Of course, being listed ahead of James will draw criticism, but insider Amin Elhassan has a caveat: Anthony can alter a franchise, while still not being the best player on a true title contender.
"Even if he's not the most gifted scorer in the league, he certainly has the most complete arsenal," Elhassan wrote. "Yet for all of his offensive excellence, Anthony hasn't shown the ability (or desire) to elevate the other parts of his game necessary to take a good team to greatness."
A back-handed compliment, for sure.
Anthony will be 30 when he hits the open market. He's projected to get a raise in his next contract, estimated at an average annual value (AAV) of $23.5 million.
It's certainly a bit strange to hear Melo would get paid more than James or any other younger superstar, but it also comes down to which team signs him. James will be a year younger, obviously a more complete player, but is still projected to make a hair less (AAV $23.1 million).
"Despite being unequivocally the best basketball player on the planet, James ranks second in our AAV rankings behind draft classmate Anthony because of the terms of he agreed to back in Miami," Elhassan explained.
Rounding out the top five is James' teammate, Chris Bosh, Paul George and Bryant -- a mix of budding stars and those who will be closer to the tail end of their career.
Nos. 6-10 is where it gets interesting. Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors takes the No. 6 spot, in front of Zach Randolph, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Dwyane Wade, who will be 32 when he becomes a free agent.
From George to Wade, the lump AAVs ranges from about $14-15 million.
It's interesting to see Cousins or Monroe so high on the list. It shows the high demand for centers in today's game, especially considering Cousins' recurring on and off-court issues.
The next tier of players (Nos. 11-16) fall in between the $10-14 million AAV range. These stars include Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay and the ageless Tim Duncan, who will be 38.
As with Wade or Bryant, none of these players will be marquee players at this age, just pieces on championship-caliber teams.
Rounding out the top 30 is Martin Gortat, Emeka Okafor, Eric Bledsoe, Gordon Hayward, Luol Deng, Paul Pierce, Ed Davis, Kyle Lowry, Andrei Kirilenko, Evan Turner, Lance Stephenson, Quincy Pondexter, Matt Bonner and Brandon Rush.
It's a mix of descending talent and emerging stars, and the 2013-14 will most certainly help elevate some of these names on the list and earn them larger deals.
The estimations are formulated by what occurred this past offseason, age, injury track record, value of comparable contracts, skill set, WARP, season-by-season production, marketability and current cap situation.
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