year, finally fulfilling his untapped potential via a full-time starting role for the Toronto Raptors. Lowry's leadership, scoring, distributing and defending were all on point, and now both he and the Raptors have a difficult decision coming up.

    Teams recruiting Lowry have to ask: Was Lowry so great this year because he finally received the reins to a team, or is it a little too convenient that his best season came in a contract year? Lowry hasn't had the best reputation as a coachable player in the past, but that seemed to melt away as he put the Raptors on his back after Rudy Gay was traded.

    After multiple players re-sign with their current teams, it's very possible that Lowry ends up being the second-best available free agent behind Carmelo Anthony.

    Toronto will have decide how hard to go after Lowry. The return to the playoffs and momentum built would be a shame to waste, but paying Lowry his likely salary of about $12 million a year or so may be too difficult to stomach, especially since the point guard position around the league is so deep.

    Lowry may not have a ton of suitors outside of Toronto, but the teams that want him will likely be prepared to shell out some serious cash. He was phenomenal last season, and he earned himself a big long-term deal.

     

7) Greg Monroe: RFA

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    Greg Monroe: RFA

    2013-14 Stats: 16.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 18.1 PER, 53.1 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    If you're looking for a sign-and-trade candidate, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe has to be pretty high up the list. Monroe hasn't shown the ability to play well next to Andre Drummond, and with noted stretch 4 enthusiast Stan Van Gundy now coaching and in a front office role, that could leave Monroe on the outside looking in. 

    A lot might depend on what happens with Josh Smith, specifically whether the Pistons can trade him. Either way, it's hard to imagine Detroit investing the amount of money necessary to keep Monroe (almost certainly the max) to retain a starting frontcourt that was regularly outplayed last year.

    Monroe should be able to fetch a nice piece or solid assets in a trade, even if Detroit won't have a ton of leverage outside of threatening to keep him by matching his offer sheet. As unlikely as that seems, it's probably more palatable than losing an asset for nothing.

    Monroe is a potential franchise building block, so long as he's in the right system and has a strong supporting cast around him. He's a good rebounder and a big body, he can score around the rim and, he's an excellent passer out of either post. Detroit has failed to maximize his potential, so it would be a surprise if he doesn't improve under a new coach and different teammates.

    He's by no means a lock to get dealt, but it seems like there's a pretty good chance Monroe winds up in a different uniform next year. This free-agency class is relatively short on young big men, and Monroe clearly heads the list. That should make him a very rich man no matter what Detroit does.

6) Dwyane Wade: UFA

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    Dwyane Wade: UFA

    July 15: Signed with Miami Heat, two years, $31.1 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 22.0 PER, 58.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Wade is one of the most intriguing free agents out there, if only because it seems so unlikely that he would ever leave Miami, since he's played his entire career there and has had so much success. There would have to be clear incentive present for Wade to move cities.

    Obviously, a lot will depend on the decision of LeBron James and where he chooses to play. If James and Bosh both leave, perhaps Wade would be open to latching onto a contender if he didn't want to spend his last few years in South Beach.

    The most likely scenario is that Wade and the rest of the Big Three will take pay cuts to bring in more talent to Miami. Wade is by far the most deserving to make less money, as there's virtually no chance he can play a full season anymore with the health of his knees. After disappearing in the Finals, there are questions about how effective he'll be going forward.

    Still, Wade would be hotly recruited if he ever decided to leave Miami, based both on his production and his star value. He can still play a large role on a great team, even if he can no longer carry one on his own. Chances are, he'll be the last to act between James and Bosh when it comes to deciding his future.

5) Eric Bledsoe: RFA

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    Eric Bledsoe: RFA

    2013-14 Stats: 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 19.6 PER, 57.8 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    It may be a bit alarming to see Eric Bledsoe's name alongside so many legitimate stars, but he's well on his way to that. Bledsoe is far from a finished product, and already he's proven to be a dynamic two-way player who can hold either guard spot and make incredible plays because of his speed and athleticism.

    The idea of giving Bledsoe his max deal might not sit well with some, but it will probably be necessary for Phoenix to retain him in restricted free agency. While it's possible that Bledsoe negotiates for less over more years with Phoenix instead of going out and signing an offer sheet, either way, he should be in Phoenix.

    Whether he's on the ball or off it, Bledsoe can impact the game in surprising ways, like blocking shots or skying for offensive rebounds. There really isn't much of anything he can't do on the court, as he's a pretty solid shooter with his feet set, though that isn't his strength. In that regard, the Dwyane Wade comparisons hold some merit, even if Wade is the superior scorer.

    Still, that Bledsoe can even come near the level of one of the greatest shooting guards the league has ever seen tells you quite a bit. With Wade on the decline, Bledsoe is the best guard on the free-agent market, and it would be a surprise if he isn't paid like it. There are minor injury concerns here, but Bledsoe is a star and Phoenix should recognize it.

4) Dirk Nowitzki: UFA

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    Dirk Nowitzki: UFA

    July 3: Signed with Dallas Mavericks, three years, $25 million.

    Update: July 15 at 11 p.m. ET

    According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, "Dirk Nowitzki has taken an even bigger pay cut than expected to help Mark Cuban fortify the Dallas Mavericks' roster, according to sources with knowledge of the star forward's contract.

    Sources told ESPN.com that Nowitzki's new contract, which was officially announced Tuesday, is actually a three-year deal worth a mere $25 million."

    ---End of Update---

     

    2013-14 Stats: 23.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 23.6 PER, 60.3 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Has there ever been less intrigue in a star free agent hitting unrestricted free agency? Dirk Nowitzki could technically leave the Dallas Mavericks, but no one is taking about that as a realistic possibility.

    Nowitzki has played his entire career in Dallas, he's won a ring there relatively recently, and he just comes across as a loyal guy that has no interest in attaching himself to a star for a few last shots a ring. It would certainly be interesting if Nowitzki explored the market, but we can safely rule that out. Here's what Nowitzki told Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News earlier this year:

    We want to get better as a team. And I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sign Kobe's dealunfortunately (Bryant signed a two-year, $48 million extension). We'll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here. Cubes has been great to me and been loyal to me for a long, long time. I'm sure we're going to find a great solution for everybody.

    Nowitzki isn't just a member of the Dallas Mavericks; he is the Dallas Mavericks. While there will be some challenges building a championship team around him, the Mavericks were one of the best No. 8 seeds ever last year, pushing the eventual champion Spurs to seven games thanks in large part to Nowitzki's performances.

    It's pretty incredible that Nowitzki continues to perform at such a high level, and last season was one of his finest shooting campaigns yet. He can still get it done, and with cap space to play with, Dallas could be even more dangerous next season. He's staying put.

3) Chris Bosh: UFA

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Chris Bosh: UFA

    July 11: Signed with Miami Heat, five years, $118 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 19.0 PER, 59.7 TS% (Per 36 minutes)

    Don't mistake Bosh's willingness to de-emphasize his scoring as a sign that he's no longer capable of putting up huge numbers when given the opportunity. Bosh has settled into a role as a floor spacer and outlet for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade over the last few years, but he's still a very capable option you can run offense through.

    Perhaps more importantly, Bosh has proven to be a valuable system defender that can snuff out pick-and-rolls with his mobility. He's a strong all-around player; any team would be lucky to have his shooting ability and smart play at either the 4 or 5 spot.

    While Bosh may not have the desire to be "the top dog" again, he could leave Miami and still keep his role relatively intact. Teams like Houston and Chicago could be great fits, but Bosh would be a little crazy to leave LeBron James before James leaves him.

    Again, like so many of the other free agents, everything will start and finish based off what James decides to do. Bosh is no different, but his arrival to a contender could absolutely change the landscape of the NBA.

    He's been slept on and dismissed for years now, but Bosh is one of the best two-way forwards in all of basketball. He's shown he can adapt and fit in just about anywhere, which might come in handy should LeBron leave. Otherwise, it will be business as usual, as he'll likely accept a little less money to win a few more rings in Miami.

2) Carmelo Anthony: UFA

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Carmelo Anthony: UFA

    July 12: Signed with New York Knicks, five years, $124 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 24.4 PER, 56.1 TS% (per 36 minutes)

    Carmelo Anthony should be this free-agency period's big fish. By opting out of his contract, Anthony opened the door to leave the New York Knicks and team up with superstars elsewhere right away.

    Which teams could make a play for him? It seems like the Chicago Bulls might be the best fit, as Joakim Noah is a perfect frontcourt partner who can protect him defensively and deliver him the ball in a little high-low action. Derrick Rose, if healthy, is one of the best players in the league and will get Anthony open shots all day. With a strong supporting cast of shooting and defense, the Bulls could give Anthony what he needs to win a title, and Anthony wouldn't have to change or sacrifice much to win big.

    There are other teams like the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns that would be awfully interesting as well, but it all boils down to what Anthony wants. If he wants the most money in the biggest market, New York is the best option. If he wants to compete for a title immediately, there are quite a few teams who can provide that sooner than the Knicks should be able to.

    Even though he's not without his warts, Anthony is one of the best scorers in all of basketball. There's virtually no part of the floor he isn't a threat to score from, and his ability to carry an offense single-handedly should appeal to plenty of teams. He's the total package on that end.

    Although he may be high maintenance in terms of who he plays with and how many touches he gets, his talent level is outrageously high.

    If Anthony decides he wants out, the Knicks would do well to orchestrate a sign-and-trade and at least get something in return for him. That seems like the most likely option at this point, especially since teams like Chicago and Houston might have a hard time clearing the necessary cap space on their own if Anthony wants a max deal, which seems likely.

    With that said, keep an eye on Anthony and James. If the two can find a way to team up somewhere, that might be a very appealing option for both players. If Melo isn't willing to wait until 2015 when the Knicks will have massive cap space, he could easily bolt. Other than James, he's the player to watch this offseason.

1) LeBron James: UFA

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    LeBron James: UFA

    July 11: Signed with Cleveland Cavaliers, two years, $42.2 million.

    2013-14 Stats: 25.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 29.3 PER, 64.9 TS% (per 36 minutes)

    All eyes, once again, are on LeBron James. After shocking the world back in 2010 by taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron is back in position to dictate his future and change the course of basketball history.

    This is a huge moment for James, as he's very much in the prime of his career and could be at a crossroads with his teammates.

    Can James count on Dwyane Wade to be healthy once again and perform when he's most desperately needed? Can he find a better star than Chris Bosh to pair up with long term? Is he worried about his legacy if he jumps ship after losing in the Finals?

    There's so much to consider here, but keep in mind that the basketball world revolves around James. He can bring talent to Miami, and he can take less money to better accomplish that. Wherever he ends up is automatically a Finals contender, so things like ownership, management, relationships and comfort levels matter a ton here.

    With that in mind, the safe money is on LeBron and company all re-signing in Miami. Even if James doesn't take a pay cut, Miami should be able to find a way to surround him with the talent necessary to win titles going forward. Here's Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com with more on what LeBron may want in free agency:

    Teams that contact James will be informed that he wants no less than the maximum salary number for next season, sources said. The max number for James is projected to be about $20.7 million. In 2010, James accepted a pay cut when he signed with the Miami Heat, taking less than the maximum salary to help make space for other free agents.

    James' demand for the length of his next deal is in flux. After the Finals, James said flexibility was important to him, hinting that he may not be looking for a full four- or five-year contract.

    The whole world will be watching and waiting to see what LeBron does. Here's guessing he stays in Miami and remains the best player on the planet for a long, long time.

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