2014 Free Agent Big Board 2.0
Ranking NBA's top 30 free agents of 2014 by average annual value
It's still about eight months away, but the 2014 free-agency picture is a little more in focus. In the two months since the first iteration of the Free Agent Big Board, we've seen several players move out of the rankings: Andrew Bogut agreed to an extension that was close to my valuation, and Paul George, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Quincy Pondexter all came to terms with their respective teams by way of rookie extensions.
In turn, the value that all of these players received in their deals affects the way the remaining free agents will be appraised. In a sense, the market has been set to some extent; at the very least, it's more set than it was two months ago. Additionally, although the 2013-14 season is barely a week old, there are performances out of the gate that serve to either catapult or drag down respective valuations.
The following is my second 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. (Values denoted in millions of dollars.)
The contract valuations for many of these players are almost guaranteed to change, as their 2013-14 performances will affect their worth, but it is important to get an early gauge of where the different prospects stand. Also, note that stats reflect numbers from 2012-13 given the small sample size available from 2013-14.
UFA = Unrestricted free agent; RFA = Restricted free agent; ETO = Early termination option; PO = Player option
Three weeks ago, Anthony announced that he intends to exercise his ETO and test the free-agent market. But he also said his dream was to retire as a Knick. Either way, his value figures to be constant as a max-level player. I wrote about what it would take for another team to lure away Anthony, but the Knicks still are in the driver's seat, as they can offer him $129 million over five years. However, that would mean paying him as much as $29.2 million when he's 34 years old. As such, I would not give him anything longer than a three-year deal, unless it was discounted or on a de-escalating rate.
The shortest explanation necessary: You pay him the maximum-allowable amount and give him every option he desires. In a perfect world, there would be no maximum limits, and we'd find out his true market value. But under the current rules, the Heat get the biggest steal in free agency with a deeply discounted AAV of $23.1 million. Should James opt to take his talents away from South Beach, he'd make about $85.6 million over four years, for an AAV of $21.4 million.
Bosh is a nice fit alongside Lebron James and one of the most skilled big men in the league. He has started this season by becoming an even more willing (and efficient) 3-point shooter, hitting 6-of-10 from beyond the arc through the first four games. A contract offer of $100.3 million over five years (AAV: $20.1 million) would offer the Heat flexibility. A nice comparable to Bosh's situation would be Pau Gasol's extension, signed in 2009 for three years, $57 million (AAV: $19 million). Gasol was an important cog to the Lakers' championship teams as a second banana, much like Bosh's role in Miami.
To read about all of Amin Elhassan's top 30 NBA free agents of 2014 by average annual value, sign up to become an ESPN Insider today.