2010 NBA Free Agency: Five Best Case and Worst Case Scenarios
Let's face it. The 2010 NBA Draft means very little in comparison to the craziness that will ensue starting July first.
You know, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a bevy of other high-quality free agents hit the open market?
With the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat making power plays to clear cap space for multiple free agents, there suddenly are not enough superstars to make every team happy. Some teams will come out big winners, others will underwhelm.
Following are the best possible outcomes and worst possible outcomes for several of the teams looking to make a move in the free agent market.
The Heat might be the only team to have a lock on one of the top-tier free agents: Dwyane Wade.
That, of course, is contingent upon whether the Heat can construct a championship-level team around Wade.
And it looks like they certainly can.
With the trade of Daequan Cook, the Heat are now nearing a point where they can sign Wade, another free agent to a max contract, AND another free agent to a nearly max contract.
Best case scenario: Heat get Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and fill out the rest of the team with minimum contracts
Worst case scenario: Heat get Dwyane Wade, Carlos Boozer/Amare Stoudemire and a second-tier free agent
Verdict: The Heat are in a great position to place themselves among the elite in the Eastern Conference. As long as they have Wade and another quality player, they will be competitive. It remains to be seen whether LeBron is willing to be second fiddle to Wade in Miami.
While the Heat have Wade and nearly room for two max contracts, the Bulls nearly match them. They have Derrick Rose and nearly room for two max contracts.
At this point, any top free agent who wants to win is considering Chicago and Miami.
Rose does not have the same cult of personality that Wade has down in Miami, which could make Chicago the better place for James to be "The King." If James is Batman, Rose is probably more willing to accept the role of Robin.
That's all speculation of course. But with Kirk Hinrich now gone, the Bulls also have to consider how they are going to find a shooting guard. In theory, either James or Luol Deng could play the position, but both are natural small forwards.
Could this mean the Bulls are targeting a Joe Johnson/Bosh or Johnson/Stoudemire combination? Maybe, especially as they could probably get away with not paying Johnson the maximum.
Best case scenario: Bulls get LeBron James and Chris Bosh and sign minimum contracts for the remaining roster spots.
Worst case scenario: Bulls overspend on Rudy Gay and David Lee.
Verdict: Most likely the Bulls will end up somewhere in the middle of these two cases. If they cannot get LeBron, expect them to grab Johnson and one of the power forwards (Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer), creating a formidable starting five of Rose, Johnson, Deng, Bosh/Stoudemire/Boozer, and Noah.
New York Knicks
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, fallen more.
With the moves made by the Heat and Bulls, the Knicks' trump card and only bright spot is no longer theirs exclusively. That advantage, of course, was being able to sign two max contracts.
With no real quality players currently signed and a team that has basically been beaten down for the past few seasons, New York really has nothing going for it, unless you count its size and celebrities.
What was once thought of as the most likely team to get James is now probably fourth in the pecking order. That's what happens when you place all your eggs in one basket.
Best case scenario: Knicks get James and Bosh/Stoudemire/Johnson, signing minimum contracts for the rest of the team.
Worst case scenario: James, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire and Johnson are all taken by the Heat and Bulls, forcing the Knicks to resign David Lee and other second-tier free agents.
Verdict: The Knicks are no longer front runners for James, meaning they are not going to get Bosh either. They might turn desperate and offer a max contract to Boozer or Johnson while others would pay them less. Either way, the 2010 offseason is not going to be as glorious as Knicks fans were expecting it to be.
This one is easy.
Best case scenario: The Cavaliers resign LeBron James
Worse case scenario: The Cavaliers do not resign LeBron James
Verdict: That's really what it comes down to for Cleveland. If they cannot resign James, this is a mid-lottery team. Sure they could go get another player, but obviously none will be as good as James. Moreover, Cleveland is not a very attractive destination for free agents.
As July first nears it seems increasingly likely James will leave Cleveland. And with his departure, so goes all of Cleveland's title dreams.
New Jersey Nets
The Nets were very bad last year.
And yet their new Russian billionaire owner promises a championship in five years. How's that going to happen?
2010 free agency is a start.
Like the Bulls, the Nets have great players at point guard (Devin Harris) and center (Brook Lopez). They will address one of their concerns with the third pick in the draft, and then will follow up by offering a max contract to one free agent.
Who will that free agent be? Many are thinking a power forward. Carlos Boozer in particular.
At this point, the Nets seem out of the race for LeBron. Expectations are tempered in terms of growth for this squad. Playoffs next year? Sure. Championship? Not yet.
Best case scenario: Nets get Boozer/Stoudemire/Bosh, or Johnson if they select a power forward in the draft.
Worst case scenario: Nets get David Lee.
Verdict: The Nets are apparently planning on actively recruiting Boozer. The Heat, Bulls and Knicks do not have Boozer on their immediate radar. Expect them to sign Boozer to team with Lopez down low.