All eyes are on LeBron James right about now. In probably the most fluid and fluctuating NBA free agency period ever, James leads a very talented pack of restricted and unrestricted free agent small forwards. As the NBA’s best overall player, he naturally paces the position and is the most coveted player on the open market.
But is he just waiting for Pat Riley and the Heat to add enough help to get him and the rest of the Heat’s Big 3 to return, or is he seriously considering alternative options? Let’s break it down at the small forward position and kick things off with James at the top spot as we look at the top-five free agent small forwards right now:
1. LeBron James (Miami Heat) Unrestricted Free Agent
James is the best player in the league, but will potentially have to decide whether he wants a max deal or if he wants to return to the Heat. He might bolt for more money or a better situation, though, as Dwyane Wade’s health is in decline and the Heat as we know them weren’t good enough last year to beat the Spurs. Wherever he goes, that team is still a major threat to get to the Finals. Ultimately, he’s likely staying in South Beach for at least 1-2 more seasons.
2. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) Unrestricted Free Agent
Anthony can make the most money by far by returning to the Knicks for five years, but they’re not close to winning anything anytime soon. His best chances to win are likely in Houston or Chicago, while Melo is seriously considering the Lakers, as well. Miami is even a possibility if Chris Bosh follows the money to Houston. It’s anyone’s guess for one of the league’s most versatile scorers, but chances are he simply follows the cash and stays in the Big Apple.
3. Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets) Unrestricted Free Agent
With James and Anthony both potentially considering Houston, Parsons could be on his way out of Texas. Or maybe not. Even if the Rockets don’t sign back their versatile small forward, Parsons could stay down south by moving over to the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets probably won’t land either of the big fish, though, so we can safely expect Parsons back in Houston.
4. Luol Deng (Cleveland Cavaliers) Unrestricted Free Agent
Deng has been in talks with the Heat and at this point in his career is probably looking to go to a contender. He is still a top flight defender and can provide offense, but he looked a step slow in Cleveland last year. That’s either regression or life as a Cavalier. He’s still a hot commodity in his prime, though, and will probably go to the highest bidder or best mixture of cash/winning. At the moment, that seems to be the Heat.
5. Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz) Unrestricted Free Agent)
Hayward isn’t the veteran presence Paul Pierce is, but he’s about a decade younger and at this point is much more athletic and versatile. He’s also merely scratching the surface of his talent, so he could be courted be a number of interested teams. The Suns, Celtics and Hornets are just some teams that could pitch him a deal, but all signs point to the Jazz matching even the highest of offers.