Here’s a look at the best available players as NBA free agency starts:
1. LeBron James, F, Miami Heat, unrestricted
All signs point to the King of Basketball returning to the Heat, but you have to wonder if that’s really the best situation for him. If he gives others the chance to recruit him, and he truly wants a maximum contract, he might be able to be swayed to join a roster that’s younger and an organization with more flexibility. Insert LeBron, and any team immediately becomes a title contender. Predicted frontrunner: Miami.
2. Carmelo Anthony, F, New York Knicks, unrestricted
He can still light up the opposition like Bernard King on caffeine, but what else does Anthony actually offer? It’s hard to say, but he’d better get it figured out quick. He’s running out of time to chase titles, and New York may not be his best option for that. Predicted frontrunner: Chicago.
3. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks, unrestricted
Just turned 36 years old and guess what? It doesn’t matter. He’s still near the very top of his well-rounded and all-pro-level game. But don’t get your hopes up. He’s going back to the Mavs. Predicted frontrunner: Dallas.
4. Chris Bosh, PF, Miami Heat, unrestricted
Has taken serious flak for accepting a reduced role in his four years with the Heat, but could still be a top option in some spots and a good 1-A in others. If LeBron goes elsewhere, expect Bosh to do the same. A run from the Lakers isn’t out of the question. Predicted frontrunner: Miami.
5. Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors, unrestricted
Coming off a breakout season in which he helped lift the surprising Raptors to the third season in the East. A complete and underrated point guard who will run the team and defend. He’s in high demand, but the Raptors are making him their top priority. Predicted frontrunner: Toronto.
6. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix Suns, restricted
Is slowly becoming what Dwyane Wade used to be, as Bledsoe can play both guard spots, defend and works tirelessly on his game. He’s also been called quite “coachable,” which only increases his value. So it’s hard to see the Suns letting him get away. Predicted frontrunner: Phoenix.
7. Chandler Parsons, F, Houston Rockets, restricted
Good athlete with all the tools, may be even better on a team without top options Dwight Howard and James Harden. With those two on the roster, and the Rockets seemingly intent on making a run at James or Anthony, Parsons could be a goner. But to where, no one yet knows. Predicted frontrunner: TBD.
8. Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons, restricted
Big, young and talented. That’s hard to beat. The trouble with Monrue is he may have peaked, and he’s not quite at an All-Star level. But he is a good, starter-worthy big man. If you don’t think those are hot commodities, check out the deal Roy Hibbert got last summer. Predicted frontrunner: Detroit.
9. Pau Gasol, PF, Los Angeles Lakers, unrestricted
Not the player he once was, but can still be very good in spurts. If he can stay healthy, he’s an impact starter and a “stretch four” who can still run the court and finish. Teams will be hot on his trail based on those things alone. Predicted frontrunner: Memphis.
10. Lance Stephenson, SG, Indiana Pacers, unrestricted
He can really play, but beyond that, it’s hard to tell what you’re getting. A really good guy who can sometimes seems like more trouble than he’s a worth. He is, truly, a mystery. But a talented mystery nonetheless. Predicted frontrunner: Indiana.
11. Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat, unrestricted
Skills have eroded to the point where he probably doesn’t deserve more than the veteran minimum. Yet for some reason he opted out of $20 million — presumably to re-work his deal and allow James and Bosh to return. But in all honesty, Heat would be best served to re-sign James and Bosh, and a third leg of the Big Three not named Wade. Predicted frontrunner: Miami.
12. Luol Deng, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers, unrestricted
Coming off the worst stretch in his career under Mike Brown. That happens to a lot of guys on offense, and teams in pursuit will be willing to give Deng a pass. But he also looked a little slower, and there may be a reason the Bulls were so willing to give him up. Predicted frontrunner: Atlanta.
13. Paul Pierce, F, Brooklyn Nets, unrestricted
He can still get it done. That’s what teams in contention know and appreciate. Pierce may take less to go to the right spot. His priority is said to be Brooklyn, but he supposedly can be charmed into changing his mind. Predicted frontrunner: LA Lakers.
14. Gordon Hayward, F/G, Utah Jazz, restricted
Just now starting to come into his own and approach an All-Star level. And now he has a new coach in Quin Snyder that intends to keep Hayward a major part of things. The Jazz have the lead, but don’t be surprised if someone swoops in and makes him a major offer. Predicted frontrunner: Utah.
15. Marcin Gortat, C, Washington Wizards
Hustling big man often does a lot with only a limited amount of looks at the basket. He runs the floor and chases down rebounds and actually has real basketball skills. His problem is an irritating lack of consistency. Predicted frontrunner: Washington.