The 2014 free-agency period hasn’t had the fireworks or instant gratification of past years, as it seems like every major player and team is waiting to see whatLeBron James will do and the domino effect that will have on the market.
In some ways, James will set the market for everyone else because his choice can change the landscape of the league. While we know that James is absolutely worth the max and that his price won’t change unless he decides to take less, the future of multiple teams and marquee players can be impacted by his decision.
Even with that being the case, we can reasonably predict the price range and set the market for the remaining 2014 free agents based on what we’ve seen so far. Jodie Meeks signing with the Detroit Pistons for more than the mid-level exception certainly set a market for shooters, and Kyle Lowry’s deal worth $12 million a season established the price range for near-max unrestricted free agents.
Using the salaries of players already signed and existing contracts throughout the league, let’s set the market for the best remaining 2014 free agents according to category of player.
It’s important to remember that all max contracts are not created equal, as players who have been in the league longer and are coming off old deals under the last collective bargaining agreement can make substantially more than players coming off their rookie deals.
Basically, someone like Greg Monroe can get the “max” and Carmelo Anthony can get the “max,” and their annual salaries can still be around $6 million apart.
For this offseason, there are only three unrestricted veteran free agents who should receive a max offer: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
Realistically, Dirk Nowitzki could have joined that group, but he instead decided to take much less money to help Dallas retain cap space to bring talent around him. Nowitzki’s three-year deal worth $30 million is one of the best bargains we’ve seen in a while.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, James wants a max salary this offseason:
LeBron James will have a completely different process and a different priority when he opens his free agency at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday than he did in 2010, sources told ESPN.com.
Teams that contact James will be informed that he wants no less than the maximum salary number for next season, sources said. The max number for James is projected to be about $20.7 million.
Both Bosh and Anthony should land max deals either with their current teams or elsewhere. If James returns to Miami, Bosh will likely have to take less than his full max, unless Dwyane Wade takes a massive pay cut to to compensate for both deals.
Anthony could potentially take a little less, but if no one is joining him immediately in New York or he’s not leaving money on the table for another free-agent acquisition elsewhere, there’s probably little incentive for him to do so. It is important to note his stated priorities, however.
“My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career,” Anthony said on SportsCenter in February, via ESPN New York. “I want to compete at that level.”
LeBron and Melo are the best bets to receive the most money possible, while Bosh’s deal will almost certainly depend on what LeBron does.
Here’s where the big surprises in free agency will likely come from.
Pegging how much restricted free agents can land is often difficult, as sometimes they don’t get offer sheets from other teams and instead negotiate with the team that holds their rights exclusively.
That’s what happened with Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who, according to Baxter Holmes of TheBoston Globe, signed a four-year deal worth $32 million.
Bradley came with an expensive price tag, but that’s nothing compared to what some of the big restricted free agents should make.
Greg Monroe is still a candidate for a max offer, as David Aldridge at NBA.com explained earlier this year: “The problem, as the Pistons knew last fall, is that Monroe’s agent is David Falk. He has gotten the price he said he’d get for his clients for two decades—and he says the price for Monroe will be a max contract.”
With no other viable franchise big man on the market other than Bosh, Monroe should get the max once a few other pieces fall in place.
He won’t be the only restricted free agent to get that, though.
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe should receive a max offer sheet somewhere, as Phoenix isn’t likely to negotiate with him unnecessarily while there are still players like James and Anthony out there who could potentially sign with cap space.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward didn’t seem quite as likely to receive the full max, but Rick Bonnell of theCharlotte Observer reported on July 8 that he got just such an offer from the Charlotte Hornets. Now, it’ll be up to the Jazz to make a decision on whether to match.
Bledsoe and Monroe should both get max deals, and there’s a chance Hayward does as well. No other restricted free agent has a good shot, though I wouldn’t be shocked if Parsons received one.