When the Big Three landed with the Miami Heat last offseason, I thought there would not be a crazier free agent period in my lifetime. One season later, and the class of 2010 could pale in comparison.
Just over a year of watching the Miami Heat construct their would-be dynasty, we could be looking at not one, not two, not three but four more super teams being constructed on the fly. With just over two weeks separating the start of the regular season from the free agency period, the ink will fly faster than a LeBron James flight out of Akron.
The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to pull off two of the biggest trades in NBA history. Rumor has it they are closing in on one. If the Lakers pull of the Paul and Howard trades, what will that mean for the rest of the NBA?
At first, we might be ready to hand the Larry O'Brien Trophy over to Kobe Bryant for the sixth time. However, the Lakers would face some of the same struggles the Heat had last year.
Trying to build a roster with a full offseason was difficult enough for Miami. The Lakers would have practically no time at all to re-stock a gutted roster. If they pull of the mega-trades, the Lakers would say goodbye to Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for sure. Metta World Peace would probably be gone as well, as his most valuable asset these days is his amnesty clause-able contract. Who knows what other role players they would have to throw in to make the deals work?
By dealing Bynum, Gasol and Odom, the Lakers lose 21 feet of length, which was a strength for them in winning back-to-back NBA Finals. They would have no backup center for Howard, and be without a power forward on the roster. It is unlikely the backup center issue would be a factor until the playoffs, but what happens if Howard gets in foul trouble in a decisive game? There is no Odom anymore to stop the bleeding.
Then there is that whole chemistry thing. Granted, I believe a Howard/Paul/Kobe trio is a better fit than LeBron/Wade/Bosh, but the Lakers would have few practices to build a cohesive lineup. Even if the Lakers pull off the impossible, don't give give them the Dallas Mavericks' crown just yet.
The Miami Heat likely have already made their two biggest splashes in the market, reeling in Shane Battier and Eddy Curry. Battier is a perfect fit for this lineup, as he can spell LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He also lends a deft shooting touch (39 percent from three career) and is one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.
And what to think about Eddy Curry? Curry could be the X-Factor for this Heat team. I have been hearing since last summer that Curry is back in shape and ready to contribute. Now that he is (finally) done bleeding the New York Knicks dry, Curry has to play to be paid instead of being paid not to. With the potential dollar signs in his future, could he go back to the player that averaged over 13 points per game for his career?
If he hits that mark, it will double the offensive production the Heat were getting from their trio centers last season. He and Joel Anthony could be a lethal offense/defense combination. Imagine the fun if the Heat and Knicks meet in the Eastern Conference. Curry and Tyson Chandler, the former Chicago Bulls prodigies deemed busts, going head-to-head for the right to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
I was ready dismiss the New York Knicks as also-rans in the Eastern Conference. The rumored signing of Tyson Chandler changes everything. Chandler will do all he did for Dallas and more, because the Knicks are in even more need of a defensive post presence than the Mavs were.
Did you know Amare Stoudemire was actually born D'Amare? He changed his name on draft night nine years ago because he has no "D." Chandler will make up for him and Carmelo Anthony's 'D'eficiencies and automatically makes the Knicks a threat in the East.
To make the deal work, the Knicks have to trade or amnesty Chauncey Billups, who is none too happy about it. That leaves a hole at point guard, though Toney Douglas has played well there at times. Expect them to try and use their mid-level exception on an average point guard.
The Chicago Bulls had one mission in the offseason: upgrade at shooting guard. I, for one, did not think they would pull the trigger. I believed Tom Thibedeau was too loyal to the roster he developed, too infatuated with the chemistry of his young Bulls team and too confident in his abilities to coach through the position.
Apparently, I was wrong. The Bulls were big players in the Caron Butler sweepstakes, but have reportedly lost out to the Los Angeles Clippers. Now it is down to Jamal Crawford and Jason Richardson, both of whom Thibs has called personally in a recruiting effort. Josh Howard, Grant Hill and, as a last-ditch resort (my how the mighty have fallen), Vince Carter are on the team's radar as well.
Any would be an upgrade for the Bulls, it will take Crawford or Jason Richardson to keep the Bulls afloat in the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Then there are the Boston Celtics, who have all of a sudden become the other guys in the Eastern Conference. They, too are (or were) players in the Chris Paul trade talks. Apparently Paul did not like the Celtics' prospects for the future and would refuse to sign a contract extension with the team.
I have to disagree with Paul on this one, as he would make the Celtics instant contenders again in the East this season. As for next year, Boston would have 32 million dollars to play with to keep the team rolling when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen come off the books. It is not out of the question that either or both would stay in Boston for significantly less money.
Without Paul, there is only one name that comes to mind capable of keeping Boston on top: Nene. With Chandler out, Nene becomes the top big man on the market, and he indeed provides a lot of the same abilities that makes Chandler such an attractive target.
Nene is slightly more gifted on offense and slightly less of a force on defense. Still, Nene can provide all the things expected in a Celtics center: toughness, attitude, rebounding and defense.