Where Will They Land?

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James headline this summer's crop of free agents.

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James headline this summer’s crop of free agents.

Ask any basketball fan on the planet who the two most sought after free agents of the summer are and you’ll get a fairly straightforward answer: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Yes, the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and a whole host of other players will be throwing their hat into the annual summer contract sweepstakes, but James and Anthony are the undisputed headliners of what could be a very interesting summer.

Bookmakers recognize this too.

This week, leading online sportsbook Bovada published prop bets based on the future of the two forwards. Here’s a look at how they currently see things.

Will LeBron James stick around South Beach or is a new destination on the horizon?

Will LeBron James stick around South Beach or is a new destination on the horizon?

LeBron James

There’s a general consensus that James will return to the Miami Heat after the summer, but the side’s poor NBA Finals performance and the not-so-distant memory of ‘The Decision’ four years ago mean that nobody is completely willing to buy in just yet.

In many ways Miami represents James’ best choice. More money; a head coach that he knows; a well-respected president that’s promised to do “whatever it takes” to keep the Big 3 together; the South Beach lifestyle. There’s a lot to like in South Florida.

But James is a business man and will listen to pitches from across the league.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have in no uncertain terms stated they want their player back. With a new head coach in Euroleague legend David Blatt, a talented young roster and another No. 1 pick to boot, the Cavaliers will appeal to a lot of free agents this year. But to James?

The Houston Rockets are reported to be planning an “all out push” to secure James’s signature when free agency opens on July 1.

The Rockets successfully wooed Dwight Howard last summer and would love to add James to the mix, creating a new Big 3 with James Harden as the third spoke. That would have to be appealing to James but, like Miami, the Rockets would need to shore up their bench to put in a deep run at the title. Will they have the cap space for that?

Bovada also has the two Hollywood clubs in the mix, with the Los Angeles Clippers favored to land James ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Clippers would love to fit James alongside Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, while – after this year’s debacle – the Lakers would pack them into Staples Center with James and Kobe Bryant joining forces.

The problem with the latter though is that the Lakers are in full rebuilding mode – just four players will be on contract on July 1 – and not looking likely to spend this summer. May as rule the purple and gold side out.

Ultimately, bookmakers like James to stay put, and that certainly looks like the most likely outcome right now. Maybe some draft day magic might change that.

Where will LeBron James play his first game of the 2014-15 NBA season?

  • Miami Heat (1/4)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (5/1)
  • Houston Rockets (19/2)
  • Chicago Bulls (9/1)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (9/1)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (20/1)
Will Carmelo Anthony fly the coop or is New York City still in his future?

Will Carmelo Anthony fly the coop or is New York City still in his future?

Carmelo Anthony

Anthony is considered more of a flight risk after the New York Knicks failed to make the playoffs. It was the first time in his career the former Syracuse forward hadn’t been to the postseason.

The noise coming out of New York right now is fairly positive. A meeting with team president Phil Jackson and new head coach Derek Fisher went “great”, according to Anthony. But would you expect the seven-time All Star to say anything else.

As with James, the Rockets, Lakers and Heat have all been linked with Anthony, but the frontrunner seems to be the Chicago Bulls.

With Derek Rose set to return from injury (again), the Bulls are expected to be contenders once more. The addition of Anthony at small forward, a position the team vacated when it traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers, would certainly bolster the lineup. With Anthony, Rose and Joakim Noah, the Bulls would also have a Big 3 of its own. Add to that Taj Gibson’s continually improving talent level, and this might be Anthony’s best shot at the title.

Of course, heading to South Beach would put James in a position to contend for a ring, but who really can see the Heat pillage the luxury tax threshold to the degree in which would be necessary to sign Anthony and the Big 3? Now, if Wade or Bosh is heading elsewhere, that’s a different story.

The Rockets have made it clear that they’re interested in Anthony, but you have to imagine James is No. 1 on their wish list. Let’s be honest here; Anthony isn’t going to be anybody’s fallback guy. This is a man that wants to be wined and dined and treated like a future champion.

Where will Carmelo Anthony play his first game of the 2014-15 NBA season?

  • Chicago Bulls (3/2)
  • Houston Rockets (7/4)
  • New York Knicks (13/4)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (7/2)
  • Miami Heat (25/4)

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