NBA free agency has begun! The clock struck 12:01 this morning and teams began applying the full court press to players. It’s all agent-planted chatter now, but things are expected to ramp up Wednesday and beyond. This is all you need to know about 2014 NBA free agency:
* LeBron is gonna make the Heat wait. He’s 29, has a few more years left in his prime, and if he wants to catch Michael Jordan, this decision will be pivotal. After Miami got whipped by San Antonio, LeBron decided to opt-out of his contract early (mild surprise), then met with Wade and Bosh, who also opted out. As of now, there’s an 81% chance (science, duh) LeBron stays in Miami. That number will go up or down depending on what the following free agents do: Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat. What if Miami whiffs on all three? Then what? Is LeBron coming back to a depleted roster? No pressure, Pat Riley. At least you got Shabazz Napier!
* Kyle Lowry, who had his best season as a pro, is a wanted man. Someone will overpay, but if it means the Heat don’t get him, I’m on board. Sounds like he’ll get anywhere from $12-$14 million a year.
* Carmelo Anthony is the most likely big name to leave his team in the coming week. The Knicks are a mess. Forget Championship talk – this team didn’t make the playoffs last season, and definitely isn’t a lock in 2015. Carmelo meets with the Bulls today; the Rockets and Mavericks on Wednesday, and the Lakers Thursday, according to ESPN. If he decides Friday, Knicks fans will be split on whether or not to celebrate. (Put me down for celebration.)
* Kevin Love. Isn’t a free agent. Supposedly wants to leave (but stiff-armed Cleveland). I think there two players that could significantly swing LeBron’s decision: Love and Melo. But the Timberwolves seem to be asking for the world, or teams want Love on the cheap. Maybe teams (cough, Lakers, cough) just wait until he’s a free agent next summer?
* The Nets already lost their coach, and probably will lose Paul Pierce, too. The Clippers want him. He’s 37 in October. Can he still be a game-changer at this age? Put it this way – if he’s your 3rd option on the floor with two minutes left in a close game, you’re in good shape.
* Sorry to pile on, Brooklyn fans, but Shaun Livingston is going to be playing elsewhere next season. Is he a starter? Maybe Dallas cuts Raymond Felton and goes for Livingston?
* Luol Deng supposedly is coveted by the Heat and many other teams. Why does it feel like he’s past his prime? Maybe the stench of Cleveland? He’s only 29, has 10 years in the league, and is known as a solid wing who can knock down 3-pointers (though not the last few years) and defend. So he’s basically the new Shane Battier in Miami? Deng would have to take less money to go to Miami, but he’d have a chance to play deep into the playoffs. He’s the perfect wing to give LeBron some time off. The Clippers figure to express interest – I’m puzzled how, with little cap room – as well as the Rockets (maybe they lose Parsons or whiff on Melo?), and maybe the Mavericks.
* Spencer Hawes, 7-footer, skilled at twitter, and will be coveted. Portland? If Cleveland wants to compete in the East, they’ll need him. Irving/Wiggins will be able to attack any defense and need to kick out to open shooters. Like Hawes.
* Atlanta Hawks. Keep an eye on the Hawks, who have gobs of cap room, a solid frontcourt pair in Millsap and Horford, an explosive point guard in Jeff Teague, and nice role players in Korver, Carroll and Antic. Could use a difference-maker at small forward who can be a factor at both ends (Deng?).
* The super duper sleeper in all of this is Phoenix. Have cap room. Have picks to trade. Won 48 games but missed the playoffs. Don’t have a “star” but are very balanced. Why isn’t Phoenix more enticing? I mean, besides the fact they play in the the West and not in a marquee market.