It's finally here, the last free-agency period before TV money makes everyone lose their minds.
Scratch that: The TV money hysteria starts NOW, as teams try to lock up bargain prices in the future by overpaying today. We have a clearer idea of where the cap is going to end up (roughly $67.1 million) this year, which allows us to figure out max thresholds (expressed as a percentage of the cap, depending on years of service).
At the same time, every other exception (including the midlevel, minimums and the rookie scale) is expressed as a discrete number, predetermined in 2011. In other words, while maxes go up, everything else stays the same, which means we are going to get a lot of role players whose only course of getting fair-market value is via cap space signings.
Also complicating the valuation process this year is catching up on valuing defensive players, particularly the 3-and-D market. Once considered a somewhat disposable commodity, they've been one of the most coveted role players on the market, and the inflation of their value, combined with the impending cap inflation, makes their appraisal somewhat murky.
Man, this is going to be a wild, wild free agency.
Here's my free agent Big Board 2.0, sorted by the average annual value (AAV) 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.
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 2015.
No. 1 LeBron James | SF
Last team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2014-15 salary: $20.6 million
Suggested AAV: $22.6 million/year ($45.1 million over two years, player option)
FA status: Unrestricted free agent