NBA PM: The Loaded 2014 Free Agent Class
July 1, 2010 was circled on NBA calendars for several years in advance. The summer of 2010 featured arguably the best free agent class in league history and the star-studded group dominated the headlines in the year and a half leading up to the circus. Executives cleared cap space, reporters asked about potential destinations and fans anticipated one of the most interesting offseasons of all time.
The summer of 2010 didn’t disappoint. Superstars switched teams at an alarming rate, changing the landscape of the NBA in a matter of months. The player movement created new-found interest in the NBA and ratings skyrocketed since fans wanted to see how the various storylines would play out. The 2010 offseason lived up to the hype, and as a result the NBA was able to captivate many casual sports fans.
The summer of 2014 has similar potential.
A lot can change over the next two years, but many executives around the league expect the 2014 offseason to be an exciting one.
The 2014 free agent class could include Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Luol Deng, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Andrew Bogut among others.
Bryant, Nowitzki, Granger, Deng, Pierce, Gasol and Bogut will be unrestricted free agents that summer. James, Wade, Anthony, Stoudemire, Bosh, Gay and Randolph have either a player option or early termination option, which means they can opt-out and become unrestricted free agents.
The group has the potential to be one of the best free agent classes ever. They have a combined 10 championships and 76 All-Star appearances. The class could feature future Hall-of-Famers and some of the biggest names in the NBA.
One Western Conference executive believes that the 2014 class could be better than the 2010 group that created so much buzz.
“A lot of the players in the 2010 class hadn’t done anything yet, and they still haven’t,” the executive said. “The 2014 class, if everyone opts out, is much more accomplished.”
Executives around the league are already taking notice of this class and teams may start positioning themselves to be players during the summer of 2014.
Many of the teams that added key free agents during the 2010 offseason find themselves in a much better place today. The Miami Heat went from a lottery team to a perennial contender after adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Chicago Bulls filled out their roster with Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson and became an elite team. The Dallas Mavericks re-signed Dirk Nowitzki and added Tyson Chandler, who allowed them to win their first championship. The New York Knicks became relevant again after inking Amar’e Stoudemire to a long-term deal.
The summer of 2014 will be another chance for teams to court some of the game’s best players and change the landscape of the league once again.
Charlotte’s Historically Bad Season: The Charlotte Bobcats may go down as the worst team in NBA history. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers currently hold the record for lowest winning percentage in a single season (.110) after going 9-73. However, the Bobcats are on pace to break the record, something the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t do last season even with their historically bad 26-game losing streak.
Charlotte’s winning percentage is currently .111, but can drop to .106 if they lose their remaining three games against the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. They are 7-56 on the season and they’ve lost a franchise-record 20 games in a row. The Bobcats’ last win was on March 17 against the Toronto Raptors.
The players and coaches in Charlotte don’t want this season to be remembered in the NBA record books. Bobcats head coach Paul Silas told a group of reporters that the team will fight hard this week to avoid finishing with the lowest winning percentage of all-time.
“It’s been hard on these guys to keep going,” Silas said. “That’s basically all we have.”
The Bobcats rank last in the NBA in points per game (87.10), point differential (-13.69), field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.294). They are also one of the worst defensive teams in the league, giving up 100.79 points per game on .474 shooting from the field.
Charlotte’s next win may not come until May 30, the night of the NBA Draft Lottery. The Bobcats are guaranteed to have the most ping-pong balls of any team and may be able to put this horrendous season behind them by drafting franchise-changer Anthony Davis.
Bryant, Durant Battle for Scoring Title: On Sunday, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant gave NBA fans exactly what they wanted to see. It doesn’t get much better than a double-overtime shootout between the league’s top two scorers. Bryant finished with 26 points and the win, but Durant finished with a game-high 35 points. That’s significant since Bryant and Durant are battling for the NBA’s scoring title in the final week of the season.
The race between Bryant and Durant is one of the closest in league history and it’ll come down to the wire. Durant is currently in the lead by a slim margin, averaging 27.91 points to Bryant’s 27.86.
This may be the most entertaining battle since David Thompson and George Gervin, who were separated by just .02 of a point entering the final day of the 1977-78 season. Thompson would score 73 points in the final game of the season to finish with a 27.15 average. However, Gervin played later that evening and knew that he needed 58 points to win the scoring crown. He attempted 49 field goals and scored 63 points to win the scoring title by 0.07 of a point.
Don’t expect big performances like that from Durant and Bryant. Both players insist that they won’t try to force anything in the final week of the season. Durant has two games left against the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets. Bryant only has one remaining game, Thursday against Sacramento.
If Durant wins the title, he’ll become the first player since Michael Jordan to lead the league in scoring for three consecutive years. This would also be Bryant’s third title since he led the league in scoring in 2005 and 2006.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today. HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram kicked things off at 11 a.m EST. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston held down his weekly chat at 3 p.m. EST. HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8 p.m. EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here.