The 2014 free agency period in the NBA is still a year away, but that hasn’t stopped speculation and rumors about what players will switch teams. The class could be the best in league history, with stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony potentially opting out of their current contracts.
If James becomes available, he will be a top target of the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. should have some of the most salary cap room in the NBA after the contracts of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and others come off their payroll. Only Steve Nash is signed beyond next season, and the organization will be looking to make a splash after what many expect to be a disappointing year.
The Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be the two frontrunners to sign James in 2014. Miami can offer the four-time MVP more money than anyone else. Many expect him to return to Cleveland, who reloaded with a lot of young talent. If the Lakers don’t have a chance to get James, they are expected to turn their attention to Anthony and Paul George.
The notion of Anthony going to Los Angeles has gained some traction in recent weeks. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently put the odds of the All-Star leaving New York and going to L.A. at 50 percent. The Knicks had a disappointing finish to the playoffs and their window to compete for a championship could be running out. How the Knicks perform in 2013-2014 could determine whether or not Anthony tries to reach the NBA Finals with a third team.
George, however, has been considered a dark horse candidate to be signed by the Lakers. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal and is scheduled to be a restricted free agent next summer. The Indiana Pacers star is from Southern California, and he could have a lot of success playing alongside Bryant.
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"Everywhere I go [in L.A.] they say, 'We want you here. Don't sign with the Pacers,' “ George told Yahoo! Sports. "I hear that constantly. It's getting a little repetitive … but I'm getting used to it.”
George could be the perfect complement to Bryant. He averaged 17.4 points per game last season, and could fit in nicely as a second scorer.
Los Angeles, however, might not get the chance to bring George to the West Coast. Indiana will likely offer him a lucrative extension by the Oct.31 deadline, and it might be hard for the Fresno State product to turn it down. Recent history has shown that most restricted free agents of George’s caliber sign an extension, and try to get their big contract a few years later.
"I'm happy to be in Indiana," George said. "I'm happy to be where I am. If I was going to leave Indiana and come to the Lakers, it just wouldn't be a smart move for me. We got a great thing going right now."
The Pacers took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. With Roy Hibbert and David West signed for a few more years, they may have a brighter future than the Lakers.