This is the first day of NBA free agency, so the flirtation process has begun to see who re-signs and who re-locates.
There will be trips on private planes to have some private talks before everything goes very public. Nothing is official until contracts can be signed after the NBA’s moratorium period ends July 10.
This year’s free-agent pool has definite star power. Rumor and innuendo will take their usual spots at center stage, but when signatures arrive, expect the status quo to dominate play. It began with Washington center Marcin Gortat agreeing to a five-year, $60-million extension with the Wizards on Tuesday night.
Below are the Top 15 free agents and their projected destinations:
SF LeBron James (Miami) – Unrestricted: Wants max deal with Heat, but for how long? Latest word is 1-2 seasons and then re-visiting Lakers’ situation. Cavaliers haven’t given up hope for reunion. Prediction: Re-signs with Heat for two years.
SF Carmelo Anthony (New York) – Unrestricted: Multiple suitors. Met with Bulls on Tuesday. Will meet with Rockets on Wednesday morning, Mavericks later that afternoon, with the Lakers on Thursday, then with Knicks. Prediction: Re-locates to Chicago.
PF Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas) – Unrestricted: He’s not budging and will do all he can to lure Anthony to Big D. Prediction: Re-signs with Mavericks.
PG Kyle Lowry (Toronto) – Unrestricted: Coming off best season of his career. Heat and Rockets likely can’t afford to sign him and Raptors can’t afford not to. Prediction: Re-signs with Raptors.
PF Chris Bosh (Miami) – Unrestricted: Opted out of contract to take pay cut and keep Big Three together – but for how long? Prediction: Re-signs with Heat.
SG Dwyane Wade (Miami) – Unrestricted: Health has begun to decline, which is why he’ll take a bigger pay cut than Bosh to remain alongside James. Prediction: Re-signs with Heat.
C Greg Monroe (Detroit) – Restricted: Pistons have an extra year to offer him with an extension, and must do so to have any chance of keeping him. Hawks, Magic, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers and Pelicans also seeking Monroe. Prediction: Re-signs with Pistons.
SG Chandler Parsons (Houston) – Restricted: The Rockets won't be able to re-sign Parsons if they land Anthony. Personally, I think Houston’s priorities are out of whack. Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Suns also have very strong interest in Parsons. Prediction: Re-signs with Rockets.
PG Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix) – Restricted: The Suns want to make a serious push for some seriously big names, but it will all start with keeping Bledsoe. Prediction: Re-signs with Suns.
SF Luol Deng (Cleveland) – Unrestricted: Horrible existence in Cleveland has him looking for a contender. Sometimes you can go home again. Prediction: Re-locates back to Chicago.
PG Lance Stephenson (Indiana) – Unrestricted: Despite Stephenson’s mouth and immaturity, team president Larry Bird still stands firmly in his corner. Prediction: Re-signs with Pacers.
SG Gordon Hayward (Utah) – Restricted: Jazz could have signed him to an extension before last season, but balked. This could get expensive. Prediction: Re-signs with Jazz.
PF Pau Gasol (Lakers) – Unrestricted: Will take a serious pay cut of at least 50 percent off last year’s $19.3 million salary. Plenty of interest, including the Thunder, Heat, Bulls, Mavs, Suns, Rockets, Warriors and, yes, staying with the Lakers. Prediction: Reverses field and re-locates back to Memphis to join baby brother, Marc.
SF Paul Pierce (Brooklyn) – Unrestricted: Bulls, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Trail Blazers have an interest in this pending Hall of Famer, or perhaps he could return to the Celtics for a swan song? Prediction: Re-locates back to his childhood days and joins the Clippers.
PG Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento) – Restricted: This little dynamo routinely has gone nuts against the Thunder. Coming off a good season with a bad team, which unfortunately for him is likely where he’ll stay. Prediction: Re-signs with Kings.