July 1, 2010.
We're less than two months away from perhaps the most anticipated date in the history of the NBA.
While the first day of free agency is newsworthy every year, 2010 is different, for obvious reasons.
Never before has there been a crop of talent quite like the upcoming class, which includes the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, and Chris Bosh, among others.
So, as we sit here on May 13, what should we be expecting to happen come July 1?
Before we begin, here's a quick rundown of each team's notable upcoming free agents.
Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson
Boston Celtics: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce (ETO), Tony Allen
Charlotte Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Raja Bell, Tyson Chandler (ETO)
Chicago Bulls: Brad Miller
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James (P), Shaquille O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki (ETO)
Denver Nuggets: Kenyon Martin (ETO)
Detroit Pistons: Will Bynum, Ben Wallace
Golden State Warriors: Kelenna Azubuike (P), C.J. Watson (R), Anthony Morrow (R)
Houston Rockets: Kyle Lowry (R), Luis Scola (R), Yao Ming (ETO)
Indiana Pacers: None
Los Angeles Clippers: Rasual Butler, Craig Smith
Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Farmar (R), Shannon Brown (P), Derek Fisher
Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay (R)
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade (P), Quentin Richardson, Udonis Haslem, Carlos Arroyo, Jermaine O'Neal
Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Redd (ETO), Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas
Minnesota Timberwolves: None
New Jersey Nets: Chris Douglas-Roberts (R), Jarvis Hayes
New Orleans Hornets: Peja Stojakovic (ETO)
New York Knicks: David Lee, Al Harrington, Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez (R)
Oklahoma City Thunder: None
Orlando Magic: J.J. Redick (R), Matt Barnes (P), Jason Williams
Philadelphia 76ers: Allen Iverson, Jason Kapono (P), Willie Green (ETO)
Phoenix Suns: Amare Stoudemire (ETO), Channing Frye (P), Grant Hill (P), Louis Amundson
Portland Trail Blazers: Juwan Howard, Joel Przybilla (ETO)
Sacramento Kings: None
San Antonio Spurs: Richard Jefferson (ETO), Matt Bonner, Roger Mason
Toronto Raptors: Chris Bosh (P), Rasho Nesterovic, Amir Johnson
Utah Jazz: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Kyrylo Fesenko, Wesley Matthews
Washington Wizards: Josh Howard (T), Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto, Randy Foye (R), Shaun Livingston
Here's how I think things will shape up.
Stoudemire was the league's hottest commodity at the trade deadline back in February, but wound up staying in a Suns' uniform, and his performance has improved.
While he's had a rocky relationship with Phoenix throughout the past couple of years, winning changes everything—and the Suns are doing plenty of that these days.
If the Suns manage to win the title, re-signing with Phoenix should become an attractive option for Stoudemire. Stars usually don't leave their teams immediately after winning championships.
With Steve Nash having signed an extension last summer, the core of the team will still be in place, and it would be downright foolish for Stoudemire to tempt fate elsewhere.
If he doesn't win a ring this season, he'd obviously be more enticed to try his luck elsewhere.
The Knicks and Heat are the teams most likely to be in the mix for Stoudemire, and the Rockets could be a dark horse sign-and-trade suitor, as they were reportedly close to swinging a deadline deal for him earlier this season.
Verdict: Stoudemire re-signs with Phoenix.
The Hawks suffered a flame-out of epic proportions against the Magic in the second round of the playoffs—and the struggles of Joe Johnson were puzzling.
Considered a potential candidate for a large contract this summer, the consensus now appears to be that Johnson's awful showing in that series (12ppg, 30% FG) may cost him millions in free agency.
The prevailing thought appears to be that Johnson is the Knicks' back-up plan in case LeBron James decides to sign elsewhere—but Donnie Walsh and company can't be too giddy about Johnson's playoff performance.
That being said, he's proven for years that he's capable of being a No. 1 scoring option, and he is typically a very efficient scorer (46% FG, 37% 3P, 82% FT during the regular season).
He can handle the ball well, score from just about anywhere on the floor, and has shown a good tendency for getting to the rim.
He'll be 29 years old by the time July 1 rolls around, and I have a hard time believing his poor playoff performance will end up costing him as much money as people seem to think.
Verdict: Johnson signs with New Jersey Nets.
Carlos Boozer, the man who has flown under-the-radar in terms of major upcoming free agents.
The 28 year old averaged about 20 points and 11 rebounds this season for the Jazz, and he seems like a very likely candidate to be switching uniforms this summer.
The Jazz have $32 million already committed to Paul Millsap, and paying somebody that much to come off the bench seems like a poor investment.
While Boozer has kept the door open to re-sign with Utah, the clear destination for him appears to be Miami.
Much has been made of a home Boozer owns in the Miami area, and he's made it clear that he wouldn't mind playing in the Sunshine State.
Should the Heat not land Bosh or Stoudemire, they may have to settle on Boozer as a sidekick to sell to Dwyane Wade as a reason to re-up with Miami.
He likely won't get a max contract, but his solid season in 2009-10 should only help his value moving forward.
Verdict: Boozer to Miami.
Allen's value this summer is all over the board.
While he's struggled in the past couple of regular seasons, his game appears to hit another level come playoff time, as he is proving again this season.
After averaging 16 points per game on 36 percent three-point shooting during the regular season, Allen is up to 18 points per game so far in the playoffs. He is shooting a sizzling 46 percent from beyond-the-arc.
The primary concern with Allen is that he'll turn 36 just before free agency begins.
He clearly isn't the same player that he was in his prime, but he's still quite capable of scoring 20 on any given night. He can fit in nicely with a contender in a supporting role, primarily as a three-point specialist.
The Celtics have kicked it into gear lately, and have emerged again as a legitimate championship contender.
Because of this success, I can imagine Allen being re-signed by Boston on a one- or two-year deal.
Verdict: Allen re-signs with Boston.
Before the playoffs began, I had the Mavericks tabbed as the team that would make the Finals from the Western Conference before falling to Cleveland.
Obviously, my prediction is looking worse and worse with each game the Cavaliers drop, and could be scrapped altogether as early as tonight.
Dirk's No. 2 seeded Mavericks were a huge disappointment in a six-game series loss to San Antonio, especially when we consider how easily those same Spurs were dumped by Phoenix in round two.
Nowitzki, who enjoyed a stellar series statistically, usually receives the brunt of the blame whenever the Mavs are ousted in the first round (as they have been in three of the past four seasons).
While it's hard to imagine Nowitzki opting out of $21.5 million next year, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched in light of the Mavs' recent performance.
Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have yet to find a legitimate No. 2 option to pair with Dirk, and the results haven't been championship-worthy.
Nowitzki, almost 32 years old, still has plenty left in the tank.
While reports have surfaced about possible negotiations for a contract extension, it has to be frustrating for Nowitzki to be the centerpiece on a team that has repeatedly fallen short. It doesn't make things better that the Mavs appear to be strapped with several long-term, immovable contracts.
While I seriously doubt Dirk will end up leaving the Mavericks, it wouldn't be surprising if he did.
Verdict: Nowitzki stays in Dallas.
Chris Bosh, often a forgotten member of the heralded 2003 draft class, is going to get a max contract this summer.
While the Raptors are surely desperate to bring him back, he appears to be almost certainly headed elsewhere.
The Heat, Bulls, and Knicks—the same teams that will be interested in Stoudemire—will be very interested in Bosh.
It's also been reported that Rockets' GM Daryl Morey will be on Bosh's doorstep when the clock strikes midnight on July 1.
He's one of the most versatile big forwards in the game, with the ability to shoot with consistency from about 18 feet in. He's also a superb rebounder despite his slight frame.
Bosh averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds per game in the 2009-10 season, and will likely head to a place that will highlight his name on a national scale, as he was largely off-the-radar as a member of the Raptors.
The Heat have plenty to offer, but since we have Boozer going there, it means that Bosh should decide to go elsewhere.
The Bulls are obviously an option, as they have room to offer to one max player. Bosh would be a perfect guy to put on the frontline opposite Joakim Noah, and would definitely flourish playing with budding superstar Derrick Rose.
However, the Bulls have something else on their plate. More on that shortly.
Adding Bosh to the Rockets (in a sign-and-trade scenario involving some combination of players likely including Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola) would make them an immediate contender in the West.
If Yao is healthy, the Rockets will have one of the most offensively-dominating front courts in the league.
Kevin Martin was added at the deadline to help with the perimeter scoring, and Kyle Lowry would assume the duties as as the starting point guard.
While this all seems great, I can't imagine it actually working out this way.
This leaves us with the Knicks.
When asked during the season about the Knicks, Bosh laughed it off.
However, once the opportunity arrives, I think he'll be one of two major talents headed to the Big Apple.
He'll be paired with one of the league's best players and will help make the Knicks relevant in the East.
Verdict: Bosh signs a max deal with New York.
In a normal year, Wade would be the hottest commodity to hit the market in free agency.
He's obviously priority No. 1 for the Heat, but management has struggled to amass a solid-enough group of talent around him since the title run of '06, which is why many feel he's on his way out.
The 6'4" guard out of Marquette has blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the league, and, as he proved in game four against the Celtics in the first round, is quite capable of carrying his team.
One major factor here is Wade's status as a native Chicagoan.
He was born and raised there, and has professed his love for the city throughout his career.
Pairing him with Derrick Rose would give the Bulls the most explosive back court in the league, but obviously wouldn't satiate their need for an offensive post presence.
However, there's a solid enough core there that adding Wade to the mix would likely turn the Bulls into a major player in the Eastern Conference.
Wade will be courted by several teams, but in the end, I don't think he'll be able to resist the urge to return to Chicago.
Verdict: Wade signs with the Bulls.
Yep...this photo speaks for itself.
King James has openly been a fan of New York for quite some time—and I feel like the latest Cavaliers' misstep is going to usher him right out the door.
I've said before that LeBron will not leave Cleveland if they're able to win the title this season, and I even picked them to win before the playoffs began.
However, they're going to need a miracle in 2010.
They're going to have to beat the Boston Celtics twice in two games, beat the well-rested Orlando Magic in the next round (who were a LeBron game-winning three-pointer from sweeping the Cavs last season), and then go through either the Lakers or the Suns in the Finals.
In other words: this isn't happening.
LeBron, like the other top-tier guys, will be courted heavily by just about everybody.
While the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago may be tempting, he won't be able to resist the allure of New York City.
He wants to be a "global icon"—and no place affords him that opportunity like New York does.
If this scenario works out, he'll be paired with Chris Bosh and other big name talent.
The best player James ever played with was arguably a young Carlos Boozer, who controversially turned down a $39 million offer from the Cavs and bolted for Utah in 2004.
Had they been able to retain Boozer, who knows how far the two may have taken the Cavaliers.
Verdict: LeBron signs with New York.
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