It's almost here. You can feel the excitement in NBA arenas throughout the USA and Canada.
Teams have been preparing for this all season long with some ramping up their efforts recently to best prepare for the upcoming event.
Fans are pumped, NBA executives are planning, and players are preparing. What is it that has the NBA community so charged up?
If you guessed playoffs, you would be wrong. So, so wrong. Never in the history of the Association has the playoffs taken a back seat to the real story line this season in the NBA, free agency.
The draft is nice, but it can be hit-or-miss. The Clippers are the most recent example of what could go wrong even when you have the first pick in the draft.
Free agency is different. You aren't hoping for the best from an unproven player, you are investing in a proven commodity. Franchise's fortunes can shift 180 degrees if they sign the right player. The list this year is fraught with "right" players.
Check out the quality of players available this summer that has G.M.'s frothing at the mouth:
Rudy Gay (restricted)
Dirk Nowitzki (player option)
Paul Pierce (player option)
Kobe Bryant (player option)
Yao Ming (player option)
Luis Scola (restricted)
Pretty impressive group, right? Enough to have G.M.s tripping over themselves to be ready when the bell goes off and the dealing can begin.
As impressive as that list is however, it lacks the creme-de-la-creme, the piece de resistance, the 45-foot three-point shot at the buzzer that swishes through giving your team a one-point victory.
You know what, well who, I mean. Arguably the very best athlete to ever lace up basketball shoes will be available this summer.
"Special in aisle 23, get him while he lasts"
LeBron James, anyone?
Sure, some teams have as much chance as landing the King as Tiger does of landing an endorsement deal with Disney, but fans can dream, can't they?
Matter of fact, dream is all Clipper fans do! With that in mind, let's take a look at each of the 30 teams' chances of landing the most prized free agent player in the history of the game.
I will include the assumed cap space available for those teams with an actual shot at getting James' signature.
Those without cap space will have to get creative to have a shot, so those G.M.'s need to get busy thinking outside the box.
Keep in mind that $16.5M is the magic number as it relates to being able to kick the tires on James. That’s the amount of a maximum contract and the number we will use to rate each teams chances.
The LBJ-Scale of 0 to 16.5 with 16.5 meaning "Where do I sign?" and 0 is "No way, Jose." It's not a scientific rating but should help to better gauge each team's chances. Where does your team stand? Here are all 30 in no particular order.
$11,649,391 Maximum Cap Space
The figure above is if the Wolves are willing to let Ryan Gomes, who has a partially guaranteed contract, go. Gomes for a better shot at James, um, ya. That's about the biggest no-brainer in the history of no-brainers.
That would leave them close, at least money wise. In every other area they aren't close at all.
The Wolves have a lot working against them in the LBJ sweepstakes. First, they don't quite have enough money.
Next is geography, they still reside in Minnesota, brrrrr. Even if they had the money and could relocate to Honolulu they would still likely fall short.
The supporting cast the Wolves have to offer just wouldn't suffice. This King doesn't need any court jesters.
LBJ-Scale Score: 4.3
Great team, great coach, amazing supporting cast, but no money, so no chance.
Deron Williams and LeBron James however would have Jazz fans saying "Stockton-Malone who?" by season's end.
LBJ-Scale Score: 2.1
The Nuggets already have a pretty good player at James position so they will take a pass. Ha, just kidding. No one is off limits when it comes to LBJ, right?
Unfortunately for the Nuggets their pockets are empty and this king don't play for free.
LBJ-Scale Score: 2.5
Michael Jordan did the impossible as a player. He was amazing, all-world, arguably the best to ever play the game. Can he do the same as owner?
The Bobcats landing James is out of reach even for the player that scored the winning basket by stretching his arm from half court to the rim for a dunk in Space Jam.
LBJ-Scale Score: 1.7
The surprising Bucks are making a run for the playoffs that is nothing short of impressive. They have a top rookie and a great history.
They also have no chance of seeing James in their uniform next season. Bye bye, Bucks.
LBJ-Scale Score: 1.9
The Lakers had a player once who went 6'9", handled the rock, and brought excitement to the city that hasn't been since seen. Even Magic Johnson would likely trade himself for a chance to bring James to L.A. Ha, well, maybe not.
Jerry West however did cut loose everyone but the ball boys when Shaquille O'Neal was available, but West is gone now and his replacement Mitch Kupchak doesn't seem to have the same moxie.
Rumors of a sign-and-trade that would ship Kobe to New York freeing up some money which the team could then use for James aside, LBJ will not be throwing talcum powder into the Staples atmosphere wearing the purple and gold in 2010.
LBJ-Scale Score: 5.3
Who wouldn’t love to see the new human highlight film don a Hawks uniform? LeBron James in Atlanta has a comfortable feel to it, but alas it’s not meant to be.
One of the most exciting teams in the Association will have to stay that way without the services of LBJ in 2010-2011.
LBJ-Scale Score: 3.7
Imagine Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and LeBron James on the court at the same time. Do the other two players even matter? How many points would this team average per game? 110? 120?
Those longing for a return to the high scoring ABA days will have to wait however. James will not be sitting by the dock of the bay next season.
LBJ-Scale Score: 3.9
$16,193,572 Maximum Cap Space
LeBron James has a lot in common with a brand new, state of the art, cutting edge basketball arena. Neither will be coming to California’s state capital next season.
As cool as it would be to have the King be an actual King, this won't happen. They fall just short of the maximum available contract (if they keep Carl Landry) and way long of landing the King.
More cowbell. We need more cowbell!!
LBJ-Scale Score: 7.9
LeBron is too young to play for the Celtics.
LBJ-Scale Score: 0.9
No available money, no NBA heritage, no compelling reason to place a call to Elvis’ hometown.
Welcome to heartbreak hotel, Grizzlies.
LBJ-Scale Score: 1.1
Sung to the tune of the Canadian National Anthem, “Noooooooo Canada”
LBJ-Scale Score: 3.2
Here is a team that needs to make some changes. They have no height (only two players over 6’9”) and a glut of small quick guards.
Can LeBron play center? Ya, probably. Will he end up in the Big Easy? No, definitely not.
LBJ-Scale Score: 2.8
This is a matchup I like. The Pistons have a long and storied history. The city of Detroit deserves a resurgence of this once proud franchise.
It would take some miracle work on the part of Joe Dumars to get this done, but isn’t that a G.M.’s job? Sadly, with very little to work with, not even Dumars can get this done.
LBJ-Scale Score: 4.5
Perfect location, great supporting cast, a teammate you already made a commercial with; this seems to be the perfect spot for the King to rest his crown. ‘Cept, the Magic ain’t got any money.
No amount of magic will land the King anywhere near Disney World.
LBJ-Scale Score: 0.7
There was a time, back in the George Gervin days, when fans of the Spurs would actually hold up a newspaper as the visiting team was being announced. Funniest thing I have ever seen from a crowd at a professional basketball game. As if the visitors aren’t near important enough to put down the paper. Classic.
That of course would never work today. No one reads newspapers anymore.
No newspapers and no LeBron in San Antonio.
LBJ-Scale Score: 4.2
Honestly, I don’t think many teams deserve James more than the Rockets. They lost their top three scorers from one year to the next and still managed to be respectable.
They have a well respected coach, a rich history that includes NBA Championships and a city that supports them.
Yes, they deserve the King. No, they won’t land him.
LBJ-Scale Score: 3.2
This team is so boring to the point of being almost unwatchable. Wouldn’t putting James in a Pacer uniform be akin to dressing Jessica Alba in a trash bag?
Hm, she would still look hot, huh?
James would likewise do wonders for the Pacers, but it’s not happening.
LBJ-Scale Score: 0.8
$17,478,404 Maximum Cap Space
There are some very intriguing possibilities here. Michael Jordan did amazing things in Chicago and it would take someone with James' personality and skill to be able to walk out from under that shadow.
Chicago boasts the NBA history, a solid supporting staff and money available to make legitimate run at the King. Could James call Chicago home next season?
LBJ-Scale Score: 14.7
$23,102,945 Maximum Cap Space
Just for experimental reasons more than anything else I would love to see this happen. Imagine David Stern in a smock surrounded by test tubes with steam coming out of some. He takes one labeled “best player in the planet” and adds it into the cauldron labeled “worst team in the planet.”
A puff of smoke wafts up, filling the room.
Would the Nets go from worst to first? Would they triple, quadruple or even ummm, five-uple their win total of 2009-2010? Admit it, you’re curious.
LeBron ain’t though so this won’t happen even though the money is there.
LBJ-Scale Score: 11.5
Here is a team with a lot of talent that could certainly use the shot in the arm that James would provide. Then again, what team couldn’t use that kind of shot in the arm?
The Sixers are a team in disarray. Don’t look for James to right this ship.
LBJ-Scale Score: 4.1
The owner is mad because team executives picked Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Imagine how upset he would be if they let LeBron James get away.
Thankfully for the Blazers, there is no chance the Blazers are players in the James game. So, calm down Paul Allen.
LBJ-Scale Score: 5.7
Who wouldn’t want to play with Steve Nash and LeBron James? I can’t think of two players who better understand when to shoot and when to dish. This would be a match made in heaven.
Sadly, we likely won’t see it outside of heaven.
LBJ-Scale Score: 1.2
$15,145,512 Maximum Cap Space
The Clippers made a run at Kobe Bryant when he was available and rest assured they will be in the running for James. They offer a great location, an above-par supporting staff and the King’s choice for coach and G.M.
Sadly for the Clippers, James has no choice over owner. Forget karma or curse, James won’t sign with the Clippers because of Sterling, but it won't be for lack of effort on the teams part.
LBJ-Scale Score: 13.3
The Mavericks have some interesting options thanks to Erick Dampier’s 2010-2011 $13 million dollar contract. Of course, that doesn’t help them too much now unless they can offload it then turn around and make a push for James.
The King would find no better and more established team than the Mavericks if they could somehow find a way to make this work. I wonder if this is keeping Mark Cuban up at night.
LBJ-Scale Score: 9.3
$11,716,513 Maximum Cap Space
The Thunder are a young and exciting team that would instantly become Championship favorites if they could add James. The duo of Kevin Durant and James would likely go down in history as one of basketball's best ever.
A little creativity is needed to squeeze a little more money into the pot, but it’s not impossible. As an extra added bonus there is lots of room in Oklahoma City to build a nice big castle as well.
Is this the King's new home?
LBJ-Scale Score: 15.9
$37,058,855 Maximum Cap Space
Wow, that’s a lot of money, but it costs the Heat Dwayne Wade and assumes they dump James Jones. Playing in Miami is a huge plus but doing it without D-Wade is a minus. Well, you can’t have it all; even if you are the King.
Interesting possibilities to be sure but with Wade gone the Heat aren’t much better than the squad that gets together at the Y on weekends. The King likes a lot about this option but needs a little meat on his new home's bones.
LBJ-Scale Score: 14.3
There's no place like home, there's no place like home.
The odds on favorite to employ LBJ in the 2010-2011 season. Cleveland is home to James literately and figuratively and it's hard to leave that behind. It would take something very compelling to pull LBJ from home.
There are some compelling options of course, New York, Chicago likely at the head of the pact. Is what they offer enough?
LBJ-Scale Score: 16.3
$31,428,263 Maximum Cap Space
As rich as the pot looks, the Knicks could dig up more if they can work a potential Eddy Curry buyout or trade. If they could give James all of it, I bet they would.
No team has worked harder, from the team executives to the fans, to prepare for this moment. The executives have accumulated the funds and the fans have done all they can to make James feel welcome. Will all that work be for naught?
The Knicks clearly have the money and what player wouldn’t want to play 41 games a year at MSG? The only hesitation has to be the players that would take the court with him. As good as James is he can’t win many games playing one on five.
Look up at the money the Knicks have at their disposal again. That’s enough to almost hand out two max contracts. Combining the King with someone like Wade or Bosh or just about anyone else on the free agent list is attractive and might be enough to pry the King from Ohio.
LBJ-Scale Score: 16.1
$17,966,184 Maximum Cap Space
The team has said they want Gilbert Arenas back so that figure takes them at their word. So, they have the money. Unfortunately, there is nothing else nice to say about this team who has endured more turmoil than any other franchise this season.
The Wizards will rebound next season but they will do it King-less.
LBJ-Scale Score: 9.6