Discussion

2014 Free Agent Big Board 4.0

Ranking NBA's top 30 free agents of 2014 by average annual value

Updated: July 4, 2014, 1:33 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

Editor's Note: This board has been updated as of July 2. No signings are official until the NBA's moratorium on free agent signings concludes on July 10.


It's finally here! The NBA's equivalent of Christmas Eve, and every team is excited for the gift-wrapped free agents they expect under their trees. There are the standard popular toys (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James), the hot new release (Chandler Parsons), the factory recall (Danny Granger) and the one that's sold out already (Zach Randolph).

We've seen a flurry of trades, with teams aiming to set their ducks in a row and maximize their flexibility in order to effectively pursue their targets. For some teams, they'll be buying at the high-end boutiques, looking for franchise cornerstones; for others, the shopping list takes them to thrift stores and big-box retailers, looking for discount deals on quality merchandise.

The following is my fourth ranking of 2014's free agents, sorted by the AAV (average annual value) of the new contracts I believe each player deserves under the rules of the CBA. To make my contract value estimates, I used many of the same factors I used as a member of the Phoenix Suns' front office: age, injury history, value of recent comparable player contracts, irreplaceability of skill set, contribution to winning, history of production, fit with style and culture, marketability and current cap situation, among other things.

Please remember: This is not a ranking of the best free agents -- it lines them up based on projected AAV; and the AAVs listed below represent my estimation of the approximate value of each player, not a prediction of what the player will receive on the market in 2014.


1. LeBron James | SF | UFA


2013-14 Team: Miami Heat 2013-14
James

2013-14 Salary: $19.1 million
Suggested AAV: $23.2 million/year, three years, player option on Year 3


If the new CBA deserves half "credit" for getting players to leave money on the table in exchange for creating more competitive teams, James certainly deserves the lion's share of the other half of that credit, as he's created a trend in which, as a free agent, he controls the destinies of so many different players around the league. He's thrown us all for a loop, however, by allegedly setting his demand at max, which puts pressure on everyone else to take the discount to play with him. A three-year, $69.5 million deal with a player option is max with a shorter contract length, allowing him to exit earlier and never get stuck in a bad situation.


2. Carmelo Anthony | SF | UFA

Anthony

2013-14 Team: New York Knicks

2013-14 Salary: $21.4 million
Suggested AAV: $19.2 million/year, four years, player option on Year 4

Welcome to the new NBA, where veteran players realize making the maximum amount allowable probably hinders your ability to win. The new CBA has created a situation where there is a definite trade-off between wins and the amount of space you occupy on the payroll. For Anthony, any hopes of achieving something greater than his own individual excellence lies in his being able to go to a situation that has the flexibility to continue to build around him. That's not to say New York can't be that destination; it just means if he makes the maximum allowable ($129 million over five years if he stays; $96 million over four years if he leaves) he'll be dooming himself to more of the same. A four-year deal starting at $18 million and ascending (with raises) to an average of $19.2 million gives him the opportunity to join something special or have something special built around him.


3. Chris Bosh | PF/C | UFA

Bosh

2013-14 Team: Miami Heat 2013-14
2013-14 Salary: $19.1 million
Suggested AAV: $17.25 million/year, five years, partial guarantee on final year

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