NBA Free Agency speculation is at an all-time high, and rightfully so. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh headline a free agent class that has been the most highly anticipated group of unsigned players possibly in the history of sports.
A handful of teams made it a priority--some even threw in the towel--to clear cap space and ready themselves for the class of 2010.
One such team was the Chicago Bulls, who have to be one of the most intriguing teams pitching big money and long term contracts to these All-World caliber players. Why?
Because of the teams making presentations for these superstars, the Bulls are the only ones who can pitch a legacy for winning, a giant sports market, and an extremely talented roster to boot, led by budding stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
Multiple major media outlets have indicated that LeBron James, undoubtedly the top prize of the 2010 crop, will not make his decision until after his basketball camp being held this week from Monday through Wednesday. Likely a very smart move by "The King," as you wouldn't want to fluster a bunch of young kids right before a three day camp. That would be horrible PR for LeBron.
So the Bulls, like the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Clippers, and Cavaliers, are stuck in a waiting game--and so are the other available free agents. All indications are that when LeBron signs, dominoes will fall.
But the decisions are not likely to be very simple for these superstars. Leaving hometowns, or the cities you've been embraced in can not be decisions made based on a presentation or simple visit to a team. Dwyane Wade said as much on Friday:
"This is not an easy decision to make," he said. "And everyone thinks it is."
For Wade, he would be leaving Miami, the city that has lived and breathed on Heat basketball as its source for legitimately competitive sports over the last seven years. Dwyane Wade owns the sports market of Miami, and there, he is a sports god.
Still, there is much more to life than sports. Wade recently finalized a divorce with his wife, and his two sons Zion and Zaire go to school and live in Chicago. Wade said he will do what is best for his family, and that his decision is not about basketball.
There is certainly some reading in between the lines to be done there.
Wade may have a tough decision, but one that he has to make. Not that it would be a big loss for him. The city of Chicago is Wade's hometown, the place where he said his basketball dreams came true. He played college ball at Marquette and he grew up watching the Bulls win six NBA titles.
The Bulls are an attractive option for Wade, and it's very possible they could be at the top of his wish list due to his family situation at the moment.
Not that the Bulls don't offer a nice basketball situation as well.
One thing that Wade has been part of all offseason long was one of the Three Musketeers, or Big three with James and Bosh. Wade reportedly has tried to recruit his friends and fellow olympians to all play together next season and beyond, something that is not out of the realm of possibility if the players are willing to take pay cuts.
Perhaps Wade is, but it would be hard to make that assumption. Wade can earn huge dollars by staying in Miami, roughly $29 million more than he could make anywhere else on a max contract.
That's a lot of green.
Even though his decision is not all about basketball, the Bulls might be the best basketball situation for Wade in addition to being the right situation for his family. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are two of the most attractive magnets on the free agent market for big name players. They have been to the playoffs two years in a row, and along with Luol Deng have a core that can win in the present as well as the future. The Bulls are a young team with a ton of talent, and Wade will be hard pressed to pass up the chance to play for his home town team.
I believe there is a great chance Wade ends up in Chicago playing for the Bulls, but I don't think he's going to do it alone.
One other player on the free agent market who would be a fantastic fit for Chicago is power forward Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Raptors. Bosh visited with the Bulls over the weekend, and oddly enough, that was the only visit that didn't conclude with a flurry of Twitter posts.
Perhaps Bosh was simply astounded at the offer the Bulls made.
In all seriousness, a Bosh-Wade pairing is something that Chicago fans never really considered due to Wade's apparent loyalty to the city of Miami, but what once was a pipe dream has now turned into a very potential reality.
Wade met with the Bulls not once but twice over the weekend, once in the presence of his agent (same agent as Chris Bosh). What is really interesting about this is that it seems to go completely against what reporters have been saying all offseason, which is that Wade wants to bring other superstars to play with him in Miami.
Perhaps he has now realized that Miami is no longer the best option for him. After all, with the recent trade of Kirk Hinrich to the Washington Wizards, the Bulls have a gaping hole at the two guard spot.
If Wade and Bosh are serious about making this happen though, some strings may need to be pulled. Wade will not be a hard sell for Chicago, and frankly neither will Chris Bosh, but it's no secret that Wade will attract more endorsements. One thing he and LeBron will never have to worry about is their marketability.
They are superstars in the NBA, and people want to wear anything and everything with their name attached to it, particularly LeBron.
Bosh? Not so much. So how can the Bulls make this work financially?
One option is a sign-and-trade, which Bosh would love because it would mean he is making a ton of money. The Raptors have seemingly lost interest in a sign-and-trade, especially if the Bulls are unwilling to part with Joakim Noah, which they are.
If Bosh and Wade want to team up in Chicago, their best option is to each take a slight pay cut. The Bulls can clear about $2 million off the bill by trading away James Johnson, last year's first round pick. IF they can do that, Bosh and Wade would have to take roughly $200,000 less on their final contract each in order for the Bulls to stay even with the cap.
Obviously, only time will tell. Wade is expected to make a decision early this week, and that could get things really rolling. Perhaps he will even make a decision by Monday, which NBA fans would love to see.
One thing is universally true for these big name free agents. If they are serious about winning, Chicago is their best option. If all they want is a big contract, they will re-sign with their respective teams.
With growing chatter that LeBron James is down to either the Bulls or Cavs, Wade might want to get out of Miami. They call him "Flash" for a reason, and he might need to use that nickname to get a deal done before LeBron does to create his own super team in Chicago.
Wade signing with the Bulls could mean that Chris Bosh follows. Chris Broussard said as much in a recent segment on ESPN that Bosh wants to either follow LeBron (unless it's Cleveland), follow Wade, or play in Houston.
If Wade signs with Chicago, Bosh could, should, and probably would go along with him.
Those two moves would be enough to make the Los Angeles Lakers put down the cigars and champagne from their recent championship and realize that they need to get back to work, because there would be a new power in the Eastern Conference ready to take the NBA crown back where it once resided for the better half of a decade--back in the Windy City.