Unless you don't follow sports, live on a remote island with no cable TV, or have been in a coma, you probably know that the biggest and potentially most impactful free agency period in the history of sports is about to begin on July 1st. Most people refer to it as the LeBron Sweepstakes. To a fault, the biggest topic is what city will LeBron choose and what other stars will join him.
I love the NBA and love free agency and the draft and all things that have the potential to swing the balance of power in the league. However, I do have to admit that I am a little tired of hearing, reading, and watching all of the stories regarding this crop of free agents. It's like when you read an early synopsis about a movie coming out, but the mass media rams the movie so far down your throat that it makes you actually hate it before you even see it.
I probably wouldn't be so tired of this run-up to the free agency period if everybody and their mother wasn't quoting some half-assed source who claims that he used to sleep with some girl who worked as a hygienist at the dental office where LeBron's fourth cousin twice removed got his root canal and she said that it was a lock that LeBron was a lock to go to Chicago.
Obviously, I have no idea where LeBron or any of the other free agents will end up, so I would rather focus on my thoughts about the newest "lock" that LeBron and Chris Bosh will be joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. On paper this sounds like a run of championships waiting to happen and maybe it will end up being just that, but I am not 100% sold on the whole idea. Let's take a look at two of the major reasons:
1) True #1 Option Confusion - Aside from their time spent with Team USA, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been the unquestioned #1 options on their respective teams and both are still in their athletic primes. Last season, no teams relied more on their stars than the Cavaliers and the Heat and that wasn't just a one season anomaly. This has been the norm throughout their careers.
Now both LeBron and Wade are also two of the most unselfish players in the league as well, but, when the game is on the line, they are just wired to take control. Put them together on the same court in a random Tuesday game at home against Memphis in the second month of the season and one will probably have no trouble deferring to the other. However, change the situation to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston and the answer of who takes control is not as easy to decipher. This is the kind of problem that the league has not seen since Shaq and Kobe tore apart a burgeoning dynasty in L.A. Maybe they will figure it out, but, if they can't, the potential chemistry problems could easily outweigh the overwhelming talent.
2) Lack of Depth and Style - If the Heat are able to sign LeBron, Bosh, and Wade, their cap space will be virtually depleted. They are going to have to head to the scrap heap to find a makeshift band of players to fill out the remaining eight or so roster spots. I assume players will take less money to play on a potentially historic team like this and have to "rough it" in Miami, but that doesn't mean they will be able to find the right players.
The key to championship teams is generally having a stud #1 option, a willing #2 option, a reliable #3 option (or multiple players who step in and out of that #3 role), and a collection of role players who are willing to understand their role and have no aversion to playing that role. Plus, there is usually a system in place the helps to define those roles so as to avoid confusion. With a team built from scratch on the fly such as this, the odds that a reliable system on offense and defense will be put in place and that the organization will be able to fill the necessary roles within that system are not a given.
Aside form those potential problems, I have one issue with the move from a personal standpoint. Part of the allure of the NBA is the personal match-ups that can develop during a game or, even better, during a playoff series. Even though it didn't come to fruition this year, there was a genuine excitement around a potential LeBron against Kobe finals. This upcoming season and beyond could bring about more of the same if Dwyane Wade can get some stars not named LeBron to join the Heat, the Lakers remain mostly in tact, LeBron and some free agents not named Wade join him at his final destination, the Spurs regain past glory, and some of the younger teams progress. There could be some titanic playoff match-ups to look forward to with stars all around.
Part of what has made past championship runs so dramatic has been the competition that the champions had to navigate through in order to reach their ultimate goal. My one wish for this off-season would be that the true stars like LeBron and D-Wade decide that they need help, but not from each other, and the rest of the teams use their cap money wisely enough to actually find ways to build competitive teams even without landing one of the big two. Teams in the past have won titles without LeBron, Wade, or Kobe and I am guessing some team will be able to win without them again.