Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> Who’s going to be the absolute steal of this free agency class, a guy who signs way under where he could have signed and gives way more than most expect?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If some of these reports prove true about the Miami stars’ reconfigured deals, I’ll say Chris Bosh. The prospect of getting a discount of 30 percent or more from his pre-opt-out 2014-15 salary ($20.6 million) would make him a terrific bargain for the Heat or any other contender. He’s got a flexible offensive game — he could do more inside if Miami hadn’t nudged him to the perimeter — and his defense is an asset, too. Other candidates, for opposite reasons: Boston’s Avery Bradley (he might get paid at his current level but take a big step up in game) and Indiana’s Lance Stephenson (assumptions about Lance’s behavior with big guaranteed money could drive down his price).
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: He’s not The Matrix anymore, but I could see Shawn Marion joining a contender on a sweetheart deal and making a difference.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: We know it won’t be Jodie Meeks. The lucky guard hit a nice pay day with the Pistons. My money’s on Pau Gasol. The odds of my favored scenario actually taking shape probably aren’t great, but I’ve been touting it all along — Pau needs to go play for Miami. He could be dynamite for this team as long as he can stay healthy — but that’s a prerequisite for just about any player over 30. The way the market is shaping up, Miami can give Pau a decent salary, maybe $7 million, $8 million, maybe even a little more. For a chance to play with LeBron and chase titles, that’s pretty good. The Lakers might be able to hit his preferred $10 million – $12 million, but that roster has yet to take any form — let alone the form of a contender.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: LeBron James is going to be the steal, the guy who won’t get paid what he can deliver. But if you’re sticking to “a guy who signs way under where he could have signed,” that’s clearly more under-the-radar: P.J. Tucker. He should have received more attention for Most Improved Player. Now he’s going to become a great value as a free agent. Defense, 3-point range — he will produce more than he will get paid, probably just without a lot of attention.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Greivis Vasquez made a big impact in Toronto when he arrived in the Rudy Gay trade. The Raptors were at their best when he was on the floor and his willingness to pass the ball was infectious. He’s a restricted free agent, but there are other point guards ahead of him on the free-agent market, including one – Kyle Lowry – on his own team. So he could be had at below mid-level money, and he could make a similar impact wherever he goes as a second point guard that can share the floor with the starter. If the Raptors can keep both Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, and Lou Williams returns to form, that could be the league’s best bench outside of San Antonio.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Eric Bledsoe. And he’s a restricted free agent, so whatever offer he gets is going to be below the mark of what he could command on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. He was spectacular during an injury-curbed season in Phoenix, but every executive I have spoken with seems to think he’s the one impact player of this summer that few people are talking about. The Suns have the opportunity to match whatever big offer comes his way, and that means some teams will be scared off, therefore reducing the dollars he can command.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think so much of this depends on the place these players end up. If Greg Monroe, for instance, signs with Atlanta, that allows Al Horford to shift to the power forward spot and could have a huge impact beyond just Monroe’s stats. That said, I don’t think Monroe’s going to be undervalued. If Wade and Bosh and Bron all end up in Miami, as it seems, a bunch of teams who had money saved up may have extra cash to spread around. But the guy who I think is being undervalued right now is Luol Deng. He’s not a name that will sell season tickets, but he’s the ultimate team player, a former All-Star, and a guy who goes all out every night. Some team might be able to get themselves a superstar at a bargain.