LeBron James highlights the 2014 NBA free-agent class. Well, sort of.
James is widely expected to re-sign a long-term contract with the Heat after opting out of the final two years of his deal last week. One NBA team executive told Yahoo Sports that New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is actually widely viewed as the top true free agent of this class.
"LeBron James is not really a free agent," the executive told Yahoo Sports. "He is going right back to Miami. Everybody believes that. The top five free agents of this class are strong and then it gets pretty even. LeBron and Carmelo are the head of the class and Dirk [Nowitzki] has two really good years left in him. Overall, I think it's a really strong free-agent class from a versatility standpoint and what they are able to do.
"Dwyane Wade's legs are almost gone. Pau Gasol needs a change of scenery, but is still a really good player. Chandler Parsons is up-and-coming and really impressive. Lance Stephenson is obviously super talented and a dynamic player, but can you handle all the other stuff [with him]?"
The NBA's free-agent market opens at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday. Here's a look at the top players who will be available:
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat, SF, 29, UFA: James could go wherever he wants – and he won't lack for suitors, including the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns. But the four-time MVP is expected to stay in Miami after four straight trips to the NBA Finals.
2. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks, SF, 30, UFA: Anthony has no frontrunner among the teams interested in signing him. While the Knicks are still in the mix, he is expected to visit Dallas, Houston, Chicago and the Lakers, a source said.
3. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, PF, 36, UFA: Nowitzki said last week he will not leave the Mavs and will meet with owner Mark Cuban to come to a new contract agreement.
4. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat, PF-C, 30, UFA: Bosh has said several times that he wants to re-sign with Miami. He seems to enjoy his role in the shadow of James and Wade.
5. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers, PF-C, 34, UFA: Gasol will likely be more interested in returning to the Lakers with coach Mike D'Antoni gone. Phil Jackson's Knicks could also make a run at him.
6. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons, PF-C, 24, RFA: Monroe is too talented and young for the Pistons to let go. Monroe's hometown New Orleans Pelicans and the Lakers might pursue him.
7. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets, SF, 25, RFA: The Rockets, Lakers and Mavericks are interested, a source said. Minnesota also could have interest in a possible sign-and-trade deal that sends Kevin Love to Houston, a source said.
8. Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers, SG, 23, UFA: The Pacers want him back at the right price. He has been working out at the team's facility since season's end. The Charlotte Hornets also could make a bid, sources said.
9. Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers, SF, 29, UFA: It's unlikely Deng returns to Cleveland. The Cavaliers also drafted small forward Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick. The Lakers also have interest.
10. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, SG, 32, UFA: Wade walked away from the final two years and $40 million of his contract. The Heat lifer is expected to return at a lesser amount annually for a longer contract.
Other notable free agents: Heat SG Ray Allen (UFA); Wizards F Trevor Ariza (UFA); Suns PG Eric Bledsoe (RFA); Clippers PG Darren Collison (UFA); Suns PF Channing Frye (UFA); Wizards C Marcin Gortat (UFA); Jazz SF Gordon Hayward (RFA); Raptors PG Kyle Lowry (UFA); Nets SF Paul Pierce (UFA); Pistons SG Rodney Stuckey (UFA).