May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) reacts after a call in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Predicting where the top names fall in 2014 NBA free agency is a tough task to undertake. So here’s a sample.
LeBron James – Destination: Miami Heat
There is a possibility the King could leave the building but most experts get the feeling that LeBron James is merely exercising his right to explore the market. In all likelihood though he will return to the Miami Heat, as will Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The thought would be to accept slightly cheaper deals in order to allow Pat Riley to bring in more help. Given their advancing age, this is an avenue they had to explore after watching the Spurs do it for so long.
Carmelo Anthony – Destination: Chicago Bulls
There is legitimacy to the idea of James teaming up with Carmelo Anthony, but the financials alone make that unlikely. Also throw in the fact that despite being friends with LeBron, Melo would like to win a title on his own rather than on James’ coattails. No team has given Anthony more fits than the Chicago Bulls, and they’ve done it with very limited scoring ability. So what would happen if he brought his shooting prowess to the table and throw in a healthy Derrick Rose? The answer would be instant title contention, especially in that weak Eastern Conference.
Kyle Lowry – Destination: Toronto Raptors
He gambled on himself in a contract year and Kyle Lowry cashed in. The point guard had an All-Star caliber season and helped the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs on 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game. Both were career highs. At age 28 he’s in his prime and deserving of a big deal in NBA free agency. The Raptors know this and have stated quite clearly on multiple occasions that keeping Lowry in house is their top priority. After moving around so much early in his career, it’s likely Lowry will choose to stay rather than pick up and move again.
Pau Gasol – Destination: Dallas Mavericks
He stuck it out with the Los Angeles Lakers through some rough times, but Pau Gasol doesn’t owe them anything. With rebuilding on the agenda in L.A., the veteran forward will likely look to join a contender for one more shot at a title. One team that is hot on his trail are the Dallas Mavericks. Having already acquired Tyson Chandler via trade, the team looks even better than the playoff team they were when the off-season started. The idea of joining Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki in the front court has to appeal to Gasol, provided his asking price isn’t too high.
Luol Deng – Destination: Phoenix Suns
The Cleveland Cavaliers gambled that trading for Luol Deng could turn around their season. They were wrong. Deng proved a bad fit for their young and immature team. Now the two-time All-Star is entering NBA free agency and is keen on finding a contender. His best bet will be to look for one that not only needs a small forward but also help on defense. For the 2013-2014 season, opponents averaged 102 points against the Phoenix Suns. Yet they almost made the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference and have a young core in place to continue competing. Adding Deng to that mix could really help their situation, especially the perimeter where his length and athleticism become key.