LeBron James is reportedly deciding between returning to the Miami Heat and returning home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. We have to believe that a decision - not the decision - will come in the very near future.
Until then, the rest of the NBA free agents and potential trade chips have been kept in limbo. Players have talked with prospective teams, they even have deals in place, but nothing will become imminent until James picks a team.
Among the biggest dominos that could fall once James signs are Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Kevin Love and Lance Stephenson. Here's what may transpire for the rest of the top free agents:
1. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony is reportedly waiting to sign with either the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Knicks until James makes a decision, holding out hope the two can unite in either Miami or New York.
If James returns to the Heat, 'Melo could potentially join up - depending on Bosh's decision - but only at a reduced rate, which in all likelihood is not what Anthony wants to do.
I believe Anthony returns to New York once a chance to team up with 'Bron becomes an unrealistic possibility. He's more comfortable with the Knicks and should have confidence Phil Jackson will surround him with a quality roster.
2. Chris Bosh
Bosh is holding onto a four-year, max deal from the Houston Rockets, and if James decides to return to Cleveland Bosh should quickly pull the trigger and sign that contract.
Bosh has given up the most to play alongside James. Not only did he accept less money to join the Heat, but he changed his entire game - becoming almost solely a 3-point shooter - to fit into the offense.
With the Rockets, he can be a true power forward - shooting jumpers, 3s and driving to the rim - with Dwight Howard being a true center. Houston's Big Three is rounded out by James Harden, one of the NBA's elite scorers.
3. Pau Gasol
Gasol's decision may actually depend on Anthony's, which will depend on what James does.
Gasol is reportedly mulling offers from Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. OKC may be a long-shot, and if Miami starts to deconstruct it's likely out of the picture. That leaves New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio are the top three options.
At 34, Gasol could finish out his contract where he won two championships in L.A. Or he could try and chase a ring alongside 'Melo in New York, where a familiar face in Jackson is now running the show. The Spurs offer a chance to be a role player on a championship-caliber club right away.
I know he wants to play with 'Melo, but if the Lakers strike out on him they have to retain Gasol.
4. Kevin Love
No he isn't a free agent, but he's been mentioned in a handful of different trade scenarios - most noticeably to the Golden State Warriors - but could be in high demand once teams whiff in free agency.
One such team to keep an eye on: the Chicago Bulls.
If the Bulls miss out on Anthony, what have they done to truly improve this summer? They weren't willing to give up more than Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and two draft picks to acquire Love, but should be open to giving up whatever the Minnesota Timberwolves so desire this time around.
If the Warriors are still unwilling to part ways with Klay Thompson, the Bulls should take advantage and increase the ante.
5. Lance Stephenson
Many teams are considering Stephenson as a Plan B if they can't land James or Anthony. Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston, as well as the Indiana Pacers are all in the mix for him.
As of July 9, I'd continue to believe Indiana is the favorite. Dallas knows it's largely out of contention for James, so if they truly wanted him they'd make him an offer he couldn't refuse. The Lakers are hung up on Anthony, but they might be better off waiting for Kevin Durant's free agent year than overpaying Stephenson.
As for Boston - it makes a lot of sense - and if they can't deal for Love they could increase their attention to Stephenson. I'm still confident the Pacers find a way to bring him back, though.
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