NBA Free Agency 2014: Team-by-Team Primer to This Year's Class
Will the Miami Heat retain the Big Three and add another prominent piece to a roster seeking a fifth straight championship appearance?
Is Phil Jackson's sales pitch going to work on Carmelo Anthony, or is the high-scoring star bound to head to a greener pasture than the one he's occupied in Madison Square Garden for the last few years?
Will Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Greg Monroe or any of the other notable restricted free agents change teams, or will they all be retained by the rosters that boasted their services in 2013-14?
The offseason is a time of questions, including those and so many more.
But it's also a time of answers.
So, how does your team stand heading into the period of the year that is filled with so much movement?
The Atlanta Hawks aren't just going to be content sitting back and waiting for second- and third-tier free agents to fall into their laps.
Trading Lucas Nogueira and Lou Williams to the Toronto Raptors for John Salmons was the first clear-cut indication that general manager Danny Ferry will be quite aggressive this offseason. Salmons is there just so he can be cut, which saves the Hawks another $6 million and gets them closer to having the money necessary for a max offer.
If they trade Paul Millsap for cap room, the Hawks would have enough to make the type of offer that has somewhat of a shot at luring Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James into a system that's quite conducive to their talents. Trade Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, and Atlanta could land both superstars—if they're willing to take discounts to play together.
Should Atlanta fail in its pursuit of the top-tier guys, though, a number of targets would still make sense. And this is the route most likely to pop up, as the Hawks are dark horses in their pursuit of the MVP candidates...at best. Chandler Parsons and Luol Deng are both affordable and good fits for the movement-heavy system that emphasizes quality defense and perimeter shooting, for example.
Don't expect the Hawks to fail in all their pursuits this summer.
"We don’t want to do anything in a panic or in a rush to get there," general manager Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. "There are free agents out there waiting to see what kind of team you’ll have and what opportunities are there. You can believe we’ll try to do anything we can to land the best players in the league whenever we can."
The Boston Celtics have limited cap space, but they can open up $5.3 million more by waiving Keith Bogans and his unguaranteed salary. Using the trade exception from the Paul Pierce deal last year will also help the team make moves but only in the next few weeks.
Basically, the C's aren't going to be big players in the free-agent market. They'll pursue Gordon Hayward—due to both need and the Brad Stevens connection—but it's unlikely the Utah Jazz would just let the young swingman walk away without matching his offer sheet.
More realistically, Boston will be in near-constant trade discussions.
Marcus Smart's arrival means that Avery Bradley or Rajon Rondo could be on the way out. Kevin Love is always going to be on the radar, especially since the team has so many draft picks that can be traded away to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Even if marquee free agents aren't realistically going to be linked to Beantown, the rebuild still looks promising.
The Brooklyn Nets will focus their offseason attention on finding a coach to replace Jason Kidd, who forced his way out of his former home after a failed power play. With last year's head coach now on the Milwaukee Bucks sideline, ownership has to replace him, which is a rather unexpected twist.
When it comes to free agency, the Nets are completely capped out.
Even with Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston hitting the open market, they have zero financial flexibility, leaving them able to use just cap exceptions and Bird rights to re-sign their former players. Losing the two aforementioned starters would be a devastating blow, as there's really no way to replace either of them.
"Before this whole Jason Kidd fiasco, the prevailing feeling around the organization seemed optimistic that, yes, they would retain Pierce," writes ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo, who also explained that retaining Livingston is doubtful. "Now, it’s more uncertain."
That proved true, as the Golden State Warriors signed Livingston to "the league's full mid-level exception for the next three seasons," per Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
Everything is up in the air for an organization that suddenly became more tumultuous than anyone thought possible.
The Charlotte Hornets have plenty of money to play with, but rather than chase superstars, it seems as though they'll be pursuing players who fill defined needs.
Those needs? Perimeter shooting and an offensive presence at the 3.
Seeing as the Hornets can pay the asking price for either Chandler Parsons or Luol Deng, those two small forwards would make the most sense as primary targets. And both are realistic options to pair with Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker for this future Eastern Conference power.
"There is no reason to believe he wouldn't learn quickly. If Charlotte wants to give Parsons over $10 million a year, they should do it with no reservations," speculates Justin Hussong for Bleacher Report while calling the restricted free agent the team's biggest potential get.
Lance Stephenson and Gordon Hayward are likely targets as well, though neither fits with the current roster quite as well as the aforementioned small forwards.
Even after the Hornets added Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston in the draft, finding quality perimeter shooting to replace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's broken jumper (though MKG's defense still means he'll have a large role in the rotation) is the top priority.
The Chicago Bulls' offseason is steeped in question marks.
Will the Bulls decide to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer? They should, given his egregiously high salary and failure to make them better, but there's no guarantee they will.
Will Chicago bring over Nikola Mirotic? The former first-round pick has been playing for Real Madrid, and this is supposed to be the summer he makes the journey across the pond. However, buying his contract will cost the Bulls management more money, which might make them hesitant.
Will the Bulls land a superstar? That's the biggest question of all.
Even though the team is gearing up to make a run at LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, nothing is certain. This is a realistic destination for either superstar, but Derrick Rose won't help recruit the men he's competed with throughout his career, and both players have plenty of other appealing options. Then again, Rose may still be a part of the delegation meeting with Anthony, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson.
Melo is the likelier free-agency addition—not to the point that Chicago should be called the favorite in the hunt for his services, but certainly enough so that the Bulls are right in the mix.
As The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto writes, you probably shouldn't expect LeBron James to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, even if they're one of the few teams capable of throwing the coveted max offer at him:
The Cavs will make a big push, but it will be a tough sell. The Cavs have an unknown as a coach (Euroleague import David Blatt), a rookie general manager (David Griffin) and a team that hasn't come close to the playoffs in the last four years. Owner Dan Gilbert's irate email will be way down the list of reasons that James would reject the Cavs. More likely, it will be his desire to win games right now -- and the Cavs remain far away from a championship caliber team.
Let's not forget that each of the past two No. 1 picks also play the same position as the four-time MVP.
Looking past LeBron, the Cavs still have plenty of potential targets. Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons and Greg Monroe will all be considered, though they are restricted free agents who could be hard to acquire, financial flexibility be damned.
The team's unrestricted targets will likely play the same positions, though.
Channing Frye and Spencer Hawes are intriguing players because they can shoot and space the court while lining up in the frontcourt. Marcin Gortat could have been a target, but he re-signed with the Washington Wizards.
But even if the Cavs strike out again and again, they'll at least get to rejoice in the presence of Andrew Wiggins and the extension that Kyrie Irving just agreed to sign on July 10, one that will run through the 2019-20 season. The dynamic point guard is now the first player to be controlled into the 2020s, and Cleveland has to be happy about that.
The Dallas Mavericks love going after big targets in free agency.
This year will be no different.
After trading for Tyson Chandler and gaining the ability to boast a stellar two-way frontcourt comprised of him and Dirk Nowitzki (once the German 7-footer signs the inevitable extension), Dallas is an appealing landing spot for all the big names—Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James included.
Those two might be aiming a bit high, though. It's foolish to count the Mavericks out of those pursuits, seeing as they have money and appeal, but lesser names are the more likely targets.
Bringing back Vince Carter and Shawn Marion will be discussed ad nauseam. So too will adding Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe, Kirk Hinrich and Greivis Vasquez, all in an attempt to upgrade from Raymond Felton at the point.
Bigger targets will include Luol Deng, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward, that same trio of small forwards that keeps coming up.
The Mavericks have money to spend, and they're eager to spend it. You can connect the dots.
At point guard, the Denver Nuggets have Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson. Joining them in the backcourt are Arron Afflalo, Randy Foye and Gary Harris, one of the team's picks in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.
At small forward, Danilo Gallinari will be returning to health and leading the charge for a position that also includes Wilson Chandler and Quincy Miller. The other forward position is comprised of Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and J.J. Hickson. Jusuf Nurkic, the No. 16 pick in the June 26 festivities, will be joining Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee at center to complete the frontcourt.
That's 14 players.
Seeing as the Nuggets already have a deep rotation and are pressed up against the cap, they won't be making any notable moves in free agency. Maybe they'll sign a young undrafted free agent with upside to fill up the 15th spot, but he can't be carried on the active roster anyway.
Acquiring Afflalo and drafting Harris were the big moves geared toward allowing Denver to make a jump this season, and they've already taken place.
The Detroit Pistons' offseason revolves around Greg Monroe.
Even though this team has plenty of money to spend, a large sum could be used to keep the big man they call "Moose" in the Motor City. Detroit has already offered a $5.5 million qualifying offer, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, but Monroe is surely going to make more than that. He might even draw a max offer from a team that is trying to force Detroit's hand.
It's quite the pickle for the Pistons.
He is certainly worth retaining, though he doesn't fit that well with a lineup that also includes Josh Smith and Andre Drummond, who looms large as the franchise centerpiece for years to come. But can they just let him walk away or take back a minimal return in a sign-and-trade deal?
Maybe. Maybe not.
We won't know until it happens.
"The Pistons seek players with a specific skill and aren't necessarily willing to break the bank for a single player, given the team's broad needs," reports MLive.com's David Mayo. "Most important, the current roster isn't stable enough to take character risks, Van Gundy said."
Basically, don't expect to see big names flooding Detroit, even if the cap space means they can be legally linked to the Pistons. The biggest you'll find is likely Jodie Meeks, whom Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports has inked a three-year, $19 million deal with Detroit, bringing far more shooting capabilities to the team than previously found on the roster.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are already capped out, which means they'll be looking to trades (cough, Kevin Love, cough) and cap exceptions if they're trying to upgrade the roster.
And it's a safe assumption that they're trying to do exactly that after a disappointing first-round exit this past season.
Perhaps the best—and most realistic—target is Channing Frye, who has opted out of his contract with the Phoenix Suns. Andre Iguodala in particular would be excited about that, as he made clear on Sirius XM, via Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:
I've talked to Channing a few times. I told him how great the Bay was. I told him how his family would enjoy it. I know his family well. My family knows his family, so it wouldn't be strangers. I would take care of him. If he needed a room, I got an extra room for him.
I like to pass a lot. I passed to Channing a lot in college, so Channing knows that he'll be able to shoot the rock.
Frye is just the type of player the Dubs will be looking to as they try to shore up their bench. While attempting to make trades for players like Love and Ryan Anderson will draw the focus, don't overlook the pursuit of key second-unit players who can aid the portion of the team that really struggled in 2013-14.
However, that quote from Iguodala came before the Warriors signed Shaun Livingston to a three-year deal. Livingston will provide veteran leadership and a unique skill set in Golden State.
The Houston Rockets are leaving no doubt about their intentions this summer.
First, they traded Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a 2015 first-round draft pick. Clearing his poison pill from the books opens up more monetary flexibility, making it easier to go after a superstar.
Expect to see something similar done with Jeremy Lin.
The Rockets have also declined Chandler Parsons' team option, making him a restricted free agent, and their first-round pick was used on Clint Capela, who could be stashed away overseas to save even more cap room for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
That's the ultimate goal, after all.
"League sources say that Houston is preparing to make an all-out push to land James when free agency opens on July 1, assuming James opts out, as expected," reports Bleacher Report's Howard Beck. "If the Rockets miss out on James, they will turn their full attention to Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is also on the radar."
LeBron has opted out. Now he's the No. 1 target, and a fairly realistic one at that.
And the beauty of this situation?
If Melo and LeBron are leaning elsewhere, the Rockets can cut their losses and extend Parsons. It's the rare win-win scenario in free agency.
It's all about Lance Stephenson.
"The 2014-15 salary cap and luxury tax thresholds will be announced after the July moratorium period, however projections have the figures at approximately $63.2 million and $77.0 million, respectively" explains Candace Buckner for IndyStar.com. "Fitting with the tradition of [team owner Herb] Simon's wishes, the Pacers plan to spend up to the luxury tax, not exceeding it."
And that's what makes things complicated.
Should Stephenson want an eight-figure salary during the 2014-15 campaign, it's going to make it awfully difficult for the Indiana Pacers to justify retaining him.
After all, that means the bench would have to be comprised almost solely of minimum salaries and undrafted free agents, which makes it even weaker than the one this past season, which was ultimately a large part of the team's downfall.
If he takes a discount for the team he's developed with, things get a lot easier. But will he do that?
Until the 2-guard's value is ascertained, no other pieces can fall in place for Indy.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers desperately need to address their frontcourt rotation, which is currently comprised of nothing more than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. That's a fabulous start, but the bench is rather lacking.
As in, the bench doesn't have anyone there.
After failing to address this dire need during the draft, instead inexplicably selecting C.J. Wilcox to fill the same role as a number of incumbent players, that has to be the focus in free agency.
But so far, the Clippers have been linked to LeBron James and believe they can steal Paul Pierce away from the Brooklyn Nets for a reunion with Doc Rivers, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Quality players, sure, but not true big men, even if both can play the 4.
Unfortunately for LAC, the frontcourt crop is rather thin this offseason, and the Clippers don't have much money to spend. They're already well over the cap, needing to use exceptions and minimum contracts to shore up that second unit.
If they hope to remain on the shortlist of teams capable of winning the 2014-15 title, the Clippers have to figure this out sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall under contract. Once Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson ink their rookie deals, they'll join the club and push membership to six.
Seriously. That's it.
The Purple and Gold have the money necessary to go out and get virtually any free agent. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony want to play together? Well, here's a legitimate destination, so long as they're willing to take slight pay cuts.
Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com explains two possibilities:
Although the Lakers' ideal free-agency scenario involves convincing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come play for them this summer, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking, they are not ruling out the return of the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Gasol by any means.
If LeBron and Melo do go elsewhere, the Lakers can lure in guys like Luol Deng with a godfather offer. They'll pursue restricted free agents like Isaiah Thomas, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward as well.
Basically, the Lakers can be linked with every free agent on the open market. Whether they get them is a different story, especially if general manager Mitch Kupchak wants to maintain financial flexibility for next summer.
The possibilities are limitless.
Now that Zach Randolph has picked up his $16.9 million player option for 2014-15 and inked a two-year extension that will kick in the season after, the Memphis Grizzlies are already over the salary cap.
Fortunately, their lineup is just about set as well.
Mike Conley, Tony Allen/Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, Z-Bo and Marc Gasol will all be back in the starting lineup. Many of the backups will as well, and they'll be aided by the return of Quincy Pondexter and the addition of Jordan Adams, both of whom can provide a new perimeter element to David Joerger's offense.
As Brandon Speck writes for Fox Sports Tennessee, "The Memphis Grizzlies' summer of free agency might actually be more of an in-house rewards program than a search for outside talent."
Don't expect many changes.
Memphis doesn't even have any dream scenarios, barring the addition of veterans on minimum contracts. Nothing particularly glamorous is in the works.
LeBron James has opted out, and he's apparently seeking a max contract, as reported by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.
Dwyane Wade has opted out. Chris Bosh has opted out. Udonis Haslem has opted out.
Windhorst also reveals that the $55 million the Miami Heat have to spend this offseason is the all-time record, though they'll be trying to use it on the players who declined to pick up their options.
In fact, the dream isn't just to bring back the Big Three and try to make the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row; it's to ink LeBron, Wade and Bosh to smaller deals so that they can bring in another prominent figure. Someone like Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza or—yes—Carmelo Anthony.
However, that's going to be rather unlikely if LeBron really is set on making as much money as he can. Even after adding Shabazz Napier in the draft, the supporting cast won't be as strong if he's making more than $20 million in 2014-15.
Nonetheless, Windhorst is reporting that the Heat are telling free agents they'll have $12 million remaining after signing the Big Three, which is enough to add one of those other prominent players.
It would help if LeBron wanted even less, but the Heat have to acquiesce to his wishes. If that's what he wants, that's what he'll be offered, and Pat Riley will have to work magic when adding quality pieces to a bench that often let down the starters this past run at a title.
Miami could very well end up right where it began—in the pole position for the championship chase. But everyone could also leave as well, although Heat nation doesn't want to admit it.
For now, returns seem likely. "Likely" just isn't the same as "guaranteed."
Let's take a healthy break from the Jason Kidd situation to focus solely on free agency.
"We'll see what happens as we move forward throughout the summer," general manager John Hammond said last week, per Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman. "We have a lot of time left before the season starts. We have a considerable amount of cap room. We'll see how we address that. There are going to be some opportunities for us, but there's a chance we start the season as we are in the backcourt."
With the roster already nearly full and possessing plenty of options in the frontcourt, the backcourt is really the only thing that needs to be addressed. And if that's not going to change, what is?
The Bucks may splurge, using some of their enormous cap space to bring back Ramon Sessions, but this team is still trying to give minutes to the young guns while sticking to a long-term rebuilding plan. And despite last year's record, the roster already has plenty of potential.
Don't expect Milwaukee to make any noise during free agency.
Everything depends on Kevin Love.
The All-Star big man made it through the draft without leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves, and now there's a much stronger possibility he could last the whole offseason without a trade. At the same time, though, all it takes is one offer.
Should that acceptable deal come in, Minnesota won't hesitate to deal the power forward. If it doesn't, there's no reason for the 'Wolves to settle, as there's cause to believe this team can rebound from a tough go-round in 2013-14 to make the playoffs for the first time in Love's career.
Why is the focus on Love when discussing free agency?
Because Minnesota is already capped out and has control over 14 players, including Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III, the draft-day additions. If Love isn't moved, Minnesota might go the entire offseason without making any moves of significance.
New Orleans Pelicans
As NOLA.com's John Reid explains, the New Orleans Pelicans' plans revolve around small forwards:
When free agency begins on Monday at 11 p.m., New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps is expected to make a push to acquire a quality small forward, a primary need the franchise has lacked having for the past two seasons.
Demps said they have targets in mind and plan to aggressively pursue them. He wouldn't disclose specifically who they are targeting, but this summer's free agent class of small forwards is not lacking talent.
That's been the position of need, as the bevy of lesser players hasn't worked at the 3. Additionally, playing Tyreke Evans at small forward isn't advisable, even if Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon are also on the court to help provide some spacing.
The Pelicans have already acquired Omer Asik, providing the team with rim protection while letting Anthony Davis roam on both ends of the court. That doesn't leave much cap room at all, so the pursuits of small forwards will largely rest on the ability to lure one in with a smaller deal.
Will a notable player take a pay cut to play on an up-and-coming team in the Western Conference? It depends on how much appeal "The Unibrow" has, as well as the squad's potential when it's not decimated by injuries.
Expect the Pelicans to go after lesser targets. Reid speculates that Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Marvin Williams, Mike Miller, Danny Granger, Richard Jefferson, Caron Butler and Shawn Marion are all going to be on the radar.
New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony is just about the only thing that matters.
Fortunately for the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson feels confident, per ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk:
It's a big question because there are so many things that can happen out there. We really don't know. With LeBron getting in this free agency, and all this stuff, kind of tipsy and turvy right now.
We don't know what all that means. But we have every confidence that Carmelo is good for what his word is, that he wants to be in New York, he likes playing in New York, he wants to compete, he wants to be part of a playoff team that is competitive toward a championship.
If Jackson is right, Anthony may even take a discounted contract, one that would aid the team in its 2015 endeavors. If he's not, Melo may still re-sign for a max deal, or he could leave for another location that offers him a more immediate shot at a championship.
The Knicks will go after Pau Gasol and a number of other big names, trying to Zen Master them into taking small deals for a shot at playing in Madison Square Garden, but that's about all the appeal in New York. There's no money to offer or many valuable trade assets who could be used in a sign-and-trade.
Chances are, it's Melo or bust. And in this case, bust involves a finish up near the top of the 2015 lottery.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Pau Gasol will be meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder as he tries to take his talents to a team capable of chasing a title and actually earning one, but that still feels like a rather unlikely landing spot for the Spanish 7-footer.
Not only would he be taking a huge pay cut to land with the Thunder, who don't have any cap space to spend, but he'd be competing with Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams and Mitch McGary for playing time.
Is he one of the two best on that list? Sure, but OKC can't afford to let the playing time of the young frontcourt members stagnate.
Chances are, the Thunder won't make a signing quite so glamorous.
Re-signing Thabo Sefolosha and building a stronger backcourt portion of the bench should be the top priorities, even if OKC has limited money to do so.
"And the Orlando Magic are another team said to possess Greg Monroe interest," reports Marc Stein for ESPN.
Well, that would explain a lot.
The Orlando Magic have an insane amount of cap space, especially if they don't pick up all their guaranteed contracts, but they don't seem to have many targets. After clearing more space by waiving Jameer Nelson, though, it's quite clear they're going after someone.
They have to be with that much money at their disposal.
Orlando could even offer Monroe a max deal, making it hard for the Detroit Pistons to match. Is it likely? It may well be, given Rob Hennigan's desire to keep adding as much talent as possible to his roster before making that inevitable playoff push sometime in the future.
However, even if the Magic don't land Monroe and instead go after a few minor free agents so that they're spending a legal amount of money, this is still a promising roster. Right now, they can start Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, boasting a five-man lineup with potential at every spot.
"Why do the Sixers need somebody who will have a great season but not amount to much in the win column right now? There's just not a logical answer for it, especially when you consider how talented the 2015 free-agent pool is," explains Zachary Arthur for Bleacher Report.
Even though the Philadelphia 76ers have as much money to spend as anyone (nearly, at least), few marquee free agents will be willing to play for a team that seems guaranteed to finish in the lottery once more. After all, GM Sam Hinkie gave no indication that he would try competing this season during the draft.
Why else would he have drafted an injured center (Joel Embiid) and a forward who is guaranteed to play abroad for two seasons before coming to the NBA (Dario Saric) with his first two picks in the opening round?
That's a future play, and a great one at that.
Philly's future still likes quite bright, but doing anything more than meeting the minimum salary threshold this offseason would be foolish.
Arthur speculates that Lance Stephenson could be one target, but beyond the talented 2-guard who makes people scratch their heads in disbelief as often as they do in awe, there aren't many sensible options for the up-and-coming Sixers.
Let's go ahead and forget about the Phoenix Suns' goal of signing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
That, as Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb explains, is a total pipe dream:
As much as the Suns have to offer in terms of youth and cap space, other teams are much closer to being established winners. That won't be lost on James or Anthony, both of whom are first and foremost looking to win championships.
Phoenix is wise to aim high and perform its due diligence with the kind of talent that's out there. But it would be even wiser to have a backup plan.
More realistic is maintaining the status quo, relying on internal improvement and draft-day additions to continue establishing legitimacy in the desert. This is a promising roster full of talented young pieces, especially if the Suns match any offer for Eric Bledsoe and re-sign Channing Frye to a long-term deal.
Phoenix is indeed one of the cap-space leaders, but it won't be once it signs all of its own free agents. And that should remain a larger priority than anything else.
Only after Bledsoe is locked up should the Suns look to sign one of the lesser small forwards. Bringing back the point guard, re-signing Frye and landing someone like Trevor Ariza would make for a perfect offseason.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers are basically going to spend the offseason calling every veteran player in the world and hoping that at least a few of them want to join the lackluster bench, helping to shore up a weakness that's been holding back an elite starting five.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports on Twitter that the Blazers are interested in Spencer Hawes, Boris Diaw and Josh McRoberts. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon explains that Rip City is in on the hunt for Vince Carter. ESPN.com's Marc Stein tweets that Portland is going after Paul Pierce.
See what I mean?
The Blazers were held back by a bench that defied the tradeoff between volume and efficiency by being incredibly inefficient while spending virtually no time on the court during the 2013-14 season. Even though they're just about capped out, they have to find a way to remedy this, especially after having zero picks in the draft that kicked off the offseason.
Anyone will help that lackluster unit.
With Rudy Gay exercising his $19.3 million option for the 2014-15 season, the focus now shifts to Isaiah Thomas.
Will he sign an extension with the Sacramento Kings? Will he sign an offer sheet elsewhere? If so, will the Kings exercise the right of first refusal and match the offer?
That's the most important set of questions for Sacramento, especially after overlooking Elfrid Payton in the 2014 NBA draft and instead selecting Nik Stauskas at No. 8. Without Thomas, a former Mr. Irrelevant, the Kings would be left starting Ray McCallum or remedying the point guard problem without any cap space.
But Thomas isn't the only storyline in Sactown.
The world deserves a starting five of Rondo, Ben McLemore/Stauskas, Gay, Smith and Cousins. Make it happen, Kings.
San Antonio Spurs
With Tim Duncan rejoining the team, the entire core for the San Antonio Spurs is almost in place. The only stragglers are Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, both of whom are hitting the open market as unrestricted free agents.
Should the defending champions keep these key subs, they'll essentially be the same squad they were in 2013-14. They'll just have no money left to make any additions, seeing as Diaw and Mills are likely to make well over the salary the Spurs have left before the cap, which checks in just more than $10 million.
However, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Mills will be out until March after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Wojnarowski says the Spurs still want to re-sign him, but his price surely must have come down.
Whatever happens, let's just all agree right now not to doubt any moves that the Spurs make.
The Toronto Raptors want to get things wrapped up with Kyle Lowry sooner rather than later, as the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen explained right before free agency officially opened on July 1:
The Rockets are expected to take a run at their former point guard Kyle Lowry, though the Raptors hope to reach agreement to keep him before the Rockets or other teams would have a chance to know where they stand with their initial targets.
Retaining the services of Lowry is the top priority for the Canadian franchise, which already upgraded the roster rather significantly by acquiring Lou Williams (a solid backup guard) and Lucas Nogueira (a raw 7-footer from Brazil with high upside) from the Atlanta Hawks for only John Salmons' expendable contract and a draft pick.
Bringing back Nando De Colo, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez, all of whom are restricted free agents and have been extended qualifying offers, will also be high on the list of priorities. In addition, the Raptors need to find a backup big man who can help protect the rim and add depth to the wing positions.
Toronto won't have much money to work with, though, assuming it brings back Lowry and at least a few of those restricted free agents.
"The Utah Jazz have the cap space to be players this offseason; only the Sixers, Suns and, now, the Heat, have more space. And Utah officials have said they’re willing to speed up their timeline, going all in on a free agent acquisition if the right player is willing to say yes," reports Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Will the right player be willing, though?
After all, the Jazz would need for that to be a young superstar, as anyone else would basically get in the way of the wealth of potential. Let's not forget that the Jazz currently roster Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert. That's potential at every position, save small forward.
And seeing as Gordon Hayward is a restricted free agent who should be brought back unless the price becomes exorbitant (read: a max contract), there will likely be across-the-board upside.
The Jazz will have to spend on veterans so they meet the minimum salary threshold, but don't expect them to try making a run at anything this season. Preserving cap space for the future while letting the young guns have a chance to shine has to be the plan.
Trevor Ariza (unrestricted), Trevor Booker (restricted), Drew Gooden (unrestricted), Marcin Gortat (unrestricted), Al Harrington (restricted), Kevin Seraphin (restricted), Chris Singleton (unrestricted) and Garrett Temple (unrestricted).
Those are all the players coming off the Washington Wizards roster and hitting free agency this summer, though you can take Gortat off that list. The team inked him to a five-year, $60 million contract, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
However, Ariza is another important piece, especially after Martell Webster underwent back surgery.
After paying for Gortat, the Wizards won't have much money left to add to their roster in prominent ways. They'll have to rely on adding quality veterans to the bench instead.
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