Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How the NBA free agency period should play out

The conclusion of the NBA season with the Los Angeles Lakers beating the Boston Celtics for the championship officially set the free agency frenzy into overdrive. For a couple of years, we've been made to wonder where Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would land at the start of the 2010-2011 NBA season. It's a couple of days till July 1st, the first day NBA teams can talk to free agents. There's been a lot of speculation about where players would go, who would join who, etc. As an NBA fan, I have interests in where different players go. Whether these free agency moves change the NBA power play much, we'll wait to see. Here is what I wish would happen.

The LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Orlando Magic are definitely three of the best NBA teams but they are not really in position to sign any of the top free agents. There's been talk of the Lakers signing Chris Bosh through a sign and trade and the Phoenix Suns can also hold on to Amare Stoudemire. I think many people believe none of these will happen. The Phoenix Suns will do quite well even if they lost Amare because of their system and the Lakers? Well, they are the defending champions. Let's talk about the other teams who have a chance to make major improvements in their franchise this summer. I am a big fan of the Chicago Bulls because of Michael Jordan but I don't want Lebron James, Dwyane Wade or even Chris Bosh to go there. I explain below.

Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs own the biggest price in the free agency market - the best player in basketball - Lebron James. Before we get into the Lebron talk, I think the Cavs had to fire Mike Brown. The Cavs have lost their last few playoff series simply because Mike Brown got outcoached. Mike Brown may be a good defensive coach but hasn't shown the ability to make great game-to-game or in-game adjustments. I think his replacement should be Byron Scott. Scott has an NBA ring from his playing days with the Lakers and has led the New Jersey Nets and New Orleans Hornets on deep playoff runs. He has the pedigree to lure Lebron to stay and also challenge for championships.

I think Lebron James should stay in Cleveland. He's from the area, his buddies are from the area, and he has unfinished business. He should look at Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Larry Bird, they all stayed with the same team. And he's from around Cleveland! The Cavs' ceiling hasn't been reached, I just mentioned one of the main reasons why Lebron hasn't won a championship yet - Mike Brown. With Byron Scott, a training camp with the Cavs players, especially Antawn Jamison, the Cavs should be ready to roll. Chris Paul is in a shaky situation with New Orleans, they should package Mo Williams, Delonte West and more pieces for him. With Anthony Parker, Anderson Varejao and J J Hickson in addition, the Cavs will be fine.

Miami Heat
Lebron & Bosh join Wade in sunny Miami? Fantasy. This is not the Olympics. It will be tough to pacify all of them even though this free agency threesome may be intrigued. Wade and Lebron are not great stand-up shooters, that's a big reason I think such a combo won't work really well. I am very confident Dwyane Wade is not going anywhere and unless Cleveland pull off the trade of their lives to get Bosh, Bosh will join Wade. He should. He'll turn Miami into a perennial contender together with whatever pieces Miami adds. Mario Chalmers, Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem are great pieces to have as well.

Chicago Bulls
So Lebron stayed in Cleveland and Chris Bosh went to Miami who kept Dwyane Wade. Does that mean the Chicago Bulls are doomed? No. Derrick Rose is a spectacular player and a potential future finals MVP. Have you seen him play in the playoffs? Surround him with more talent and he'll take them to the promised land. I think trading Kirk Hinrich was a bad move. Kirk's a good combo guard who can defend. I am very happy they got Tom Thibodeau as coach though I feel they should have chosen Avery Johnson. With Thibodeau gone to the Bulls and Doc Rivers wanting to leave the bench to be by his family, what will happen to the Celtics? Will discuss that in another blog post.

The Bulls should sign Carlos Boozer. After the Lebronomies and Bosh and Wade ending up in Miami, it may seem like a good idea to go after Joe Johnson but I think Joe and Amare end up in New York. Boozer would give Rose a great pick and roll buddy which will even make Rose a better player. If John Salmons is available, the Bulls should grab him. Starting five - Rose, Salmons, Deng, Boozer, Noah with Thibodeau as coach. Complementary pieces that will deliver postseason glory.

New York Knicks
For two years, we've been made to see the Lebron to New York drama unfold. Sorry Knickerbroker fans, but Lebron is not coming to Madison Square Garden. There's cap room yes, but no pieces. But James Dolan likes to spend and Mike D'Antoni is a great offensive coach, so all is not lost. That's why I think Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire should reunite with D'Antoni in New York. Pretty good story, no? I like this one. And then you have Danilo Gallinari shooting threes and Chris Duhon distributing. Guaranteed playoffs for Knicks every year.

New Jersey Nets
I like the Nets, loved them when Jason Kidd was there. Now that they have Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and NBA's Roman Abramovich, Nets fans must be excited. They also hired one of my favorite coaches, Avery Johnson. I doubt they land any of the major free agents though I think Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudemire makes sense for them. I think the lure of Brooklyn is too far into the future and the team is just coming from a terrible terrible season. I think the Nets should pick themselves up slowly. I think they should sign Rudy Gay. Gay will like to sign there too, he'll pretty much become a top player on the team and get coached by someone who'll force him to defend and become a top-tier player. I also think the Nets should go after David Lee but shouldn't overpay him or Gay. With Avery coaching Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, Gay, Lee, Brook Lopez, and Derrick Favors, the Nets will have a very bright future. They could add another top player in 2011.

Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have cap room because Dirk Nowitzki is going to opt-out. Does anyone believe he'll leave Dallas? Maybe, leave Dallas and join Steve Nash in Phoenix. No. Nash and Nowitzki are great friends but I think they have to remain apart for both to achieve their fullest potential. They are both below average defenders. Nowitzki can't really run with Nash. The Mavs are not too far from a championship. They need to play Roddy Beaubois some more and go through a training camp with that core of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood with Roddy and Marion on the bench. Getting Lebron through a sign and trade will be nice but for once Mark Cuban should stick with his team and see how they do. I don't think the Mavs should get Al Jefferson.

Los Angeles Clippers
Really? The Clippers. Let's just say no one wants to come and live in the Black Mamba's shadow and play for maybe the most cursed team in basketball. The silver lining is, the Clippers can "re-sign" Blake Griffin. That should be enough. They should use their money to sign some solid veterans and role players to surround Blake and other players they have.

With these changes, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat become championship contenders overnight and all the teams get better. Even the Washington Wizards would have benefitted from the Lebron Sweepstakes in more ways than taking John Wall with the NBA draft's first pick. Looking forward to seeing how the whole free agency unfolds.
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