NBA Free Agency Madness

Alex ShultzCorrespondent IJune 14, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands by in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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This NBA offseason will prove to be the most engrossing in the history of the sport. Here’s my breakdown, by tier, of the biggest names on the market, and a look at who will go where, when it’s all said and done.


Top Tier  

LeBron James

Current Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Future Team: Chicago Bulls

James is a media pushover. He’s been milking this free agent extravaganza for two years. If he were staying in Cleveland, we’d know already. Instead, no one has a clue as to the King’s whereabouts, and free agency begins July 1.

So let’s assume James is not returning to the Cavs—t hen what?

There are plenty of suitors ready to court James. There are the long shots with the cap room, like Oklahoma City (makes no sense for them), the Los Angeles Clippers (cursed for eternity), the Wizards (John Wall isn’t nearly enough to attract LeBron), the Kings (absolutely no chance), and the Timberwolves (David Kahn would rather draft a point guard).

Then we have the four real contenders—New York, New Jersey, Miami, and Chicago.

Miami doesn’t work because James' 100-man crew will convince him (correctly) that two superstars on one team won’t get him the full spotlight. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about James, it’s that he loves all the attention he can get.

From an actual game plan standpoint, Dwayne Wade and James would be the best duo in basketball, but Michael Beasley would likely become frustrated with his lack of touches, and the Heat still lack a legitimate point guard or center.

New York can throw max contracts at multiple players, and possibly even bring in a Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, etc., to play with James, but we’re still looking at the same situation as Miami. Duos are great, but teams are better. The Knicks would lack the firepower to contend for a title with two-and-a-half good players.

All signs point to New Jersey being out of the equation. For a while, they were the sexy James destination, but now they’ve got the ultimate hard-nosed no-excuses coach (Avery Johnson), and minority owner Jay-Z stated publicly that he won’t try to convince James to play for the Nets. If “Hova” won’t convince LeBron, good luck thinking Devin Harris and Brook Lopez will be enough to convince him.

So that leaves Chicago. Yes, Michael Jordan played in Chi Town, and James has to live under that shadow for the rest of his career. Still, Bulls fans are willing to start a new era, even if it ultimately proves to be less successful than Jordan’s.

If it means combining James with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, then Rose is the perfect compliment to James. He’s a 20-point scorer, he’s young, he’s athletic, and he has no problem being the sidekick.

Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a great piece on the Bulls new head coach (Tom Thibodau) and how his hiring means there could be much more at work than we know about.

When the dust settles, LeBron James will be a Chicago Bull.

You read it here first.


Dwyane Wade

Current Team: Miami Heat

Future Team: Miami Heat

Sorry no fancy logic here.

Wade has already shown his distaste for the Chicago front office, and the Bulls were really the only other team with a shot at number three. Wade will get a max deal with the Heat, and GM Pat Riley will add a great big man to keep his superstar satisfied.


Second Tier

Chris Bosh

Current Team: Toronto Raptors

Future Team: Miami Heat

Chris Bosh will not return to Toronto. He’s wallowed in mediocrity for years, and desperately wants to play in the States.

The Bulls, Knicks, Nets, Heat, and Thunder are all in the conversation for Bosh’s services. Expect New York, Miami, and Oklahoma to be the final three possible destinations.

This offseason should move quickly, and without any definite pieces in New York on July 1, the Knicks fall out of the conversation. Oklahoma City has been targeting Bosh for a while, but that’s not a town Chris wants to play for. He wants the bright lights, and the chance to partner up with a good friend. The Heat offer both of those options.


Amare Stoudemire

Current Team: Phoenix Suns

Future Team: Phoenix Suns

If Phoenix had been knocked out of the playoffs early on, Amare Stoudemire would be as good as gone now. The Suns made an improbable run to the Western Conference Finals, however, that should be enough to keep the star power forward in town.

If Stoudemire were to leave, New York is the most likely option. I just don’t see that happening though.


Dirk Nowitzki

Current Team: Dallas Mavericks

Future Team: Dallas Mavericks

Fear not, Mavericks fans. Mark Cuban will never let the king of Deutschland leave Dallas. Yes, Dirk opted out of his deal, but at nearly 32 years of age, it’s highly unlikely he wants to go somewhere new and start fresh.

The only possible scenario?

Something I heard on Twitter through ESPN writer Bill Simmons Amare leaves Phoenix, opening a spot for Dirk to reunite with Steve Nash.

Talk about potential fireworks.


Carlos Boozer

Current Team: Utah Jazz

Future Team: New York Knicks

Utah fans, you knew this was coming. Carlos Boozer is a restless soul. He left Cleveland right when LeBron emerged from his cocoon, and now he’s going to bolt the Jazz as Deron Williams becomes a superstar. New York will throw more money at Boozer than anyone else would even consider, and he will blindly accept.

Depressing, but true.


Joe Johnson

Current Team: Atlanta Hawks

Future Team: New York Knicks

So here’s the good news Knicks fans you will get two max-contract free agents. The bad news?

Neither deserves all that money.

Joe Johnson was (quite literally) booed out of town after Atlanta’s poor showing in the playoffs. He will go where the cash flows most, which will be New York, after GM Donnie Walsh loses out on LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.

With Boozer and Joe Johnson, along with a few other pieces, the Knicks can be anywhere between the four and eight seed in the Eastern conference. Certainly an improvement from years past, but definitely not what Spike Lee is looking for.


Third Tier

Rudy Gay

Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Future Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis made major strides as a franchise last year. Their fan base is slowly picking up, and now is not the time to lose Rudy Gay. He’s a restricted free agent, and I fully expect GM Chris Wallace to ante up whatever the necessary funds are to keep him around.

Only the Knicks would be crazy enough to offer Gay a max contract, and even they probably won’t resort to that level. If they did, that’s the only possible way Memphis could lose their budding star.


Ray Allen

Current Team: Boston Celtics

Future Team: Boston Celtics

Boston’s improbable run to the championship makes Allen a hot commodity. Every contender could use a knockdown, veteran shooter. Still, Ray Ray will show his loyalty to the club that took a chance on him on draft day three years ago by re-signing with the Celtics.


David Lee

Current Team: New York Knicks

Future Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

Caught up in the New York mess is David Lee. He’s been nothing but consistent on abysmal Knicks teams for the last few years, and now is his chance to bolt the city that never really appreciated his contributions. The Thunder would love to finally acquire a high-scoring big man, and Lee could make Oklahoma City legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.


Note: Portions of this article also appeared on and

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