Miami, Chicago, New York... They all look to be big winners in this summer's NBA free agency.
If the NBA were like other sports, wouldn't it be the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, or Dallas Mavericks that should be vying for the services of the league's best?
Why should the most competitive NBA teams be punished by the league's ultra-restrictive salary structure?
The Cavaliers tried desperately to build a team around LeBron James and are going to be left in the cold as their hometown international icon is set to be joining Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
Cleveland attempted to boost LeBron's chances of winning his first championship ring by adding Antawn Jamison before last February's trade deadline. Now they are stuck with an unwanted contract which has hindered their ability to sign the talent necessary to keep their team icon around.
For the past five years, the New York Knicks have blown up their team by trading away their best talent for expiring contracts in an attempt to sign James and other superstars.
They were able to land Amar'e Stoudemire, but is that enough consolation for fans who have suffered for years and paid out big money for season tickets hoping that LeBron James was one day coming?
Why should a team in the world's biggest market have to subject their fans to horrendous basketball for the past half-decade for the chance to sign the league's top stars?
Teams like the Dallas Mavericks aren't able to to join in the free agent sweepstakes outside retaining last season's talent and using their mid-level exception.
An owner like Mark Cuban does whatever it takes to give his team the advantage, yet he's handcuffed when it comes to signing the player that would take his team to the next level and helping his star Dirk Nowitzki finally win that elusive ring.
To a fan like myself, something seems wrong with this picture.
For LeBron James to be holding up a Miami Heat jersey with his new No. 6 on the back doesn't sound right. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox fight all offseason over baseball's superstars, yet in the NBA, the process becomes about who has the most money left under the cap to sign the top talents.
Many fans like the idea of competitive balance and league parity as the worst franchises in the NBA might be only a year away from contending.
But what earns these teams that right?
In most other sports, a great team is built and maintained over a long period. Somehow in the NBA, an average franchise like the Miami Heat gets the chance to sign the best three available free agents in a historic free-agent year in James, Wade, and Bosh.
The max-deal contracts need to go as well.
It would be like saying to the St. Louis Cardinals you can keep Albert Pujols as no other team in the MLB could go beyond your offer. Albert's agent would ring him up and inform him that the Red Sox want you but they've re-signed Victor Martinez and Josh Beckett so they don't have enough room to fit you in. They have enough money to make you a record offer but because they're over the salary cap they can only keep hold of their players.
In the Heat's case it would be like telling the Cardinals: "You not only can keep your homegrown player in Pujols, you can sign away Derek Jeter and Carl Crawford from the Yankees and Rays because their teams can't fit them under the cap." Although it is hard to compare the vastly different financial environments of Major League Baseball and the NBA, you get my point.
The NBA needs to raise their salary cap significantly because the trends leading up to the 2010 summer may appear again in future offseasons.
Let's say that John Wall becomes for the league what James is right now: an all-time superstar. Years from now Wall's contract is about to expire and the Wizards fell just short of making it to the finals. Let's say that Washington doesn't have the flexibility to land another premiere superstar to keep Wall around. Evan Turner's Philadelphia 76ers have the ability to not only sign him, but also Wall and DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings.
Who's to say that history won't repeat itself again? The NBA must come up with a plan to combat teams from blowing up their rosters for the opportunity to land the big free agents.
The franchises who try to compete every year like the Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs aren't ever capable of using free agency to their advantage and always rely upon shrewd trades and careful draft picks to maintain their chances of winning a title.
Maybe competitive balance isn't all that fair to the teams that actually do what they're supposed to on the court and try to build a winning team every year.
David Stern and the powers that be might need to have a re-think.