It's been more talked about than the after-Thanksgiving day sale at Wal-Mart or Health Care Reform. Fans of the respective players, from LeBron to D-Wade to CB4 have fretted while fans of the Knicks and Bulls have been patiently waiting for the franchises to be restored to the top of the pile. The wait is over. My predictions for the star-studded 2010 free-agent class.
(i.e Players like Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant seem like pretty safe bets to stay where they are, and therefore are excluded from this list.)
The grand prize of this year's class, LeBron is headed to the Windy City to make the most of the prime of his career. I believe he will look at the situation of his friend, Dwayne Wade after he won it all. While the Cavs are equipped to win it all this year, next year LeBron will look at a roster of a 35-year-old Z (if resigned), a 39-year-old Shaq (if resigned), and a 35-year-old Antawn Jamison, as a roster that is not set for long-term success. With LeBron stating several times that he wants to play for multiple titles, the Bulls young core plus the addition of another prominent name to this list later in this article seems better suited to help the King achieve that goal.
Great weather, great women (although Gabrielle Union is a great start), and big money, what other reasons does a person need to stay in Miami? Oh yeah, playing for a contender. Miami will have money to sign two max free-agents, and they start by holding onto their own with Wade. D-Wade, who is considered the ultimate concessional prize for the teams not lucky enough to land LeBron, spends the prime of his career with the only team he has ever known, and in return Pat Riley thanks his superstar by rewarding him with what Wade has asked for the past three years: A contending supporting cast.
Amar'e, who has been rumored on the trading block for the past two years, finally signs with his ultimate destination, Miami. The Heat, who were close to trading for Stoudemire at the trading deadline, but did not want to part with Michael Beasley, give Amare the max contract Phoenix was reluctant to give him because of their desire to keep Dwayne Wade on board. With the core of Beasley, Stoudemire, and Wade playing in the Eastern Conference, the Heat finally have a core of players capable of making them serious contenders again in the future.
Chris Bosh, arguably the top big man free-agent available, teams with Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bosh has grown visibly tired of the Toronto Raptors' inability to surround him with a supporting cast that can help lead them out of the first round of the playoffs. He joins a young team who seem to be one player away from being a legitimate championship contender. The Thunder, who boast a young core of Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka, become instant challengers in the West to the Lakers. With aging Dallas and Denver teams starting to fade, the Thunder can build a team that can have success similar to what GM Sam Presti helped build in San Antonio with Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli for the new decade.
The Knicks, who are obviously upset after clearing cap space for the past 2 years and not landing one of their top targets, sign Joe Johnson, the do-it-all SG who reunites with his former head coach Mike D'Antoni in NY. Johnson, who is a perennial All-Star with Atlanta, leaves for the bright lights of the Garden and for the opportunity to help bring the Knicks back to relevance with a co-star to be named later. Knicks fans are not pleased at first, but finally take solace when they realize in any other year this guy would be the top free-agent available.
Boozer, who when healthy is a legitimate 20-10 guy, joins Johnson in the Big Apple. Carlos, who was expected to opt-out last year, has had a resurgent year in Utah this year, and the Knicks, who have to show the recent 1800+ fans who bought season tickets for the upcoming year expecting LeBron and another star, show that they won't come away empty-handed. Johnson and Boozer, along with the aforementioned D'Antoni and Danilo Gallinari, are instantly playoff contenders and at least give Knicks fans a reason to once again take pride in their squad. Also, to try and ease the pain, I say that T-Mac resigns with this squad, as the Knicks wont have to give max contracts to both Boozer and Johnson.
Remember that player to be named later in the LeBron to Chicago article: this is him. Lee, who has worked to become a double-double machine in New York, joins a very good core of players for Chicago, including James, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls are now instant title favorites and may be looking at a decade long battle with the Thunder for league supremacy. New York fans who were temporarily enthused by their own free agent signings, are once again upset at the perceived Boozer-for-Lee swap.
Gay, who is still upset at the perceived "lowball" offer extended to him by the Grizzlies at the start of the season, signs with the Clippers. Los Angeles, who have a nice core of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman fill the void at the SF spot with the uber-athletic Gay. This core is good enough to challenge for a top 4 seed in the West, with Denver and Dallas a year older. The Clippers give Gay a max contract, since he is a restricted-free agent meaning the Grizzlies can match any offer made to him, so the Grizz don't exercise that option.
Allen, who was in the midst of several trade rumors during the season, re-signs with the Celtics to give it one more run at a title. With an older KG and Paul Pierce it looks as if the Celtics reign has run its course, but with the return of Allen the C's look like they will try to catch lightning in a bottle. Allen, who is from the Northeast area and has said repeatedly that he would like to re-sign with the Celtics, gives it another chance as opposed to trying to "title hop" somewhere else.