Oh what a wild ride it’s been.
We went from wondering what LeBron James is going to do to what eight or nine of the league’s top 25 players are going to do. The funny thing is we have barely begun this journey. Everyone things once James signs things will be business as usual. Not so fast. There are a ton of other issues that need to be settled or at the very least discussed.
It seemed like every player in the league was available at some point. In addition to Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and James putting themselves on the market, there was Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Rudy Gay, David Lee and Ray Allen. There were also several second and third tier players like Richard Jefferson, Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, JJ Redick and Chris Duhon who were on the market.
So what does all of this mean for the NBA? The league got a ton of publicity this season. Beginning with a thrilling seven-game NBA Final between the Celtics and Lakers to a free agency period that will end up being the biggest in American sports history.
The question is is what happens now. Because as much as Miami Heat fans are going crazy over Bosh teaming up with Wade, who else are they going to sign? After Wade and Bosh, only Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley are under contract.
The Heat have four draft picks -Eric Bledsoe, Jarvis Varnado, Da’Sean Butler, Latavious Williams- in the mix. But does anyone really think four rookies are going to be major contributors so quickly? They have the mid-level exception, which could be used to lure Ray Allen, but that’s the only other signing of significance the Heat can make.
Wade, Bosh and a roster full of salary-minimum players? The Heat aren’t guaranteed anything.
Truth be told, the two most important free agent moves could end up being Blake signing with the Lakers and Duhon going to the Orlando Magic. Blake, an underrated playmaker, will replace Fisher, while Duhon will allow Jameer Nelson to play off the ball more often.
Three other free agents who have yet to agree to terms with any teams -Boozer, Lee, Jefferson- could really shift the balance of power in the NBA. Boozer and Lee are double-double machines, while Jefferson is a proven scorer with NBA Finals experience.
Boozer or Lee going to New Jersey could easily turn the Nets into a contender. Both players will take some of the load off the shoulders of Brook Lopez. Jefferson, believe it or not, could also be the right man for the Nets. The Nets don’t have a legit man to play the three position. Jefferson’s return would certainly open up the offense.
As for LeBron, if he stays in Cleveland, what else do the Cavs have to work with? Except for Shaquille O’Neal, everyone from last season’s 61-win team returns. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The Cavs stumbled miserably in the playoffs. Thanks to no-show efforts by the likes of Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams.
Even with James back in the fold, Cleveland needs to overhaul this roster.
How about the Celtics? If Ray Allen doesn’t re-sign, Boston is still in decent shape. They won’t be an NBA Final contender, but they should be a playoff team. Pierce is expected to sign a 4-year, $61 million extension on Thursday. That will put Boston over the cap ($56 million) by $1 million-plus. But teams can go over the cap to resign their own free agents. And the Cletics will still have the mid-level exception to work with.
So while this free agency period has been exciting, we are nowhere near the end of the road.