So far so good. This year’s off-season has been everything we anticipated with Miami's Big 3 all opting out and really making anything possible heading into next season. With the number of big name costless agents on the market and on the trade block, we look forward the upcoming days and months where we could see a very, very different NBA landscape.
Here we explore some possible moves that have been rumored around NBA circles and need to happen:
Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets
After breaking out last season and transforming from an over-confident chucker to a dynamic triple-double threat, Lance Stephenson has become one of the most highly touted costless agents on the market. Being a second round pick, Stephenson finds himself as a unrestricted costless agent, meaning the choice is entirely up to him. Reports have stated that he has already rejected a 5-yr, $44m deal from the Indiana Pacers as he wishes to receive at least $10m a year. With the Pacers having signed CJ Miles on a 3-yr, $18m contract, it all but excludes the Pacers from the race for Stephenson's signature. Cue the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are one of the league's most exciting, up-and-coming teams that capped off a successful 2013 season with just the second playoff berth in franchise history.
Despite a successful season, there remained a gap on the perimeter with Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seriously lacking offensive creativity and perimeter shooting. Lance Stephenson provides instant offence and a secondary ball handler for Kemba Walker. His versatility to score, rebound and create is just what the Hornets need and he'll fit into the 2-guard spot like a glove. The Hornets currently have more than enough cap room to offer Stephenson his desired $10m per season which looks to be a deal that strongly benefits both parties. Although there are questions about Lance's ability to adapt to Charlotte's small market, the Hornets provide Stephenson a chance to be a focal point on an up-and-coming playoff team. This is an opportunity that doesn't come around all too often.
Jeff Green for Josh Smith Trade
From the moment Josh Smith signed with the Detroit Pistons, one word has stuck to the team like a bad smell: spacing. The Pistons' clogged frontcourt, with little to no spacing, resulted in Smith shooting an unsightly 41% from the field and 26% from 3pt, despite heaving up 3.4 attempts per game. These numbers illustrate just what every NBA fan was thinking when former Pistons GM Joe Dumars signed Smith to a 4 year, $54m contract. That is, Josh Smith is not a small forward. With recent reports stating that the Pistons are increasingly likely to match any offer sheet RFA Greg Monroe signs, it has become a necessity for Stan Van Gundy to swap Smith for a real small forward.
Jeff Green has been lined up for a breakthrough season ever since his return from heart surgery in 2012. So far, that is yet to happen. Despite this, Green remains a far more natural fit for the Pistons as he plays as a natural small forward. He would provide balance as he possesses the perimeter shooting that Josh Smith has consistently shown he does not have. Green’s contract is also a year shorter and $4m per year less than Smith’s, providing the Pistons will more long-term cap flexibility for Van Gundy to play with. A line up of Jennings, Meeks, Green, Monroe, Drummond has the talent and balance to content for a playoff spot in the ever-so weak Eastern Conference.
For the Celtics, the Oak Hill connection between Rondo and Smith immediately comes to mind, as the two share a strong off-court relationship. On the court, Smith adds talent and physicality, and despite the presence of Jared Sullinger, Smith is likely to be an upgrade at the power forward position. With Rondo’s playmaking leading to looks closer to the rim, Smith is likely to stop settling for low-percentage perimeter jumpers time and time again.
The trade benefits both teams, balancing out the clogged Pistons and giving a serious talent upgrade to the rebuilding Celtics.
Pau Gasol to the Thunder
As the recent playoffs broke the hearts of Thunder fans, it also clearly illustrated the Thunder’s blatant short-comings in key areas which lead to its eventual defeat to the San Antonio Spurs. Costless Agent Pau Gasol remedies almost all of these deficiencies. As a capable post scorer, a tremendous rebounder and an underrated facilitator, Gasol improves the Thunder as a whole and shifts the team truly into serious title contention. After a disappointing postseason, personnel changes will be welcomed by Oklahoma City fans and such an offensively versatile veteran such as Pau Gasol is exactly what the Thunder needs.
Being such a perfect fit, the only difficulty in executing this deal is one of finances. With the Thunder suffering from serious salary cap inflexibility, Sam Presti is only able to offer a Mid-Level Exception worth $5m. In comparison to the Knicks and Lakers who can each offer $10-12m, this becomes an issue. At this stage in his career, Gasol has made it clear that his primary concern is winning and on the Thunder, he will certainly be doing plenty of that. Pau Gasol is the missing piece in the Thunder’s championship puzzle and his post play and facilitative "team first" approach will leave the Oklahoma City Thunder as title favorites.
Chris Bosh to the Rockets
In what looks like the final few days of the ‘Big 3’ era in Miami, as always, the headlines have been focused on LeBron James. The third member of the Big 3, however, has harbored a great deal of interest on the costless agent market, namely from the Houston Rockets. As a true stretch 4, Chris Bosh is a perfect fit for the perimeter loving Rockets who live at the three point line. After stretching his range out to the perimeter over the past season, Bosh will be able to leave Dwight Howard to bang bodies in the paint.
A core of James Harden, Bosh and Howard has the potential to compete in the super competitive Western Conference and advance deep into the playoffs. Reports have stated that Bosh is seeking a near-max deal, and the Rockets, unlike the Heat, have the means to fulfil that. After enjoying two championship seasons as a member of the Heat, it is time for Bosh to move on and to costlessly excel in a way he was never able to do in South Beach.