Chris Bosh will join Dwayne Wade in Miami, Amare Stoudemire is in New York, and LeBron James is the biggest remaining question mark.
Eager spectators have narrowed the possible destinations for James to three choices: New York, Chicago, and Cleveland (unless you count the Clippers, Nets, and possibly Heat…and wouldn’t it be great if James announced he was going to Phoenix and playing for the mid level exception?).
This is the biggest summer of free agency in NBA history. Where these super free agents will land has taken over sports media completely, and has spilled over into the mainstream news programs.
The free agency craze has crossed into the pop culture world as celebrities like Jay-Z, Chris Rock, and even our octogenarian “it” girl Betty White have gotten involved.
But whatever moves were made, or are made in the next 48 hours, will they create instant NBA champions?
The answer is: not necessarily.
The free agency frenzy is allowing teams to upgrade their rosters, but it’s not creating definite champions, at least not immediately.
Look at all the teams closely, starting with Miami.
Miami was a playoff team without Chris Bosh, so with him it would stand to reason that they would be exponentially better.
Wade averaged about 26.6 points per game in 2009-2010, Bosh averaged about 24. This means Wade won’t have to carry the offense alone (Wade was the high scorer in all five of the team’s playoff games against Boston in 2010, accumulating at least 11 more points than the next highest scorer).
Bosh will be good for at least ten more wins in the regular season, and he may even help the Heat advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since the Heat won the NBA title in 2006.
Still, Miami will probably have to go through teams like Boston, Orlando, Chicago, or Atlanta to make it to the Finals.
Boston may be aging, but there is still enough talent and experience on the roster to make trouble for whoever they face in the playoffs.
Orlando has looked unstoppable at times and have more talent up and down the roster than Miami.
Chicago is getting better by the year and may pick up David Lee or even Ray Allen, and Atlanta is not a throwaway team either.
Now look at LeBron James.
If James goes to New York, it will make the team respectable—a playoff team even.
However, James and the Knicks will have the same probably as Miami, they’ll have to go through Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta, and an improved Miami.
There isn’t enough current talent on the Knicks roster to get James through all these teams.
The same problem is true for Cleveland.
If James stays with the Cavaliers, he’ll be with basically the same players who have gone backward since their 2007 Finals appearance (Cleveland was swept in the Finals by San Antonio).
He’ll have a different coach, and maybe the team can pick up Carlos Boozer, although he hasn’t expressed any desire to play in Cleveland nor is Boozer an answer to the league’s best big men like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Should LeBron decide to go to Chicago, he will be joining a talented team on the rise.
Chicago has some good pieces, and they may be his best chance to win a championship soon.
Still, it all boils down to this: adding one or two more great players to a mediocre roster does not make a championship team.
Look at the teams that have won championships in the past few years.
The LA Lakers are loaded with talent. They have Lamar Odom, a starter on any other team, coming off the bench. They have Kobe Bryant on the perimeter, Ron Artest on defense, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum inside. They don’t have two great players, they have five or six.
In Boston, the “big three” mustered two championship appearances, winning one and dropping the other to the Lakers in seven.
Even if Ray Allen leaves this season, Boston still has Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Paul Pierce, and, most importantly, a great point guard in Rajon Rondo.
On both the Lakers and the Celtics, there is serious talent beyond the big names.
Orlando is another organization that contains more than two great players.
And when it comes to winning NBA championships, that’s what you need.
Playoff and Finals wins, in any sport (NFL Super Bowls in the past three years were won by the Giants, Steelers, and Saints) require a team that has more than two superstars.
Great teams win rings, and great players just help.
Case in point, Kobe Bryant, the best player on the Lakers, had an awful Game seven—one of the worst of his career. His team still won.
In the past four years, the NBA champions have been San Antonio, Boston, and LA—all great teams.
Role players are key to winning championships, and Miami, New York, and Cleveland have yet to acquire these pieces.
Building high caliber, deep rosters takes time, it doesn’t happen in one summer, even if that summer is the most hyped free agency period in the history of the NBA.