Not sure if you heard, but at midnight EST tonight LeBron James will officially become a free agent. No, seriously. He will. I know it hasn’t been talked about at all, but it’s a fact. So will a whole bunch of other guys. David Kay breaks down the top free agent small forwards that will hit the market when the clock strikes 12.
By: David Kay
1. LeBron James, Cavs (PO)
He is more sought after by NBA teams than the Russian terrorists who killed Renee Walker were being pursued by Jack Bauer this season on 24. He is the first and most important chip in free agency, and everything will fall into place after he chooses where to go. Everyone seems to think he will leave Cleveland after a disappointing early exit in the post-season and head to a bigger market. But remember; the Cavs can still pay him more than any other team in the league.
Predicted Contract: Max value (6 years, $125 if he re-signs. 5 years, $95 if he signs elsewhere.)
Possible Destinations: CHI, NY, MIA, CLE, DAL
2. Paul Pierce, Celtics (UFA)
In helping lead the Celtics back to the NBA Finals, Pierce remains one of the top players in the league. On Tuesday, he chose to opt out of the final year of his contract that would pay have paid him $21.5 million. With that being said, I don’t think there is any way he is leaving Boston. I would expect the C’s to show some appreciation and loyalty by signing Pierce to a long-term extension that would make him a Celtic for life. If not, I will be shocked.
Predicted Contract: 4 years, $88 million extension
Possible Destinations: BOS
3. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies (RFA)
The Grizzlies have stated that they will match any offer sheet Gay signs this off-season since he is a restricted free agent. I would not be surprised if Gay tests that statement by hoping to cash in on a serious pay raise that he would likely receive. I think a team could miss out on landing one of the true marquee free agents, panic, and throw a lot of money at Gay that would scare away the Griz from re-signing him. If that doesn’t happen, Gay might just have to accept the $4.4 million due to him in the final year of his rookie contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2011.
Predicted Contract: 5 years, $65 million
Possible Destinations: MEM, LAC, WAS, NY, MIA, NJ
Check out the rest of the small forwards rankings
Click here for David’s NBA off-season team pages