LeBron James leads list of potential unrestricted free agents in 2014
11. Paul Pierce, F, Brooklyn Nets Pierce isn’t quite the two-way force he once was, and the soon-to-be 36-year-old is at the stage in his career when a slip in production could come without much warning. Still, he seems likely to be a valuable contributor for a few more seasons, provided that his team has room to adjust his role and responsibilities if need be. At worst, he’ll be a talented shooter and situational playmaker, and enough of a worker defensively to avoid becoming a liability. More likely, Pierce will continue to function as one of the league’s better do-it-all wing players in the short term while sporting the kind of balanced, skill-driven game that should age gracefully.
12. Rudy Gay, F, Toronto Raptors (PO): Gay, who turned 27 last month, could be one of the better shot creators available next summer if he decides to decline his whopping $19.3 million player option for 2014-15. He’s flawed enough in other respects to make potential suitors carefully consider the price and length of their offers, but Gay would still likely to be rewarded handsomely if he can salvage his shooting percentages after a career-worst season in 2012-13.
13. Andrei Kirilenko, F Brooklyn Nets (PO): Considering that Kirilenko’s high-energy style is such an asset, the fact that he’ll turn 34 midway through the 2014-15 season is a bit of a concern. That said, he still brings a role-player mentality and a star-level skill set to whichever team is lucky enough to sign him. Kirilenko is very aware of his limitations and understands how to best work around them, a combination that allows him to function as an off-ball complement to more control-dependent stars. He also offers brilliant work in the game’s margins (help defense, loose-ball situations, offensive breakdowns) and bends his game to fill whatever gap deemed necessary.
14. Danny Granger, F, Indiana Pacers: Granger’s prolonged absence does give reason for worry, but NBA teams will have a full season of post-injury play to evaluate by the time he becomes a free agent. If he picks up more or less where he left off before a knee injury limited him to five games last season, Granger, 30, would be poised to provide volume scoring and feisty perimeter defense. That package is typically well-taken in the NBA and would position him well for a supporting role on a winning team. It remains to be seen if Indiana has evolved beyond need for Granger, but his four previous seasons as a 20-point scorer would undoubtedly entice other teams.
16. Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors: Lowry, 27, is a frustrating player, for both teammates and opponents. His play is inconsistent, and even at his best Lowry still tends to force drives and miss opportunities to set up his teammates. But that same player doubles as a physical, skilled point guard who can create offense and jam up opponents’ ball handlers. He’d be a more attractive free agent if his focus and attitude weren’t flagged as concerns, but as it stands Lowry still does far more good than harm and could help round out a winning rotation.
17. Amar’e Stoudemire, F/C, New York Knicks (ETO): Stoudemire, who will be 31 in November, has missed roughly half of New York’s games over the past two seasons. He’s set to see his athleticism-driven game decline over the next few years, and, as is, he’s a poor defender and underwhelming rebounder. There’s also exceedingly little chance that he will forgo his $23.4 million salary in 2014-15 to become a free agent. That figure is two to three times larger than than the offers he’d likely receive as a free agent, making it far more sensible for Stoudemire to remain with the Knicks for another year to earn top dollar and attempt to regain some career momentum.
18. Andrea Bargnani, F, New York Knicks (ETO): The former Raptor, who will turn 28 next month, is coming off a two-year stretch of lingering injury and regressed play. When healthy, engaged and used effectively, Bargnani is a terrific pick-and-pop player and a deserving offensive focal point. When those factors aren’t aligned, he’s a characteristically lazy defender, crummy rebounder and inefficient scorer. Things could turn around for Bargnani if New York ends up being a better fit than expected, but at the moment he isn’t exactly a free-agent prize.
19. Emeka Okafor, C, Washington Wizards: The consistently overlooked Okafor has put together a solid career as one of the NBA’s better rebounders and interior defenders. He’s still a disappointing finisher around the basket and a robotic post-up player at best, but Washington had a top-five defense last season in part because of Okafor’s chops on that end. Ultimately, he’s not athletic enough to replicate that level of success without ample help. But in the right situation, Okafor, who turns 31 this month, could help elevate the play of an already competent team, be it a lower-level playoff club or a potential contender.
20. Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns: Playing without Steve Nash translated to fewer opportunities and reduced efficiency for Gortat in 2012-13, but he’s a worthwhile center even in that slightly less impressive form. Teams could certainly do worse than an all-around solid finisher, rebounder and defender, particularly given Gortat’s ability to reclaim his previous career highs if paired with the right kind of playmaker. There’s also something to be said about his balance while executing the pick-and-roll. While other big men are limited to only the most direct lines to the basket, the 29-year-old Gortat can change direction after the catch and finish with either hand. That kind of flexibility makes him a more robust offensive option because he’s harder for opponents to counter.
Other notables: Ray Allen, Chris Andersen (PO), Trevor Ariza, Jerryd Bayless, Andray Blatche (PO), Andrew Bogut, Elton Brand, Shannon Brown, Caron Butler, Vince Carter, Mario Chalmers, Darren Collison (PO), Ben Gordon, Devin Harris, Spencer Hawes, Kirk Hinrich, Kris Humphries, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion, Greg Oden, Luke Ridnour, Nate Robinson, Thabo Sefolosha, Ramon Sessions, Rodney Stuckey, Marvin Williams, Mo Williams (PO), Metta World Peace (PO).