The 2013 NBA free agent class featured two of the game’s best players in Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. However, it doesn’t even come close to comparing to the talent that will be available next offseason.
In the summer of 2014, the NBA will see several superstars become free agents. There is the potential for nine players on this past year’s All-Star team to hit the open market, looking for brand new contracts. Most of the potential free agents are signed through next season, but have the option to terminate their contracts early, and are more than likely to do so.
After signing with the Miami Heat in 2010, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt-out of their current deals. Carmelo Anthony has the same option with the New York Knicks.
After losing Howard and Metta World Peace this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers could look like a completely different team in 12 months. Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2014 season. The same goes for Dirk Nowitzki, Luol Deng and Paul Pierce.
Other than perennial All-Stars, there are other very good players that could change teams next offseason. Zach Randolph can decline his one-year player option for $16.5 million. Up-and-comers Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins will all be restricted free agents.
A lot can happen in a year, but it appears that there will be a decent amount of player movement in 2014. If a few of the league’s upper echelon players sign elsewhere, it could change the balance of power in the NBA for years to come.
Miami’s Big Three
There’s a lot of speculation that the upcoming NBA season will be the last run for the group that changed the league three years ago. James, Wade and Bosh will all have the opportunity to sign longer contracts, and it would cost the Heat a lot of money to keep all three.
James is the most likely to leave. If he wins a third straight title, the four-time MVP might decide to move on to a new challenge. His hometown Cleveland Cavaliers should have enough cap space to sign him, and he would have the opportunity to join one of the best, young rosters in the league. Joining Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving could make James and the Cavs favorites to reach the NBA Finals.
Depending on how he performs in 2013-2014, Wade might not walk away from close to $42 million guaranteed. He was injured for much of the playoffs and could decide to finish the final two years of his contract.
If Wade stays in Miami, it may be Bosh’s best bet to do the same. He wouldn’t follow James to Cleveland, and isn’t a big enough star to carry a team by himself. The Los Angeles Lakers could also be in play to sign Bosh.
Prediction: LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
The future of Kobe Bryant remains up in the air. In the past few months, the future Hall of Famer has both indicated that he might retire when his contract is up, and that he’s going to try to win a few more championships.
Despite the fact that he’ll be entering his 18th season and has already won five rings, it would be hard to see Bryant walk away when he’s still a top player at his position. L.A. will have a lot of cap space next summer and he will likely stick around and hope to play with at least one other superstar.
Pau Gasol has been involved in trade rumors for the past few years and there’s a good chance the Lakers will let him walk away next year. Los Angeles will look to replace him with a younger option. After having won two titles, Gasol may end up with the team that’s willing to give him the most money. It also wouldn't be surprising if the Lakers dealt Gasol at the trade deadline.
Prediction: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Pau Gasol (Toronto Raptors)
Just a few years after forcing a trade to the New York Knicks, there’s a chance that Anthony could be on the move in 2014. He has just two years remaining on his deal and will almost certainly opt-out, even if he does plan on staying with the Knicks.
According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, there’s a “50-50’ chance that Anthony leaves New York for L.A. The Lakers will reportedly make a big push for Anthony, whom Bryant has expressed a desire to play with.
In three seasons with the Knicks, Anthony has just one playoff series win. Another disappointing year in New York could force him to re-evaluate his future in New York. Bryant has indicated that he migh re-sign for less money, in order for the Lakers to get a top free agent. Anthony may be the perfect fit.
Prediction: Carmelo Anthony (Los Angeles Lakers)