With the NBA draft happening tomorrow night plenty of attention is being directed to who will be picked, and rightfully so. However, the draft, more often than not, is completely hit or miss. Don’t believe me? Take a look at 2007. The first two picks were Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. Both are immensely talented players, more so Durant than Oden, but they were both regarded as excellent picks that could make an impact and likely become all-star caliber players. Durant did, but Oden could never shake the injury bug and because of that, he has had a largely unsuccessful career. Oden ultimately wound up as a reserve player with Miami this year and saw very little court time.
So, that little tangent leads us to where my focus is instead: the proven performers at the NBA level. The 2014 Free Agents. This is quite the class this year with some massive names potentially hitting the open market including Carmelo Anthony, Lance Stephenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and, the biggest name by far, LeBron James. With another year of big names looking to switch teams, this year’s free agent pool will be fun to watch. I am going to address some of the free agents who will be moving this year.
Carmelo Anthony- Not that he could never resign with the Knicks but I think it is unlikely. Melo really wants a ring and will find a contender. He will probably stay in the East just based on how tough the West is historically. Sorry Lakers fans. I think the most likely landing spot would be Chicago. This is a team that is in desperate need of more scoring and the rest of the team plays defense so well that they could make up for Anthony’s lack of skill on that end of the floor. I think having an established coach in Tom Thibodeau and the potential to play with superstars in Derrick Rose (assuming he is healthy) and Joakim Noah. A wildcard to sign Melo would probably be the Charlotte Hornets. The combination of Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Melo could be enough to propel this team much further into the playoffs. Maybe he could team up with a big name big man (Zach Randolph) and head there for a shot at a title. Could Michael Jordan pull together a championship team? We will see.
Luol Deng- There is no way he goes back to Cleveland. None. He didn’t fit there and he will be moving on. Where to will be interesting. I think Deng will end up in Houston or Memphis (if Zach Randolph leaves). Now Deng is clearly not as sexy for Houston as LeBron but he could be a solid starter pairing up with Dwight Howard and giving the Rockets a much needed defensive presence. Memphis seems like a logic fit just because of the nature of play. They run a lot through their big man Marc Gasol and always love to out rebound and out defend their opposition. Deng could gel nicely with Gasol. The wildcard for Deng: he returns to Chicago. I know the team dealt him last year but he is a talented player that fit into the system and allow Chicago to continue to defend the hell out of opponents. It is unlikely but it is a possibility. Lance Stephenson- This might come as a surprise but I think Stephenson will walk away from the Pacers. He fits the system but I think it is clear he wants a bigger role elsewhere. I honestly think he could end up in Charlotte. That would be quite the off-season for MJ if he got Stephenson to pair with Melo and add to the combo of Walker and Jefferson. I think Stephenson would be allowed to operate as a playmaker with the Hornets. It seemed like he wanted to do that in Indiana but simply wasn’t given the opportunity. He also fits the playing style of the Chicago Bulls but I think Charlotte has a better chance of landing him. A dark horse team to sign Stephenson could be the Minnesota Timberwolves. They need an upgrade at shooting guard and they definitely need some help on defense. Money should not be an issue with Kevin Love likely coming off the books. It isn’t being talked about, but I see that as being a logical move.
LeBron James- I saved King James for last because he would be the hardest to pin down. I think he could return to South Beach but more likely, he will return to his birthplace of Ohio. For as sour Cavs fans have been since he spurned them four years ago, they would welcome their prodigal son home with open arms. With Deng likely leaving, the Cavs would have a hole at power forward. Who better to fill it with than the best player in the world? All 30 NBA teams will be in the mix for signing the superstar do-it-all James but a team that I think could jump in without being perceived favorites could be the Boston Celtics. LeBron will be looking to stay in the Eastern Conference and if he and Melo have any real desire to play together, Boston could be the place to do it. They have a young, up and coming coach in Brad Stevens and LeBron and Melo could team up with Rajon Rondo to form the new Big Three in the NBA. Boston is also looking to land a star to please Rondo. Why not land the two biggest stars in the market?
All of this madness will begin in the days following the end of June as free agency opens. Let me know what projections you agree with and which ones I got completely wrong.