Dirk Nowitzki, PF
The Dallas Mavericks will likely do everything in their power to re-sign Nowitzki. However, he’ll be 36-years-old by the time next season rolls around, and if he wants a legitimate shot at another championship ring, he might opt for less money for a chance to play for a contender. Or what about pairing up with Kobe Bryant in La La Land? The Mavs will want Dirk back, but the question is whether or not the price is right, and whether Dirk feels like moving away from his comfort zone in Dallas for a better shot at a championship. The Mavs will get Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Samuel Dalembert off the books, which means they should be able to re-sign Nowitzki, and maybe even be relatively be players in free agency.
Kyle Lowry, PG
Lowry is one of the hottest names on the street, but the Toronto Raptors have already stated they’ll do everything in their power to re-sign him. Money talks, and Lowry might want more than the Raptors are willing to offer. Teams with cap space are all pretty steady at the point guard position (Utah, Philadelphia and Cleveland), so returning to Toronto makes the most sense.
Lance Stephenson, SG
Stephenson is going to be a hot commodity. Considering the Pacers already have Paul George ($16 million), Roy Hibbert (roughly $15 million), David West ($12 million) and George Hill ($8 million) under contract, meeting Stephenson’s contract demands could be tough. He’s likely to get an offer he can’t refuse and bolt from Indiana.
Luol Deng, SF
Although Deng has been in the league for nine years, he’s still just 29-years-old and averaged 16.0 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists. When healthy, he can best those numbers for sure, upping the odds value as your NBA picks. A return to Cleveland is not likely as he never really fit in there. However, a return to Chicago might make sense. Lots of teams could use a small forward of his caliber. He’s a veteran, he’s experienced and he’s happy to be the Robin to anyone’s Batman.
Pau Gasol, F/C
Gasol is coming of a rough year in Los Angeles and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s a goner. He’s been much-maligned in the spotlight at Staples Center, and it seems like every other week he’s in the midst of a trade rumor. Even on the heels of a horrendous season, Gasol provided 17.4 points per game with 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. There should be a fairly big lineup for his services. A home in Cleveland could make sense if the Cavs decide to fill their void at center with Gasol instead of drafting Joel Embiid.
Early Termination Options
Free agency will likely be very tepid, but that could change in a hurry. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade all have early termination options, which means things could go bananas.
The Heat’s trio are likely a parlay. If James decides he wants out because he wants to join Kobe in Los Angeles, Carmelo in New York or Kyrie in Cleveland, then Wade and Bosh could also take off to find new homes. Wade and his balky knees would be smart not to opt out, if money is his motivator. He’s in line to make $42 million from the Heat in the next two seasons. It’s unlikely anyone will give him that kind of money considering he can’t even play an entire regular season. As for Bosh, he’d be a fool to opt out as well as he’s slated to make even more than Wade in the next two seasons. However, stranger things have happened.
As for Anthony, he’s a wild card. He’s slated to make $23.5 million next season but he can opt out right now if he wants to find a better home. Whatever new deal he gets will be monstrous, so waiving next year’s money isn’t that big of a concern. The question is what better environment is there for him? Can he coax James to join him in New York? Or does he want to join a rehabbing Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and see if they can learn to share? The Knicks are a mess right now Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Raymond Felton combining to earn just under $40 million. The Knicks are a rebuilding project and Anthony might not want to stick around and waste a couple more years of his prime. That being the case, he’s the likely biggest prize of the 2014 offseason.