NBA Free Agency Outlook

Steve O Speak

By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet

Recent reports have asserted that LeBron James is likely to sign with the Chicago Bulls and Chris Bosh will follow. This may be mere speculation, but let’s assume this will happen because as free agency become more imminent, the repercussions of a team such as Chicago signing two max contract free agents are becoming clearer.

If Lebron James and Chris Bosh are off the market, can another team elevate themselves to title contender through free agency? It looks like this is not a possibility. Let’s clarify that the following players are looking for maximum or near-max contracts (not including James and Bosh):

Dwyane Wade

Joe Johnson

Amare Stoudemire

Carlos Boozer

David Lee

Unless the Miami Heat can bring in two max free agents on top of re-signing Wade, which would likely involve a sign-and-trade, it does not look like a single team could improve as much as initially thought. It looks like Miami’s best option is to sign Wade and perhaps Stoudemire along with some combination of lower-tier free agents (maybe Rudy Gay). Again, a sign-and-trade would likely be in the works. Even if Miami goes in that direction, they would still be assembling maybe a 55-win team at best that would likely not have a serious chance at making it past the Eastern Conference Finals.

In my opinion, assuming the reports of James and Bosh to Chicago are true, the most change will come with the bottom feeders – the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks. They look like the most willing to sign anyone to simply be a .500 or better team.

In the end, if James and Bosh sign with Chicago, it will have the greatest effect on Dwyane Wade. The relevant free agent signings are a two-horse race between Chicago and Miami, and Chicago simply has better pieces in place at the moment (Rose, Noah and Deng). The door is open for Wade to leave Miami because it’s likely that Miami will not improve through free agency as much as initially expected. It may even be feasible to see Wade leave for New Jersey – they currently have Brook Lopez and Devin Harris under contract, which is substantially more than what Miami has. The seven or eight teams that built their future around the 2010 free agency class will have likely made a major mistake. LeBron James is going to bring another max contract player with him, which severely depletes the market for top-tier free agents. I don’t think the LA clippers envisioned signing David Lee or Carlos Boozer as their marquee free agency signing that would resurrect their franchise.

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