Steve Nash is going to be one of the most coveted free agents of the entire 2012 class. Despite free agency not even beginning yet, we're already being inundated with a litany of rumors regarding his next potential destination.
The 38-year-old point guard has already said that he plans to "sign for three more years this summer," and there certainly won't be a shortage of teams interested in bringing him aboard. However, Nash has also already said that he's going to prioritize "winning" and a "good environment" when making his decision.
After shooting 53.2 percent from the field with averages of 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game, Nash can help contending teams in search of a point guard, and it will be intriguing to see what types of offers he receives on the open market.
He's still playing at a very high level, and we shouldn't expect any chatter to slow down until Nash finally puts pen to paper.
Let's separate fact from fiction when it comes to the Nash rumors.
The Bulls will look for help at the point guard spot with Derrick Rose (torn ACL) not expected to be ready for the start of the season, but is landing Nash really a realistic scenario?
Chicago has more than $70 million committed already next season (as the roster is currently constructed), and that doesn't leave much money to make an aggressive bid for Nash. Furthermore, is Nash really going to take a backseat to Rose once the 2011 MVP is ready to return to the court? It's hard to imagine that happening.
Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago cites a source as stating that the Bulls will "take a run" at both Nash and Jason Kidd in free agency, but that sounds like mostly wishful thinking. While Kidd could be a realistic option if he accepts a pay cut, the dots just don't connect when it comes to plotting a path for Nash to join the Bulls.
The idea of a dual-guard lineup of Rose and Nash is an intriguing one, but it's not likely to be a pairing that we'll see next season.
A number of basketball fans have long wondered about why Nash is seemingly so loyal to the Phoenix franchise, but there is something to be said for a star who has his attitude.
When so many clamored for Nash to push for a trade before the deadline this season, the veteran explained that it's just not "his style" to request such a move after making a commitment to the Suns.
Now that he's an unrestricted free agent, it's a different story. Nash, who has been with the team since the 2004-05 campaign, will likely look to explore other opportunities he hasn't had to date.
When asked about the possibility of re-signing with the Suns, head coach Alvin Gentry said, "I feel good about it," but what else is he supposed to say? It's not like he's rooting for his point guard to sign with another team.
It might not make sense to some, but I can definitely see Nash thinking long and hard about his future with the Suns. There's certainly credence to the belief that Nash could re-sign in the desert.
Before Lakers fans get all excited about the chance Nash comes to town to pair up with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt, let's take a moment to be realistic about this particular situation.
Los Angeles has more than $60 million committed to the three-headed monster of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. While Gasol is undoubtedly a trade candidate during the offseason, the Lakers will be well over the luxury tax line no matter what direction the team moves in going forward.
Ramon Sessions was viewed as an upgrade upon his initial arrival at the trade deadline, but the 26-year-old really struggled in the playoffs and looked rather timid on the floor. In short, the Lakers need to make a decision as to whether or not Sessions is a long-term answer at the position.
With just the "mini" mid-level exception and veteran minimum contracts available for use to pursue free agents, Nash would have to be willing to take a major pay cut to play in the purple and gold. Considering all of the teams interested in him that could offer more money, the Lakers don't look like such a realistic landing spot.
There has been a lot of speculation connecting Nash and the Raptors for some time considering his Canadian roots, and now we're going to hear even more of that during the offseason. With just a shade over $41 million on the books for next season, Toronto certainly has cap room to accommodate Nash on the roster.
Signing Nash would create a conundrum of sorts with Jose Calderon still in the fold, but Calderon's expiring contract would certainly be an attractive trade chip for teams looking for a short-term solution at point guard.
Last year's backup point guard Jerryd Bayless (restricted free agent) isn't likely to return to the team, so it's also conceivable Calderon could serve in a backup role behind Nash.
With the Suns reportedly viewing the Raptors as one team that could pry Nash out of Phoenix, it would not be surprising to see Nash give Toronto serious consideration in free agency.
The Raptors have the No. 8 overall pick in the June 28 draft, and a potential starting five that includes Nash, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas and the 2012 lottery pick would immediately have people talking about the Raptors in a very different light.
It seems that the Nets will be pursuing just about anyone and everyone as the team loads up to prepare for its move to Brooklyn, but obviously everything this team is doing is dependent on Deron Williams.
D-Will, an unrestricted free agent, is Brooklyn's top priority, but if Williams opts to go another route and sign elsewhere, the Nets are expected to be players for Nash. That seems like a rather obvious avenue for general manager Billy King to pursue if Williams leaves, but is Nash willing to commit to a team that has to build from the ground up after last season?
Even if Williams doesn't re-sign with Brooklyn, it's difficult to envision Nash viewing the Nets as a team that can win immediately—something he has stated as an important aspect when choosing his next destination.
After tearing apart the roster last season and opting for a rebuild, the Trail Blazers are looking to find a point guard. The Raymond Felton experiment did not work out, and Portland has some cap space to work with for the 2012-13 season.
In other words, this is a franchise in a prime spot to be a player in the free-agent market.
ESPN's Marc Stein writes that the Trail Blazers are one of the teams that are "best positioned to make a credible run" at Nash, and Portland can certainly offer him a sizable contract given how it's structured the club for next season.
Is a chance to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and (restricted free agent) Nicolas Batum tantalizing enough for Nash to consider Portland?
Although Nash's arrival is unlikely to result in anyone elevating the Blazers into the "title contenders" conversation, it would be a major step in the right direction and would send an emphatic message to other free agents around the league.
Nash might not sign in Portland, but it won't be for a lack of effort on the team's behalf.
When Mike D'Antoni was still patrolling the sidelines in New York, this idea made a lot more sense. Before Jeremy Lin exploded onto the scene for the Knicks, the thought of Nash arriving onto the Knicks roster seemed like a no-brainer.
Things have changed.
ESPN's Jared Zwerling was previously "hearing" that Nash isn't interested in signing with New York, but even if that report is inaccurate, there are a couple of other things to consider when attempting to connect the dots between Nash and the Knicks.
With more than $50 million invested in Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, coupled with the fact that the team intends to re-sign Lin, where does Nash fit into this picture?
I don't think Nash is coming off the bench in New York.
If Nash is really planning to take a serious pay cut to play with a contender, wouldn't it make the most sense for him to take his talents to South Beach?
Yes, Miami is well over the salary cap for next season, and yes, the team is well over the luxury tax line as well, so Nash would have to be willing to buy into the philosophy that joining the Heat would be his best path to finally winning a championship.
The New York Daily News reported that the Heat were "suddenly emerging as a strong candidate" for Nash, although that was contingent on Nash signing at a discount, something he certainly doesn't have to do.
Whether he admits it or not, Nash is likely to at least explore the idea (to what extent, nobody knows) of joining Miami's "Big Three."
Nash has spent a previous portion of his career in Dallas, so would he consider a reunion with Dirk Nowitzki and return to the Mavericks?
With Jason Kidd an unrestricted free agent and the team planning to be in the Deron Williams sweepstakes, the Mavericks could be a very realistic option for Nash. Should Dallas lose out on D-Will, Nash could entertain the thought of playing alongside Nowitzki once again.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported (via sources) that the Mavericks will "definitely try to reunite" Nash and Nowitzki should Dallas lose out on Williams, and that makes a ton of sense considering how badly Mark Cuban's team needs to upgrade at the position.
The Mavs would likely need to bring in another solid contributor alongside Nash and Nowitzki to realistically contend for another title, but it's certainly conceivable that we could see No. 13 back in his old uniform.