Key decisions for 2014 free agency

Lakers, 76ers, Bulls and Heat face franchise-altering verdicts before next year

Updated: April 3, 2013, 11:34 AM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider
Dwight Howard, Pau GasolNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesWhether the Lakers re-sign Pau Gasol will have major implications on Dwight Howard's L.A. future.

Every few years in the NBA, a wave of big-name free agents hits the open market in the summer and the landscape of the league is altered. The last league-tilting summer was in 2010, when the Miami Heat as we currently know them came into being. The next potential wave is building, and will crash onto the proverbial shore in 2014.

A partial list of players who could become available next year includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. These players have teams jostling for position and putting their houses in order. That entails zeroing in on long-term cores, gathering fungible assets and clearing away unwanted contracts. In what will be a fluid landscape, there are nevertheless some key decisions that will set the stage for the next big free-agent summer.

Here's a look at key decisions facing four teams leading up to 2014 free agency.

Kobe and the Lakers

Kobe Bryant has hinted that he might walk away from the NBA when his massive contract expires after next season. He's also said he'll let the team know soon, so that the post-Jerry Buss Lakers can plan accordingly. That's a good thing for L.A., because the franchise is laden with uncertainties in advance of next summer.

Bryant's situation isn't the only drama in Los Angeles. Gasol has one year, $19.3 million left on his deal before he joins next year's illustrious free-agent class. The Lakers now have to decide whether to float Gasol on this summer's trade market in hopes of finding a more compatible frontcourt partner for Dwight Howard in coach Mike D'Antoni's offense. Unfortunately, it's hard to find a trade scenario that works unless the Lakers want to take on players with multiple years left on their deals (not likely).