Turns out the NBA won’t need another Summer of LeBron to have a compelling free agent recruiting period. A year after his franchise-altering move back to Cleveland, LeBron James is back on the open market but there is no frenzy or panic about him leaving. Instead, Portland is worried about LaMarcus Aldridge’s possible departure, the Los Angeles Clippers are concerned DeAndre Jordan will leave them without a center, and Miami is fretting over entering a season without Dwyane Wade for the first time since 2003.

This summer became compelling the moment the league reached a new television deal that will triple revenues in 2016. With that in mind, some players will pursue free agency more strategically and exercise patience — signing short-term deals in anticipation of a massive pay day next year — over the rush for immediate gratification.

Teams can begin negotiating with players at midnight on July 1. But here is a fair warning for fans accustomed to owners and general managers exercising restraint under more punishing salary cap penalties: Don’t expect that this summer.

Maximum salary contracts used to be reserved for stars or players with the potential to become stars. Now, in-demand role players will score mind-blowing salaries. So, it’s important to train yourself not to overreact when the contracts that players agree to sign seem exorbitant in comparison to past deals. The game is being played differently and the way money will be doled out has changed as well.

Here are the names that will dominate the headlines over the next few weeks – and this doesn’t include players under contract who might get moved, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Roy Hibbert or Joe Johnson.

Key: Ranking, Player, Team, Position
Free Agent Status |Age

1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, SF
Unrestricted | 30

Since he has already proven to be a one-man championship contender, it would be great if James spent the rest of his career, hopping from team to team, going on Finals runs and uplifting moribund franchises all over. Alas, James isn’t going anywhere. He’s merely flexing his power by making sure the Cavaliers stay committed to building a team that can deliver him another title.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers, PF/C
Unrestricted | 29

Aldridge has managed to maintain a certain (unwanted) level of anonymity despite making four all-star teams and being one of the league’s most skilled low-post scorers. If he decides to leave Portland, Aldridge will assuredly face more scrutiny and pressure to win with expected suitors San Antonio, Dallas, Houston or the Los Angeles Lakers.

3. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, C
Unrestricted | 30

After posting the best season of his career and establishing himself as the best two-way center in basketball, the man known as “Big Spain” couldn’t have picked a better time to hit the open market. Gasol isn’t expected to leave the city where he starred in high school and helped its NBA franchise make five consecutive trips to the playoffs.

4. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers, PF
Unrestricted | 26

Love’s first season in Cleveland started poorly and ended much worse, when a shoulder injury prematurely halted his playoff debut. Though Love has been adamant about returning to the Cavaliers — who can offer the most money and a chance to win with James — the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston, Houston, Phoenix and others would like to see if he’d be interested in a more prominent role elsewhere.

5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs, SF
Restricted | 24

The Spurs wanted Leonard to wait for his maximum contract so that they could free up enough money to lure a marquee free agent this summer. But make no mistake, Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP and reigning defensive player of the year, is the heir to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and the cornerstone of the franchise going forward.

6. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls, SG
Restricted | 25

Butler took a gamble on himself by rejecting what seemed to be a fair contract offer last October from Chicago. After a breakout campaign in which he made the all-star team and won the most improved player award, Butler will likely be rewarded with a max deal. Butler reportedly would like a shorter deal but he can’t accept an offer sheet for fewer than three years and the Bulls plan to match any offer.

7. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers, C
Unrestricted | 26

Rumored friction between Jordan and Chris Paul has fueled speculation that the Clippers could actually lose their rebounding, shot-blocking, defensive anchor. Jordan has made strides under Doc Rivers’s tutelage but Dallas, Houston, New York and Milwaukee will make a run to lure him away.

8. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets, C
Unrestricted | 27

Lopez has struggled to stay healthy over the years but remains one of the NBA’s most gifted offensive players, routinely puts up all-star production when he’s on the floor. A return to Brooklyn seems likely despite his annual spin in trade deadline rumors.

9. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks, PF/SF
Unrestricted | 30

The Hawks have gotten all-star production at a bargain price the past two seasons but it’s not an easy decision to simply give him a max deal. Millsap has certainly earned a raise after transforming his game, becoming a reliable three-point threat, and will attract outside interest if Atlanta can’t afford to bring him back.

10. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, PF/SF
Restricted | 25

The emotional leader of the champion Warriors, Green’s versatility on both ends of the floor have made retaining him — even at a maximum salary — the top priority.  Detroit, Atlanta and Houston are also expected to make a run at the cocky, trash-talking, third-year forward who is coming off a career-year.

11. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat, PG
Unrestricted | 29

Dragic stunned the Suns with a trade demand before the deadline and the Heat swooped in to give him the role as a primary playmaker he had long sought. Now Miami will have to give Dragic a sizeable deal to keep the crafty lefty – or risk losing him to a higher bidder.

12. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs, PF/C
Unrestricted | 39

Despite attempts to sweep him into retirement, Duncan remains the ageless anchor of the Spurs. Duncan proved that he still has plenty left and will likely sign another discount deal to give himself at least one more shot at a sixth NBA title.

13. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, SG
Unrestricted | 33

Wade has repeatedly shorted himself when he hit free agency, taking deals that were less than market value to help the Heat stay in contention. That sacrifice has led to an unexpected public dispute that has opened up the possibility that a supposed “Heat-lifer” could finish his career somewhere else. The Lakers, New York and – gasp – the LeBron James’s Cavaliers are considered options if Wade and Pat Riley can’t come to terms.

14. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns, PG
Restricted | 23

Knight was a borderline all-star in Milwaukee before getting dealt last February. The Suns lost Dragic, then sacrificed a first-round pick and Isaiah Thomas to get Knight, so they are expected to make sure he sticks around with a $70-million pact.

15. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons, PF
Unrestricted | 25

Monroe made the rare, risky power play by accepting his qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent, clearing the path for his escape from Detroit. New York, Boston, Portland, Milwaukee and the Lakers are expected to make pitches for the skilled, low-post scorer.

16. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks, SG
Restricted | 23

With his exceptional shooting range and competitiveness on the defensive end, Middleton established himself as a core piece for one of the league’s young, rising teams. The Bucks plan to match any offers he receives in free agency.

17. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic, SF/PF
Restricted | 22

Harris has made steady improvements in each of his four seasons and emerged as a late-game closer for the Magic. A gifted scorer with plenty of room for improvement, Harris is expected to be pursued by Boston and Detroit, among others.

18. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers, PF
Restricted | 24

Thompson might want to give a percentage of his new deal to Kevin Love. Love’s shoulder injury opened up a starting job for Thompson and provided an opportunity to display his skills as a window cleaner and rugged defender. Cleveland plans to retain him, especially since he shares the same agent as LeBron James.

19. Thaddeus Young, Brooklyn Nets, PF
Unrestricted | 27

Landing in Brooklyn worked out well for Young since he was granted a chance to compete on a playoff team and be appreciated again for his smooth offensive game. Young fit well alongside Brook Lopez and the Nets are not expected to let him leave.

20. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers, SG
Unrestricted | 28

Matthews was having a career year, complete with bow-and-arrow, three-point celebrations, before he ruptured his Achilles’ late in the season. Despite the injury, Matthews will attract some attention from New York, Boston and the Lakers.

21. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks, SG
Unrestricted | 29

The Mavericks were looking to deal Ellis this offseason but he made the separation easier by becoming a free agent. Ellis has the highest career scoring average of any player to never make an all-star team and a new team will have to accept his one-dimensional game and sometimes sour attitude.

22. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks, SF
Unrestricted | 28

The self-proclaimed “Junkyard Dog” found his niche as a grimy “3-and-D” guy. Carroll was the only Hawks starter to not make the all-star team but his value to the team was never more apparent than after he injured his right knee in the conference finals and the team couldn’t keep pace with the Cavaliers.

23. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs, SG
Unrestricted | 28

Green worked hard to go from the D-League to being a critical piece of a championship team. But Green’s improvement might have made him too expensive to return to a Spurs team that has other needs as it attempts to maximize the end of Tim Duncan’s career.

24. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks, C
Unrestricted | 32

Chandler’s reunion with Dallas became a career rejuvenation but the Mavericks will still look into finding a younger big man to complement Dirk Nowitzki. Milwaukee is among the handful of teams expected to make a run at the former defensive player of the year.

25. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder, PF/C
Restricted | 23

The Jazz made dramatic defensive improvements after dealing Kanter at the deadline but the Turkish man immediately became the best low-post scorer to wear a Thunder uniform. Kanter had his knee scoped after the season but the Thunder is expected to match any free agent offers.

26. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons, PG
Restricted | 25

Jackson couldn’t accept a backup role in Oklahoma City and thrived when Stan Van Gundy put the ball in his hands in Detroit. The Pistons traded for Jackson with the intention of signing him to a long-term deal.

27. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks, PG
Unrestricted | 29

Rondo’s career has been in decline ever since injuries coincided with Boston’s rebuilding efforts. A failed stint in Dallas — which included an ugly ending — significantly decreased the value of the four-time all-star. Rondo is now in a position where he might have to take a short-term deal to restore his tarnished reputation.

28. Josh Smith, Houston Rockets, PF
Unrestricted | 29

After failing miserably in Detroit, Smith landed comfortably in Houston, where the Rockets found a role that matched his multiple skills. Smith will be paid by the Pistons through 2020, so money won’t matter as much as the right fit.

29. Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards, SF
Unrestricted | 37

The Wizards expect to return Pierce with a minimal raise but he has some sentimental alternatives. If Pierce winds up spending only one year in Washington, his influence will continue to be felt. If he comes back — and decides to spurn a reunion with Boston or with Doc Rivers and his hometown Clippers — Pierce can continue shepherding the Wizards’ young core and hitting timely shots.

30. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors, SG
Unrestricted | 28

Williams rebounded from a forgettable stint in Atlanta, which included a gruesome knee injury, to earn sixth man of the year honors in Toronto. He doesn’t provide much more than scoring but there is always a place for someone who can create his own shot.


31. Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers, C, Unrestricted, 27
32. David West, Indiana Pacers, PF, Unrestricted, 34
33. Patrick Beverly, Houston Rockets, PG, Unrestricted, 26
34. Arron Afflalo, Portland Trail Blazers, SG, Unrestricted, 29
35. Iman Shumpert, Cleveland Cavaliers, SG, Restricted, 25
36. Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors, PF, Unrestricted, 28
37. Omer Asik, New Orleans Pelicans, C, Unrestricted, 28
38. J.R. Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers, SG, Unrestricted, 29
39. Corey Brewer, Houston Rockets, SF, Unrestricted, 29
40. Brandon Bass, Boston Celtics, PF, Unrestricted, 30
41. Brandon Wright, Phoenix Suns, C, Unrestricted, 27
42. Jared Dudley, Milwaukee Bucks, SF, Unrestricted, 29
43. Kosta Koufos, Memphis Grizzlies, C, Unrestricted, 26
44. Al-Farouq Aminu, Dallas Mavericks, SF, Unrestricted, 24
45. Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics, SG/SF, Restricted, 24
46. Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls, SF, Unrestricted, 34
47. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs, SG, Unrestricted, 37
48. Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns, SG, Unrestricted, 29
49. Rodney Stuckey, Indiana Pacers, SG, Unrestricted, 29
50. Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers, PF, Unrestricted, 27