The past few weeks have represented a bit of a nervous time in the Gisclair household as I patiently awaited July 1.
Of course, the above-mentioned date is the first day of the NBA free agent calendar – a time of the year where the league’s top players can wheel and deal with other teams and move their talents elsewhere around the league.
For me, the nervous energy comes from the fact that my beloved Houston Rockets have money to blow, and are interested in dynamite players that could put us over the top in our quest to become a championship contender.
But away from personal allegiances, I’m also just excited to see how differently the league will look two weeks from now compared to how it looks today. Depending on what LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others decide, the entire landscape could be completely different.
So with all of this said, I’ve decided to have a little fun and break out the ol’ crystal ball to forecast how this whole thing will play out.
I’m not on Bob Breck’s level in terms of making predictions, so please don’t take this forecast as gospel.
But I think the projections I’ll map out have a decent chance to play out.
No matter what, the next two weeks look cloudy with a 100 percent chance of NBA free agency drama.
And I love it.
THE BIG FISH
1. LeBron James – The NBA’s king has already opted out of his contract. For the second time in his career, he will test the free agent waters and see what teams are available for his services. Rumor has it that LeBron will hear pitches from the Cavaliers, Bulls, Rockets and Clippers during his recruitment process. Undoubtedly, all of those teams have different appealing things that they can offer to the King James, but at the end of the day, I don’t think that LeBron will leave Miami. I think he loves South Beach too much to make a change in scenery at this stage in his career, so I think we see LeBron with Miami again next season. But because the team’s roster is a bit uncertain, I think James signs a short-term deal which will serve as a warning to Pat Riley to either get more future help or else.
Our Prediction: LeBron signs a two-year max deal with Miami with a player option for next season, meaning he could opt-out next summer and do this all over again if he doesn’t like the direction the Heat are headed.
2. Carmelo Anthony – While James is the biggest fish swimming in the league’s free agent waters, Anthony is going a little bit under the radar. Now 30 and desperate to play in big-time, high-stakes games, Carmelo’s camp has indicated a desire to go to a team destined to compete for championships. That mindset is the biggest reason why Melo opted out of the final year of his deal with the Knicks – a team rebuilding under new czar Phil Jackson. The same teams who want James will be competing for Anthony – some of the teams even fanaticizing about ways to pair the two together for the future, as they are close, personal friends. But while winning is nice, making money while winning is even better. I think that the talks of a Big 4 in Miami are outlandish and are unrealistic. So for that reason, I think Anthony chooses between the Knicks, Rockets and Bulls. At the end of the day, I see Melo signing with the Rockets, pairing with James Harden and Dwight Howard to form a fearsome Big 3 in H-Town. I’m nervous about this pairing – I’ve never been a huge fan of Melo. But we’ll see how it works if it all goes down.
Our Prediction: Melo signs a four-year max deal with the Rockets to pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden. The Knicks will say the right things, but will not be overly heartbroken at his departure.
3. Chris Bosh – The Miami big man also is due to get paid after spending his past four seasons with the Heat. Bosh has been woefully unappreciated during his time in Miami (especially by myself), but the truth is that he was playing out of position without frowning or pouting – something that deserves respect and admiration. People speculate that Bosh will again take less money to stay in Miami, but he did that once in an effort to win rings. Now that he has two, I think Bosh will want to get paid. If that is indeed his ambition, the time is now to make a move, because at 30 years of age, this may be Bosh’s last big-time, big-money deal. I see a return trip to Toronto in the cards with Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry going back to Miami in return.
Our prediction: Bosh signs a two-to-three-year deal with the Heat, but is traded to the Raptors for Kyle Lowry. As a Raptor, Bosh will pair with center Jonas Valanciunas and form the East’s best interior one-two punch.
THE NEXT TIER
4. Dirk Nowitzki – Still solid, despite rising age. Absolutely no chance he leaves Dallas, though.
Our prediction: Dirk signs a cheap deal with the Mavericks to help team for the future.
5. Kyle Lowry – Arguably the most underrated player in the NBA. Would be a huge get for Miami.
Our prediction: Shipped to Miami in exchange for Chris Bosh.
6. Lance Stephenson – The enigmatic Pacer embarrassed himself in the playoffs, but will still be in line for a huge payday.
Our prediction: Stephenson re-ups with the Pacers for an Eric Gordon-priced deal.
7. Pau Gasol – Quietly sitting on the free agent ledge, Gasol can still help a contender for a few seasons.
Our prediction: Gasol signs a two-year deal with the Bulls, who then amnesty Carlos Boozer. Once paired with Joakim Noah, the Bulls have a ruthless interior.
8. Paul Pierce – This NBA stalwart just won’t go away. His magic is all-but gone, but he can still contribute as a role player.
Our prediction: Pierce reunites with Doc Rivers and signs for the Mid-Level Exception with the Clippers. He’d fit perfectly as their small forward – a position they lack.
9. Patty Mills, Boris Diaw – We link the NBA Finals heroes together, because we expect the same thing to happen to both in free agency.
Our prediction: The Spurs aren’t stupid. You know this. I know this. They fork out the cash to bring back two huge players to their puzzle.
10. Dwayne Wade – A true Miami lifer, Wade’s talent is now limited, but there’s no doubt he’ll be with the Heat next year. Who joins him is the true question.
Our prediction: Wade signs a short-term, discounted deal with the Heat.
OPTIONS FOR THE PELICANS
Everyone listed above is probably out of budget for the Pelicans, who will be shopping with their Mid-Level Exception, barring some type of drastic trade or roster overhaul.
But with that $3-5 million to blow, there are a few bargains the team can pick up to help bolster the 2014-15 New Orleans roster.
Here are a few guys the Pels will likely keep their eyes on as free agency begins.
1. Shaun Livingston – Solid NBA point guard willing to be a backup. Can play multiple positions – a plus for team with injury concerns at both guard positions.
2. Shawn Marion – The Matrix is old, but he still has chops. He’s plenty capable of being the team’s short-term small forward while looking to find a long-term option down the line.
3. P.J. Tucker – Tucker is a scrappy, hustle player who developed a steady jump shot while in Phoenix. A player willing to do lots of dirty work on the interior is exactly what New Orleans needs alongside franchise player Anthony Davis.
4. Greivis Vasquez – Once a popular Pelican, Vasquez is a free agent at a time that the Pelicans are searching for a backup point guard. Like Livingston, Vasquez can hold down the fort as a two-guard on occasion, which makes him a solid fit.
5. Mike Scott – He’s a guy most NBA fans have probably never heard of, but the Hawks’ power forward is like the Energizer Bunny – he has a relentless motor, which overcomes his lack of skill. Would fit nicely as a reserve big man in New Orleans, especially now that Omer Asik is going to be the team’s starting center.