NBA Free Agency: The Cream of the Crop

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By Vincent Paul Hidalgo | July 1, 2014 4:21 PM EST

With free agency officially to start July 1st and the usual courtship process soon to go on frenzy, we will examine the best single ladies out there who will create the longest lines, the most luxurious gifts and the most outrageous promises from NBA teams. Here comes the lineup of the best free agents of 2014:

Reuters
May 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) makes a pass against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) and center Roy Hibbert (55) in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

1. LeBron James, Small Forward, Unrestricted

The King is facing The Decision II and all teams are ready to bow down to his demands. And his decision will dictate where the other chips will fall in free agency. Teams will expectedly gauge first the interest of the four-time MVP to sign with their club before moving on to the next prospect. With him reportedly commanding maximum salary, teams must be imaginative to put out a roster that can accommodate his big buck and surround the roster that can contend for an NBA championship. Among teams who will court him heavily are the Houston Rockets, the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers; however do not count out the convincing powers of Pat Riley and the Miami Heat who can lure the King in coming back after four straight Finals appearances.

2. Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward, Unrestricted

The second best guy to be had plays the same position as James and can also be slotted in the power forward position due to his post-up game that is arguably best among small forwards. Melo is being eyed by the Dallas Mavericks who hopes to commence another title run after their acquisition of Tyson Chandler and the seemingly agreement between Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks to return to the club and take a lesser salary to accommodate more talent. Melo will still be courted by the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson who plan to surround him with more character guys and create a culture of professionalism. The Chicago Bulls are also in the mix with Derrick Rose declaring his love for the sweet shooting forward's game but do not count out the possibility of LeBron and Melo joining forces somewhere to create another intriguing pairing.

3. Chris Bosh, Power Forward/Center, Unrestricted

This may be the last big contract for Chris Bosh. His time in Miami transformed his play from the focal point of the offense in Toronto, to a spot-up supporting role. This may do well and good to extend his career as he emerged as the second best shooting big man next to Dirk and has evolved a ton in his defensive prowess especially in his ability to guard pick and rolls in the transitioning small ball NBA offenses. A two-way player like Bosh is expected not to make any move after LeBron decides where to go but expect teams like the Rockets and his former team Raptors to be attached to his name in free agency.

4. Kyle Lowry, Point Guard, Unrestricted

Arguably, the most important player in the successful comeback of the Toronto Raptors into the playoffs post-Chris Bosh, Kyle Lowry is an aggressive stocky point guard in the mold of Baron Davis who can take over offenses and is a pit bull on defense. Teams in need of a floor general will be very high on him given his emergence and tempered maturity last season. A supposed all-star, Lowry is being coveted by the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and his own team, the Raptors who reportedly are willing to shell out $10-12 million per year to keep him in Canada.

5. Marcin Gortat, Unrestricted, Center

The former back-up to Dwight Howard has made a name for himself for his pick and roll game. The Polish player can shoot the mid-range, post-up and roll to the basket, a must for today's big men. His mobility allowed Washington to use both Nene and Gortat even if the opponent fielded in a small ball line-up. Given that the Wizards gave up a first round pick just to get him, they are expected to re-sign the talented Center to a big multi-year contract starting at the $10 million per year price range.

6. Dirk Nowitzki, Unrestricted, Power Forward

Dirk is only low on this list because of his pronouncement that he will stay as a Mav for life. The sweet shooting German is also willing to give his beloved Mavericks a discount in order to accommodate another star or two in the lineup. Their surprising challenge of the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round gave much hope that the Mavericks still have a lot of left in the tank as long as the combo of Dirk and Coach Rick Carlisle is around. The Mavericks have a small forward like Luol Deng and a point guard like Jameer Nelson away to pose some serious threat out West.

7. Greg Monroe, Restricted, Forward/Center

Good young big men are a hot commodity in the NBA. The likes of Greg Monroe are sure to catch the attention of teams seeking a sound young prospect to anchor the middle. His restricted status however will limit teams from coveting him. While his hometown of New Orleans has already shown content, the recent acquisition of Omer Asik will silence much of those rumours. Expect his mother team, the Detroit Pistons to match offers as long as the number is not nearing the max salary. Orlando and Dallas are the teams attached to promising big man from Motor City.

8. Gordon Hayward, Restricted, Small Forward

One of the more underrated free agents of this class, Gordon Hayward has solidly developed his all-around game while trying to put on his shoulders a rebuilding class. While clearly not a franchise player, Gordon is a good to great secondary or tertiary option who can create offense for teammates, carry the scoring burden in stretches and do the little things on the floor. The Phoenix Suns have already expressed that it is willing to offer a substantial offer to Gordon while the Philadelphia 76ers who have holes in almost every position have also sent out feelers. Expect the Utah Jazz to gauge these offers and decide if the finances will be adequate to keep him in Utah.

9. Eric Bledsoe, Restricted, Shooting Guard

The other half of the Slash Brothers spent a portion of the previous season nursing some ailments but showed no ill-effects once he stepped on the court. His restricted tag will certainly make teams think twice of signing him to an offer sheet but do not disregard some teams with cap space to take a chance on him in hopes of Phoenix not matching the offer. His ability to drive and kick and at the same time pester opposing guards on defense is a big plus for teams who are considering him like the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets.

10. Pau Gasol, Unrestricted, Center/Forward

The two-time NBA champion is on the tail end of his career but still has a lot of gas left in the tank. Pau Gasol is reportedly being coveted by the New York Knicks as one of the puzzles that can convince Melo to remain with the club. Plus, his familiarity with the triangle offense and Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson's partnership may very well lure Gasol to move from Los Angeles to New York. However, do not count out the comfort Pau has with LA especially now that D'Antoni and his offense have packed bags and a new coach can utilize the versatile Gasol once again.

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(Photo: Reuters / Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
May 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) makes a pass against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) and center Roy Hibbert (55) in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
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