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Sheridan’s Top 25 Free Agents: July 9 Edition – LeBron going to Cleveland

Sheridan’s Top 25 Free Agents: July 9 Edition – LeBron going to Cleveland

The Decision has been made. LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a league source tells SheridanHoops.com.

James met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley today in Las Vegas to deliver the news. A contingent of other Heat officials were informed they were not welcome at the meeting, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An official announcement will be made on www.lebronjames.com, as I first reported yesterday.

For Cleveland, this is one of the most important days in the city’s sports history. No pro team has won a title of any kind since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964, and now there is a distinct possibility that the 50-year drought can end. James will be joining a team led by Kyrie Irving, who just agreed to a five-year contract extension, along with Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft.

It is a young core that will grow older with James as their tutor and leader, and he returns to Cleveland as a grown man who has learned what it takes to win.

For Miami, it is the end of an era — a four-year period in which a superteam was constructed and went to four straight NBA Finals.

Why is this happening? It comes down to LeBron building a legacy, which leads us to three points:

  • There is nothing left for him to accomplish in Miami. He went there for four years, he went to the NBA Finals all four years, and he won two titles while learning what it takes to be a champion. Nobody can ever take that away from him.
  • A chance to return home as a successful, seasoned adult with a chance to deliver the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964 is too much of a legacy opportunity for James to pass up.
  • And another thing: With all due respect to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the best player he has a chance to team up with is named Kyrie Irving.

In today’s biggest piece of news from the morning, the Cavs cleared the cap space to make a max offer to LeBron by dealing away Jarrett Jack, Sergei Karasev, Tyler Zeller and a 2016 first-round pick in a three-way trade with Boston and Brooklyn.

Today, all eyes have turned to Las Vegas, where James opened his annual summer camp, then held his meeting with Riley.

Once James makes his intentions known publicly (and the same goes for Carmelo Anthony, who reportedly will stay with the New York Knicks), the free agency dam is going to burst.

Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson. They are all going to lock up their deals in a very short span of time, and it is going to be madness.

We have been telling you for weeks that Cleveland is in the hunt for James. Some have dismissively scoffed at the notion. Others have surveyed the landscape, summoned their inner Spock and said: “Why not?”

James traveled Monday to Las Vegas, and a source who has been briefed on James’ free agency maneuverings told SheridanHoops that James’ inner circle, from his wife, Savannah to his agent, Rich Paul, to his best friends, Maverick Carter and Randy Mims, are unanimous in their belief that James’ best move is a return to the team he played for from 2003-2010.

Fans in Cleveland have been holding their collective breath, and now they can exhale. The chance for the city’s first championship in any major professional sport since 1964 is now a distinct possibility.

The Cavs were the only team able to offer James something no one else could: Redemption. Let us not forget that we are reaching the four-year anniversary of “taking my talents,” Jim Gray, Cavs fans burning jerseys and Dan Gilbert wrongly predicting more championships for Cleveland than Miami in his infamous comic sans stream-of-consciousness Internet post — a post that was purged from the Cavs’ Web site overnight Sunday.

Never has the balance of power in the NBA hung in the balance quite the way it does now. OK, it was a similar situation four years ago regarding the balance of power, and we all were witnesses to how much sway The Chosen One holds over our beloved Association. Now, it is a question of whether he can turn a young nucleus led by Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins into championship material.

The man who has been greasing the skids for this epic event is James’ agent, Rich Paul, who has been meeting with potential suitors in Cleveland during the first week of the NBA’s moratorium on signings and trades, which expires July 10. Much of Paul’s work has been taking place under the radar, although there have been clues, such as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban being spotted in northeast Ohio. The Lakers had a stealth meeting Friday, and the Rockets and Suns also spoke with Paul.

Meanwhile, on the Carmelo Anthony front, he has finished his tour of meeting with prospective teams and was told by the Knicks that they are indeed willing to make him a max, five-year offer. His decision could come at any time.

The list below shows our Top 25 free agents, but keep in mind that there are more than 100 NBA players whose contracts have expired and who will be looking for new deals in the next several weeks. Nobody can sign anything until July 10, but verbal agreements — such as the one Cleveland made with Kyrie Irving on a five-year max extension — are permitted.

Here is the latest on the Top 25. Players with a (R) next to their name are restricted free agents, meaning their teams have the right to match any offer they receive:

1. LeBron James, F, Miami Heat 

Betcha didn’t realize this: LeBron has never earned a max salary. Never. And you would think he would want to reach that stratosphere before he turns 30 (which happens on New Year’s Eve). There is a scenario under which LeBron can sign a five-year deal with a starting salary of nearly $22 million and have a superstar cast surrounding him. But Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would have to sign for much less than the max. Only time will tell if they are willing to do that — and if James is willing to do the same to facilitate a stronger supporting cast. Check out this chart showing how much cap room the Heat and other teams have. July 1 UPDATE: The Lakers placed a call to LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and the Mavericks, Rockets, Bulls, Warriors, Suns and Cavs are expected to kick the tires. UPDATE II: John Canzano of Oregonian reports James wants only a one- or two-year deal at max money. July 2 UPDATE: More questions than answers. July 3: Still no concrete word on what James is thinking. July 7 UPDATE: Clevelanders now believe they are squarely in the mix. Source tells SheridanHoops that James’ inner circle is unanimous in their belief that James should return to the Cavs. UPDATE II: Kyrie Irving has made a pitch to James, according to FoxSports Ohio. July 8 UPDATE: Meeting with Riley scheduled for Wednesday, Yahoo reports. JULY 9 UPDATE: Cavs have cleared max cap room by trading away Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and Sergei Karasev. UPDATE II: The Decision has been made. He’s returning to Cleveland.

2. Carmelo Anthony, F, New York Knicks

When Phil Jackson said the Knicks would be good whether or not Anthony returns, not many people gave much credence to the thought of a new MeloDrama — though they should have. Same thing when Jackson said he would hold Anthony to his word in regards to taking less than the max to help the Knicks move forward with cap flexibility. There seems to be a consensus that ‘Melo is the most getable top free agent out there. JULY 1 UPDATE: Anthony will meet with the Bulls, then the Mavericks and Rockets, then the Lakers, and finally the Knicks. Last week, Jackson said his preference was either to make the first pitch or the last pitch. He will get the latter. UPDATE II: Berman of the Post says LaLa Vazquez wants to stay in New York. UPDATE III: Surprisingly, Derrick Rose was in attendance as Bulls made their pitch. He dined at night with a contingent that included Jerry Reinsdorf and Scottie Pippen. July 2 UPDATE: Lunch with the Rockets, after which they bring him to the arena and have a mock-up of Melo wearing No. 7 — Jeremy Lin’s number. “I get the sensitivity & I hate that it creates some hurt feelings. I don’t like that, but that’s obviously Carmelo Anthony’s number, that’s the number he wants. He told us that. Bottomline, if Carmelo comes, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded. It’s just math. It’s not personal. My job is every day figure out how to win. Sometimes it creates challenging situations.” – Rockets GM Daryl Morey. UPDATE II: Nighttime meeting with Mavs at Mark Cuban’s house. Mark Cuban on Melo meeting (via CyberDust): “We made this purely a business meeting. No tours. No banners. All basketball and business.” JULY 3 UPDATE: Kobe Bryant has flown back from his European vacation to be part of the Lakers’ pitch. Mark Heisler thinks Lakers should steer clear. UPDATE II: Meeting lasted 2 1/2 hours. ‘Melo and Kobe will have a sitdown after Knicks make their pitch 3,000 miles from NY. UPDATE III: Knicks reportedly made verbal offer of max deal $129 for 5 years. JULY 4 UPDATE: Yahoo says Anthony was aligned with Jackson’s direction following their meeting. JULY 7 UPDATE: Informed speculation has ‘Melo choosing between the Lakers and Knicks. UPDATE II: Veteran beat writers at Chicago Tribune and NY Daily News say Bulls are still in the mix. JULY 8 UPDATE: Crickets. JULY 9 UPDATE: Marc Berman of the New York Post reports Jackson is trying to clear cap space to make an 11th hour run at LeBron James. Frank Isola of New York Daily News says barring a last-minute change of heart, Anthony will return to the Knicks.

3. Greg Monroe, F, Detroit Pistons (R)

He is going to get a max contract, because there just aren’t that many 24-years-olds standing 6-11 who can be obtained this summer. Also, his agent is David Falk, and if there is one thing that Falk knows how to do (aside from staying on Michael Jordan’s good side), it is getting his clients the most possible money. What makes the most sense is a max offer from the Lakers, who need to start putting together the building blocks of their future. Which means Stan Van Gundy (and Tom Gores) will need to decide: Is Monroe worthy of the max deal? July 1 UPDATE: The Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic are the first three teams that have been mentioned as strong suitors for Monroe. Prepare for that list to get longer. JULY 8 UPDATE: It would appear that the Pistons have not made Monroe a max offer, or we’d have heard about it. So look for some team to max Monroe after the Melo/LeBron decisions are made, and then it will be a question of whether Detroit will match.

4. Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors 

For a while, the general consensus among NBA personnel folks was that a four-year deal starting in the $11 million range would be enough for the Raptors to get their best player (apologies, DeMar DeRozan) to stick around. Then Lowry got linked to the Heat as a possible destination, and all bets were suddenly off. There is no way the Heat can give Lowry his fair market value unless he goes to Miami in a sign-and-trade, but there is nobody among Miami’s castoffs who is worthy of a similar deal. July 1 UPDATE: Lowry met with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey today in Philadelphia, then with Daryl Morey of the Rockets. Toronto weighing whether to offer a five-year deal, which no one else can do. Miami and Lakers trying to get a meeting. JULY 2 UPDATE: A decision could come today, according to the National Post in Canada. JULY 3 – UPDATE Shortly after midnight, Lowry tweets that he is returning to Toronto. He’ll get $48 million over four years with an Early Termination Option after Year 3.

5. Lance Stephenson, G, Indiana Pacers 

You have to admire his fearlessness and feistiness, especially when it comes to competing against LeBron James, whose feuds with Stephenson over the past couple of seasons have brought extra sizzle to the Pacers-Heat rivalry. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to IQ, Stephenson is nonetheless one of the more gifted all-around players in anybody’s backcourt. It makes sense for the Pacers to re-sign him for less than the max; it is debatable whether he is worth a max contract. But given the fact that teammate Roy Hibbert has a max deal, Lance will be looking for the same. The question is whether he’ll have any leverage. July 1 UPDATE: The Pacers put together an elaborate pitch, producing a “Born Ready” movie that they showed to Stephenson shortly after midnight. But a max deal was not offered along with the popcorn, and Indiana’s five-year, $44 million offer was insufficient, Chris Broussard of ESPN reported. The Bulls, Lakers and Hornets have initiated contact. JULY 7 UPDATE: The Mavs and Lakers have registered their interest, ESPN reports. JULY 8 UPDATE – ESPN’s Dan LeBatard said the Heat reached out before coming to terms with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. 

6. Eric Bledsoe, G, Phoenix Suns (R)

When he wasn’t injured, Bledsoe showed exactly why teams were lining up to try to acquire him before he was eventually dealt by the Clippers to the Phoenix Suns. The NBA is a point guard-driven league, and this guy is the one player out there (yes, even more so than Lowry, IHMO) who has superstar potential. The Lakers could do a lot worse than getting this guy along with Monroe, which together with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers’ lottery pick, Julius Randle, would have Jimmy Buss’ team contending from the opening tip this fall. JULY 1: The Suns have been mentioned as possible suitors for several top free agents because they have the ability to sign-and-trade Bledsoe. And since they drafted Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, a point guard, they may look to flip Bledsoe for a max man. A scenario exists whereby Bledson, LeBron James and Kevin Love would all play for Phoenix next season. JULY 4 UPDATE: The Bucks are pitching an offer sheet, according to ESPN.com.

7. Pau Gasol, F, Los Angeles Lakers 

If we are to assume that Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Bosh are both going to remain with their present teams – a sound assumption – then Pau deserves a free agent ranking ahead of both of them. He can be acquired for less than the max, he fits as the last piece of a championship puzzle for a team that is one player away. JULY 1 UPDATE — Gasol has returned to the U.S. from Spain. The first calls came from the Lakers, Bulls, Mavericks and Warriors. Gasol spoke on the phone with Pat Riley and met for several hours with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. Spurs are interested, but cannot come close to paying the $10-12 million Gasol is seeking unless there is a sign-and-trade. July 2 UPDATE: Bulls are heading to Los Angeles to talk to him. Gasol is their No. 1 choice after ‘Melo. Also, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a pitch led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. ESPN says he is willing to take less than market value from three teams: Spurs, Thunder and Knicks. Carmelo Anthony reportedly asked for Gasol’s phone number to pitch him on coming to the Knicks. JULY 4 UPDATE: Joakim Noah was part of a Bulls contingent making a pitch, and Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra are the pitchers today. July 5 UPDATE: Spurs will offer him their full mid-level exception, Yahoo reports. JULY 7 UPDATE: Thunder coach Scott Brooks met with Gasol, ESPN reported. JULY 8 — Sought by every good team in the Association, beginning with the Spurs. Met with OKC coach Scott Brooks on Monday, ESPN-LA reported. A true wild card.

8. Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks

He isn’t going anywhere, but respect dictates that we place him in our top 10. It seems like an exercise in futility to list him as a free agent, because no one is expecting him to do anything other than end his career exactly where he started it. With Dirk, it is a question of how much money he will make, and how much he will leave for Mark Cuban to play with in free agency down the road. He has already said he plans to play well into his 40s. JULY 1 UPDATE — If and when the Mavericks get a sit-down with LeBron James, Nowitzki wants to take part as a recruiter. Same goes for the July 2 meeting with Carmelo Anthony which is already scheduled. July 3 UPDATE — Earlier than expected, the Mavs and Dirk sat down and quickly came to an agreement on a three-year, $30 million deal with an opt-out after two years. Nowitzki also keeps his no-trade clause.

9. Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat 

He has opted out of a contract that would have paid him $42 million over the next two seasons, which is a helluva a lot of money to sacrifice without any assurance that a new deal with allow him to recoup that money. Unless, of course, there is a wink-wink deal in place. Of all the members of Miami’s Big Three, Wade has the most riding on keeping the trio intact. He is coming off an NBA Finals in which his decline was quite apparent. July 1 UPDATE — “Everybody has their [contract] number and has left a little bit of room to let [Riley] maneuver,” one source briefed on the contract discussions told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.  UPDATE II: John Canzano of Oregonian says Wade will get a four-year deal with a starting salary of $11 million. Agent Henry Thomas says that is untrue.  July 2 UPDATE: More questions than answers after the Big Three meet. They are unsure of what ‘Bron will do. JULY 6 UPDATE: “Nothing’s changed” in Wade and Bosh’s approach since the July 1 start of free agency, agent Henry Thomas told ESPN.com. “They appreciate what they’ve done in Miami those four years together, and they want to make sure they have a chance to have that same success the next four (years). “With Dwyane, he’s been there his entire career, so he’s in a unique situation. Chris has made it known how he’s felt about being in Miami these four years.” Thomas insisted that Bosh and Wade are operating under separate circumstances, but expects them to reach decisions on new deals “within the next couple of days.” ESPN.com reported. JULY 8 UPDATE, See James, LeBron.

10. Chris Bosh, F, Miami Heat 

After a false report surfaced that he would be heading back to Toronto in a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry, things quieted down. Could very well be sipping an Abita Turbodog as you are reading this. He keeps a keg of it in his kitchen. There will be no news on Bosh until there is definitive news on LeBron James. JULY 1 UPDATE — He reportedly has his new number (his salary for the next four years) after opting out of his contract along with James and Wade. Chris Broussard of ESPN says the Lakers are interested. UPDATE II – John Canzano says Bosh will get a five-year deal with a starting salary of $12 million. Agent Henry Thomas says that is untrue.  July 2 UPDATE: More questions than answers after the Big Three meet. They are unsure of what ‘Bron will do. JULY 4 UPDATE: Rockets will be interested if they can’t land Anthony, ESPN reports. JULY 6 UPDATE See Dwyane Wade entry for today’s update. JULY 7 UPDATE: Steven A. Smith tweeted about the possibility of Bosh leaving for Houston and Miami using his slot to make an offer to ‘Melo. UPDATE II: Various reports have Bosh heading to Houston if the Heat’s Big Three is broken up. Yahoo says Bosh would get a four-year, $80 million deal. ESPN says it’ll be $96 million. JULY 8 UPDATE: Bosh is waiting like the rest of us, and would prefer a return to Miami. His Plan B appears firmly in place.

11. Luol Deng, F, Cleveland Cavaliers 

This is the part of the list where things get interesting. With Deng, he could be the missing link to a championship for a team needing a heady glue guy, a lockdown defender and a locker room leader. If the Cavs are going to go all-in for James, they will need to renounce their rights to Deng, who never fit in all that well after he was acquired at midseason in the Andrew Bynum trade. Deng is still only 29. JULY 1 UPDATE: The Mavs were the first team to contact him, and the Heat, Clippers, Mavs and Hawks registered interest as well. Deng was out of the country as free agency began. JULY 2 UPDATE: He will be a priority for Mavs if Anthony signs elsewhere, ESPN reports. JULY 3 UPDATE: Deng has returned to America from Europe. List of interested teams also includes Bulls, Lakers, Wizards, Heat. He is a big-time second domino. UPDATE II: Deng meeting with Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Could only go there in a sign-and trade. JULY 4 UPDATE: Deng to meet with Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer today. JULY 5 UPDATE: Meeting with Heat president Pat Riley in Chicago. JULY 7 UPDATE: As the world awaits LeBron’s decision, Atlanta said to be pressing Deng to decide whether he will come aboard.

12. Gordon Hayward, F, Utah Jazz (R)

The Jazz should have signed him to an extension when they had a chance, because somebody is going to come with an offer that will be too rich for Utah to match — either because it is backloaded to put the Jazz into tax territory after Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors start their big contracts, or because it is simply more money than Utah believes Hayward is worth. The Jazz small forward is kind of the Greg Monroe of white guys. And like Monroe, if he continues to progress, he has All-Star written all over him. JULY 1 UPDATE — The Jazz met with Hayward to discuss a new contract, and talks will continue later in the day. The Lakers are interested. ESPN’s Marc Stein says Jazz will match any offer. The Celtics made contact, and a Brad Stevens reunion cannot be counted out. Jule 2 UPDATE — The Cavs are prepared to make a max offer of four years, $63 million, ESPN reported. July 3 UPDATE: No offer was made by the Cavs. Hayward was expected to draw interest from the Celtics, Suns, Lakers, Bulls, Heat, Rockets, Grizzlies and others, USAToday reported. Salt Lake Tribune insists Jazz will match any offer. JULY 4 UPDATE: Meeting set up with Hornets for next week. Former teammate Al Jefferson will be one of the recruiters. JULY 7 UPDATE: Every video board in Time Warner Cable arena says “Welcome Gordon Hayward and family.” JULY 9 UPDATE: Hayward will sign a four-year, $63 million max offer sheet with Charlotte, according to longtime Hornets/Bobcats/Hornets beat writer Rick Bonnell. Utah has the right to match, and will do so, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News.

13. Marcin Gortat, C, Washington Wizards

The Polish Hammer is happy in Washington, and re-signing him will be a bigger priority than re-signing Trevor Ariza. What would have made things easiest for Washington was finding a taker for Martell Webster, who is owed $11 million over the next two seasons, but Webster injured his back late in June and underwent surgery. No word yet on whether potential suitors will offer housing for Gortat’s pet pig. JULY 1 UPDATE — The Wizards got the first meeting with Gortat, and locked him up with a five-year, $60 million deal.

14. Isaiah Thomas, G, Sacramento Kings (R)

With Rudy Gay remaining under contract, the Kings would become a luxury tax team by matching an offer to Thomas — whose goal before having a breakout year was to earn mid-level money. He’ll do a lot better than that after the season he just had, which was so good that the Kings do not even list his scoring average on their stats page. WTF? JULY 1 UPDATE: Curiously, Danny Ainge was the first to place a call. Doesn’t he already have a point guard in Rajon Rondo? Hmmmm. Let the Kevin Love trade rumors commence once again. Also, the Pistons have reportedly offered a three-year deal for $24 million. JULY 2 UPDATE: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban placed a call to Thomas, Yahoo reported. Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Mavericks, Pistons and Suns in the mix, our own Mike Scotto reports. JULY 3 UPDATE: With Darren Collison deal with Sacto, it seems highly unlikely an offer sheet will be matched.

15. Chandler Parsons, F, Houston Rockets (R)

The whole NBA has known for weeks that the Rockets plan to match any offer Parsons receives, but that has not stopped the speculation. Parsons is said to have multiple suitors waiting in the wings, most notably the Lakers, Timberwolves, Bulls and Mavericks, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. Spears says the Parsons market will largely be decided with what happens with Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony—and to a certain extent Warriors guard Klay Thompson. JULY 1 UPDATE: The Bulls, Mavericks, Lakers and Suns have reportedly registered interest, and Marc Stein of ESPN says there could be a sign-and-trade for Kevin Love that involves Parsons. JULY 2 UPDATE: Stein says he will be a priority for Mavs if Carmelo Anthony signs elsewhere. JULY 7 UPDATE: ESPN is all over the map with their reporting, and they are saying the Mavericks will make Parsons a primary target if they miss out on LeBron. JULY 9 UPDATE: Has reached agreement on a three-year, $45 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks, ESPN reports. Houston will have three days to match.

16. Shaun Livingston, G, Brooklyn Nets

He will be out of Brooklyn’s price range, as the Nets can only offer him the taxpayer mid-level, or about $10 million over three years. Once upon a time he was thought of as the next Magic Johnson – a tall, rangy point guard who presents matchup nightmares either on the perimeter or on post-ups. More than a half-decade removed from the career-threatening injury that mangled his knee, Livingston has been waiting a long, long time to get papered (NBA parlance for a big contract), and he is not going to miss out on his one and only chance. The Nets will miss him, as their second-half resurgence coincided with him moving into the starting lineup alongside Deron Williams. JULY 1 UPDATE: The Warriors get him with a three-year, $16 million offer, Yahoo reports.

17. Greivis Vasquez, G, Toronto Raptors (R)

If the Raptors are all-in to retain Kyle Lowry, they could lose Vazquez because you only need one starting-caliber point guard, and a second — especially at a high salary — is a waste of cap space. Everyone in the NBA knows that, which is why Vazquez should receive a ton of attention over the first couple days of July. But, if the Raptors feel they are going to lose Lowry, they will not hesitate to match any offer to this Venezuelan spark plug. Where things could get tricky is if Lowry is wavering and Vazquez has already signed an offer sheet. JULY 1 UPDATE: Vasquez says he would like to remain a Raptor for the rest of his career. No news yet of any interest from elsewhere. JULY 4 UPDATE: Bucks pitching an offer sheet, ESPN reports. JULY 7 UPDATE: Raptors have a multi-year offer on the table, Toronto Sun reports.

18. Trevor Ariza, F, Washington Wizards 

Everybody needs one; not everybody has one. But a glue guy who can defend multiple positions and knock down 3-pointers with consistency is a valued commodity, and few do it better than Ariza, who often times looked like the best player on the floor for the Wizards during their run to the second round of the playoffs. Again, Ariza’s future in Washington is heavily dependent upon whether the front office can move Martell Webster’s contract. If not, Ariza may not be worth the cost of becoming a luxury tax team. This will be a very interesting test case of whether the luxury tax is too punitive. JULY 1 UPDATE: Ariza spoke with the Wizards shortly after midnight, but the Cavs, Jazz, Lakers and Clippers all have interest. After Gortat signed, Ariza expressed a willingness to re-sign quickly, CSN Washington reported. JULY 3 UPDATE: Rockets and Pistons also interested. JULY 5 UPDATE: Met with Pat Riley in Los Angeles. 

19. Chris Andersen, C, Miami Heat

Whether you call him Birdman or Birdzilla, you have to call him a key component in the Heat’s ascendance to one of the elite teams of all time. He has come a long way since snorting himself out of the league with a drug suspension and then being amnestied by the Denver Nuggets. He has said he wants to remain in Miami, and he has made enough money to turn down more lucrative offers elsewhere. But again, if the Big Three is broken up, all bets are off. And remember … centers always get paid in free agency. It is known as the Erick Dampier rule. JULY 1 UPDATE — The Mavericks and Rockets could make a run, according to Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report.

20. Spencer Hawes, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

We have already explained the Erick Dampier Rule, which may become known as the Spencer Hawes rule if this fella gets an offer with a 10-digit starting salary. He was terrific for the Cavs after they acquired him from the Sixers at the deadline, and there just aren’t that many stretch 5s — centers who can go out to the 3-point line and knock down bombs. Hawes made more than 42 percent of his 3s last season, 12th best in the NBA. (Only 26 players made at least 40 percent of their 3-point attempts last season). JULY 1 UPDATE: Met with the Trail Blazers shortly after midnight and received a pitch from coach Terry Stotts and GM Neil Olshey. Other teams interested include Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and Mavs. The Blazers can only offer him the full mid-level exception of $23 million for four years. JULY 3 UPDATE: Meeting with Suns. JULY 4 UPDATE: Agrees to terms with Clippers on same deal Blazers were offering — four years, $23 million.

21. Boris Diaw, F, San Antonio Spurs

Nobody raised their value more in the playoffs than the Big Baguette, whose basketball IQ was on full display in the Finals against the Heat as the Spurs took down Miami in five games. Hard to believe this guy was waived by the Bobcats. No question the Spurs want to have him back, but as we learned a year ago with Gary Neal, San Antonio will let guys go if they feel the money being offered by someone else is out of whack with a guy’s true value. In this case, however, I think R.C. Buford will do whatever it takes to keep him. JULY 1 UPDATE: The Trail Blazers are interested in finding another player who can spread the floor, and Diaw could be a fallback if Spencer Hawes ends up becoming the object of a bidding war. JULY 5 UPDATE – Probably took less money that he could have found on open market in accepting 3-year, $22.5 million deal to return to the defending champs. Only FA left for San Antonio is Matt Bonner. Yahoo says team will offer full mid-level to Pau Gasol.

22. Andray Blatche, F/C, Brooklyn Nets 

A productive member of a pretty good team, and an insurance policy in case Kevin Garnett retires. The thing with Blatche, as anyone who spent any time around the Nets last season can attest, is that you never quite know when he is going to show up and when he is going to take a night off. He NEVER has two good games in a row; and his level of desire will always be questioned until he silences his critics with some consistency. The jury is still out on whether we will ever see that. JULY 1 UPDATE: Conflicting reports on whether the New Orleans Pelicans might be interested. After acquiring Omer Asik from the Rockets, I don’t see it. Blatche claimed his Instagram account was hacked after a “Fu-k Brooklyn” message was posted. UPDATE II: General manager Billy King did not call Blatche, but did call the team’s other FAs. JULY 8 UPDATE: Will meet Wednesday with Raptors in Las Vegas.

23. Patty Mills, G, San Antonio Spurs

Is worth more money-wise to somebody else, although the Spurs would love to keep him. But with what Mills will command on the open market, they might have to turn over the backup reins behind Tony Parker to Cory Joseph. Speedy point guards — especially speedy point guards who have spent three seasons under Gregg Popovich’s tutelage — are a scarce commodity, and somebody could be getting themselves a real bargain if they ink Mills to a mid-level deal. JULY 1 UPDATE: Needs rotator cuff surgery and will be out until January. JULY 2 update: Sides have agreed on a three-year deal keeping Mills in San Antonio.

24. P.J. Tucker, F, Phoenix Suns

A poor man’s Trevor Ariza. But the thing with Tucker is that he is younger and has less mileage. Teams with the mid-level available who do not make it available to Tucker are idiots. Every team needs someone who can defend the opponent’s best player, but there just aren’t enough Tony Allens to go around. Tucker will have a job in the Association for a long, long time because of his on-the-ball defensive abilities, and whoever gets this guy will emerge from the summer a big-time winner. (Yes, I am a fan of his). JULY 1 UPDATE: GM Ryan McDonough has said he wants to sign Tucker quickly, but all bets are off if Kevin Love or LeBron James become realistic possibilities.

25. Avery Bradley, G, Boston Celtics (R)

If guys start getting paid because of their defensive prowess, then Bradley stands to make his money this summer. But teams also tend to put a lot of weight on offensive numbers, and Bradley did not exactly kill it last season for a struggling Celtics team. But on this Web site, you get ranked a little higher if you get the job done on both ends, and if your intangibles are invisible to the naked eye. He beats out a lot of bigger names for this 25th spot, including former teammate Paul Pierce (who is cooked, IMHO). JULY 1 UPDATE: The Sixers have expressed an interest, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo. Philadelphia has a huge hole at shooting guard after waiving last year’s starter, James Anderson. July 2 UPDATE: Deal gets done: Four years for $32 million as Bradley stays with Celtics.

The next 25:

Jordan Hill, F; LA Lakers; Jeff Adrien, F, Milwaukee; Shawn Marion, F, Dallas; Vince Carter, F, Dallas; Ray Allen, G, Miami; Evan Turner, F, Indiana; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers; Mario Chalmers, G, Miami; Kris Humphries, F, Boston; Kirk Hinrich, G, Chicago; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Andrew Bynum, C, Indiana; Mike Scott, F, Atlanta; Paul Pierce, F, Brooklyn; Al-Farouq Aminu, F; New Orleans; Mo Williams, G, Portland; Kent Bazemore, G, L.A. Lakers; Anthony Morrow, G, New Orleans; Troy Daniels, G, Houston; Mike Miller, F, Memphis; Francisco Garcia, F, Houston; Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando; Marvin Williams, F, Utah; Glen Davis, F, L.A. Clippers; Rodney Stuckey, G, Pistons.

Others:

JULY 7

Channing Frye, F, Phoenix; 4-year, $32 million deal with Orlando

Nice payday for the 3-point shooting specialist who is bound, someday, to remind folks of Robert Horry. I’ve been saying that since he was a rookie with the Knicks. Orlando needed a veteran like Frye to stabilize a very young locker room, and Frye has been with enough teams and seen enough leaders to move into that sort of role himself. Tough loss for Phoenix, but Magic ponied up a lot of money.

Josh McRoberts, F, Charlotte; 4-Year, $23 Million deal with Heat

Fairly stunning that the Heat gave their full mid-level exception to McBob after recruiting more highly regarded free agents including Deng and Ariza. And the fact that it happened just before Pat Riley was set to make his final sales pitch to LeBron James makes it appear as though the roster upgrade LeBron James was seeking is going to be centered around this guy and the guy listed one spot lower on this list.

Danny Granger, F, L.A. Clippers; 2-Year, $4.2 million deal with Heat

Does Pat Riley know something that Doc Rivers does not? The coach of the Clippers had virtually no use for this former All-Star during the playoffs, and we all know how the playoffs ended for Donald Sterling’s team. In my opinion, this move reeks of desperation by Riley as he tries to keep his Big Three together. Granger has not been a productive NBA player for more than two years.

JULY 6

Jordan Farmar, G, L.A. Lakers; 2-Year, $4.2 million deal with Clippers.

The much traveled point guard will return to the city where he began his NBA career and where he played last year, down the hallway. Farmar gives the Clippers a backup to Chris Paul in the event that Darren Collison leaves as a free agent — something that seems quite possible given that the Clippers will not want to pay a backup the amount of money Collison can get on the open market.

JULY 5:

Devin Harris, G, Mavericks: Re-signed with Dallas for 3 Years and $9 million, per ESPN.

Mark Cuban placed a call to his best remaining PG shortly after free agency began, and the Mavs took five days to reach agreement with Harris, whose role should increase now that Jose Calderon has been shipped to New York. If he can beat out Ray Felton in training camp, he may end up being the lowest paid starting PG in the entire NBA.

JULY 4

Patrick Patterson, F, Raptors; 3-Year, $18 Million deal to stay in Toronto

Nice deal for an important member of the Raptors bench. One would assume that at this money, Patterson will be the starting power forward in Toronto before too long. Right now, that spot is manned by Amir Johnson, who is entering the final year of his contract. Patterson averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, his fourth in the league.

Chris Kaman, C, L.A. Lakers: 2-Year, $10 million Deal with the Portland Tail Blazers

Props to the Blazers for getting a 7-footer without having to break the bank. Consider that they were willing to give max money to Roy Hibbert (who remember him, the guy who disappeared in the playoffs) a couple years back and even signed him to an offer sheet.Extra low risk here because only $1 million is guaranteed in second year.

JULY 3

Darren Collison, G, L.A. Clippers, 3-Year, $16 Million Deal with Sacramento Kings

This deal signals the end for Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento, which is something because he had a tremendous career there and a superb 2013-14 season. Collison has been on a lot of teams’ radars for a long time.

As a starter, be could be one of the best bang-for-the-buck players in the entire NBA.

Thabo Sefolosha, G, Thunder, 3-Year, $12 million deal with Atlanta Hawks

A cost-effective pickup by Danny Ferry, who lost Cartier Martin a day earlier. Sefolosha has spent the past eight seasons becoming one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, and as mentioned above in the P.J. Tucker entry, every team needs a guy to sic on the opposing team’s best scorer and have a reasonable shot at getting a stop.

JULY 2

Jodie Meeks, Lakers: 3-Year, $19.5 million deal with Detroit.

The 3-point specialist averaged a career-high 15.7 points and scored a team-high 1,209 points last season.

He shot .401 from downtown, making him one of only 26 players to shoot 40 percent or better from behind the arc. The Pistons were 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season.

Cartier Martin, Hawks; 1-Year deal, terms undisclosed, with Detroit.

Averaged only 5.6 points and 17 minutes for the Hawks, but shot 39 percent from long distance.

Yes, it appears we have discovered Stan Van Gundy’s point of emphasis in assembling his roster as Detroit’s new president of basketball operations. Hustle guys who can shoot.

Damjan Rudez, F, Zaragoza (Spain); 3-Year Deal with Indiana Pacers

Cleveland and Utah were also after this sharpshooting 28-year-old from Croatia who has been playing professionally since he was 16 and spent last season in the Spanish ACB. He was undrafted in 2008. The Pacers used an undisclosed portion of their mid-level exception.

 

JULY 1

C.J. Miles, G, Cleveland: 4-Year, $18 million deal with Indiana Pacers

With talks between the Pacers and Lance Stephenson at an impasse, Indiana went out and gave a fairly lavish deal to a player considered by many to be little better than bit player. Miles, a nine-year veteran at the age of 27, averaged 19.3 minutes and started 34 games for the Cavs last season, averaging 9.9 points. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Utah Jazz.

Ben Gordon, G, Charlotte (Bobcats); 2-Year, $9 Million deal with the Orlando Magic

Some deals make you scratch your head. And some players– Rashard Lewis comes to mind — have an uncanny ability to get overpaid time and time and time again. The last we heard of Gordon, he was getting waived by the then-Bobcats after the March 1 deadline to sign with playoff teams. Seems this fella didn’t need to show anything under postseason pressure, as Orlando reached a deal with him 36 hours into free agency. Wow.

Sebastian Telfair, G, Tianjin Ronggang (China), 1-Year Deal with Oklahoma City Thunder

Coming back from China after a one-year stint overseas, the former New York City high school sensation joins a team that already has a backup point guard in Reggie Jackson behind Russell Westbrook.

So that makes this a curious move, although the risk is low for Oklahoma City because Telfair is taking a minimum salary.

Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor in chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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