All eyes are on LeBron James. He is an unrestricted free agent who will command a max contract from any team. Reportedly, he has narrowed his choices—re-sign with the Miami Heat where he’s had much success or return to his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers whom he spurned when he made “The Decision” four years ago.
James’ decision will dictate the moves of his teammates and fellow free agents Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh. The two opted out of their contracts to give the Heat the financial flexibility moving forward. Bosh will only resign with the Heat (and take a pay cut) if James stays. If not, he has a Plan B since the Houston Rockets have offered him a whopping four-year, $88 million contract. Wade will also wait for James before testing the waters but he has signaled his intention to remain with the Heat.
Another high-profile free agent is Carmelo Anthony but from all indications, he will stay with the New York Knicks and be a vital cog in realizing Phil Jackson’s vision.
Beyond these big names, the following are the best free agents still available as of this writing:
1) Eric Bledsoe—Bledsoe is the best guard in the market. As a restricted free agent, the Suns can match any offer he receives from other teams which I estimate would be over $12 million per season. He is a dynamic combo guard who has the speed and athleticism to impact the game both ways. Phoenix may hesitate in signing him to a big, long-term contract but he can be the superstar that the team badly needs.
2) Greg Monroe – Monroe is a solid player that can easily fill the 4 spot in any team. He is a great rebounder, a close-range scorer, and surprisingly, a better-than-average passer for his size. However, he has been unable to play effectively alongside Andre Drummond and Josh Smith. Once James and Anthony sign up, other teams will scramble to get Monroe. He will command a near max salary.
3) Luol Deng – With No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins waiting in the wings and the possibility of a LeBron James comeback, the Cavs won’t be talking to Deng for any contracts. Deng probably has several offers of at least $9 million per year since he is a rare player who can gut it out and play both ends of the floor. He is a veteran player with high basketball IQ and will certainly help any contender get over the hump.
4) Isaiah Thomas – Thomas is a scorer, who despite his small size manages to mix it up in the paint and get to the line. The Kings are approaching the luxury tax threshold and may be unable to hold on to this young and explosive guard.
5) Lance Stephenson – He can do it all and has great potential. He is a triple-double waiting to happen. He is a great perimeter defender, playmaker, slasher and a spot-up shooter. Attitude aside, many teams will come knocking once they luck out on the James/Anthony sweepstakes.