NBA Free Agency: Yi Trade Puts Nets On Par With Bulls And Heat

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NBA Free Agency: Yi Trade Puts Nets On Par With Bulls And Heat
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards are sure making free agency interesting.

After agreeing to take Kirk Hinrich off the Bulls' hands, the Wizards agreed Tuesday to acquire Yi Jianlian from the Nets for basically nothing.

The Nets save a few million dollars in the process, putting themselves about $30 million under the salary cap.

That few million could have a big ripple effect among the teams that are all-in this offseason.

That's because the Nets have a solid supporting cast still under contract. One that is better than the Knicks', and is equally as talented as the young Bulls players.

Devin Harris is a quality point guard and Brook Lopez is an emerging talent at center. I'd give Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah a slight, slight advantage because they have been to the playoffs together and actually put together a reasonably successful season.

The Nets are coming off a 12-win season.

Then again, they also got Derrick Favors in the draft, who could end up being the best player in the 2010 draft class. They have young pieces to build around.

They are also moving to Brooklyn in a few years, playing on a stage much more recognized than Newark. They have a Russian billionaire owner dedicated to making the Nets a global brand, and have Jay-Z as a minority owner.

Is that enough to pry free agents away from New York, Chicago, and Miami to play in lowly New Jersey?

My instincts tells me yes.

In fact, in one fell swoop the Nets just increased their chances of landing two star free agents significantly. $30 million, just as is the case with the Bulls, is not enough to get two players signed to a max contract.

But with sign-and-trade potential and more time to make roster moves, there's no telling what could happen.

If nothing else, the Nets could probably lure Rudy Gay and Carlos Boozer, or some similar combination, without making any major adjustments. Gay would be the wingman Harris needs, and Boozer could help Favors along as a rookie.

For the Bulls, Heat, and Knicks, that would be a major blow, as the remaining pool of stars would consist of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson...

And then it drops off. David Lee as a max player? Can any team pry Dirk Nowitzki from Dallas?

One of the four aforementioned teams is going to be left hanging with a second-rate star or two.

And really, it could be any of them.

I would expect Miami to lock up Wade and Dallas to secure Dirk quickly. Then they can have the pieces in place to make a move.

Then there is the Chicago-New York dilemma. The Knicks seem almost satisfied to cut their losses and get Johnson and Stoudemire, letting the Bulls and Heat duke it out for James and Bosh.

But what if the Bulls employ the same strategy? Grab Joe Johnson right away, then try to lure James or Bosh once they have one piece secured?

Then what do the Knicks do?

And what if Stoudemire, Gay, Boozer, and even James decide to return to their original teams?

Then what happens?

The Nets and Bulls could scrape together some role players and field a viable team. The Heat may be able to provided they keep Wade.

The Knicks could be left out to dry. Then again, so could any team gambling in this free agency game.

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