After seven incredible games of a highly intensive series, the NBA Finals have now come to an end and the Los Angeles Lakers are your NBA Champions for the second consecutive year.
The buzzer of Game 7 and the wild celebration it set off in Los Angeles after Thursday night signified the end of all basketball games until October. A sombering reality for basketball fans all over the nation.
So like most NBA fans, I was left wondering, well now what? Fortunately for me and you, we are heading into what could be the most landscape changing summer of free agency in NBA history.
While it is impossible to know for sure what free agents such as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade will do once July 1st hits, one can always make some “educated” guesses. With that I present to you 10 things I guarantee will maybe possibly happen this off-season:
1. Dwyane Wade will be the first super-free agent to sign with a team, and that team will be the Miami Heat
The first domino to fall this summer should be the most expected move, and that is Wade re-upping with his Heat squad. Miami has the money to re-sign Wade while also signing a max free agent and another high-priced free agent on top of that. But for Miami to be able to seriously attract some of the top free agents they need to have their top pitch-man, and that is Wade.
With Wade on board, Miami will be a power player in free agency. Guys like Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer will have to pay attention to what a guy with championship credentials like D-Wade has to say when he comes calling for back-up.
2. World Wide Wes will be a name everyone knows by the end of the summer
If you don’t know who “Uncle Wes” as players affectionately call him is yet, you will by the time Lebron James signs somewhere. Already in the few weeks since Lebron was eliminated from the playoffs we have heard his name in reports of where Bron will end up. A couple weeks back, there were reports that Wes was saying Lebron was leaning heavily towards signing with the Bulls.
As of yesterday, the latest word in NBA rumor circles, as reported on this website, is that Wes is letting teams know that if they trade for superstar Chris Paul they will have a much greater chance of landing James. While the likelihood of this actually happening is unknown, the fact is that we are days away from July 1st and World Wide Wes is already dictating how teams go about their business this off-season.
3. Chris Paul will not be traded, but we’ll hear his name a lot this off-season
One of the quietest rumors floating around is that Hornets owner George Shinn will be willing to listen to offers for his superstar point guard before he officially completes the sale of his Hornets. The idea that the Hornets would ship out the only star they have is something that will definitely cause fans to question their commitment to winning. Which is exactly why it is so difficult to see New Orleans sending Paul anywhere.
This won’t stop the rumor mill from going full-throttle with Paul rumors. CP3 is one of the top three, if not the top, point guards in the league, not exactly a player you come across everyday. With the Hornets struggling the past couple of seasons and Paul dealing with injuries, it makes sense that rumors would start swirling about his future. Just don’t expect Paul to suit up in anything but a Hornets uniform next season.
4. Joe Johnson will be overpaid by a team who misses out on Lebron and D-Wade
While Joe Johnson has been one of the more underrated players in the league for the past couple of seasons, the past seasons playoff exit by the Hawks highlighted the doubts GM’s all across the league have about Johnson’s ability to lead a team in the postseason. After yet another stellar regular season, Johnson bombed his way out against the Magic as the Hawks were swept in the second round for the second consecutive season.
Despite the fact that Johnson is not on the same level as Wade/James/Chris Bosh, he will receive max-contract money from a team that misses out on those free agents. The team that will sign Johnson to this contract will be a team who’s fan-base has some very high expectations heading into this off-season, the New York Knicks. Why the Knicks? Well because…
5. Lebron James will not sign with the New York Knicks, regardless of what Stephen A. Smith tells you
Smith was recently heard saying that his “sources” tell him James is leaning towards signing with the Knicks, which is exactly what New York fans everywhere want to hear. Sadly for those Knicks fans, I don’t think James will be heading to the Big Apple this off-season. While you will hear the Heat, Nets, Wizards, and Knicks as possible destinations for James, the two teams most likely to sign him will be the Chicago Bulls and his home-town Cleveland Cavs.
The Knicks will spend all of their money on free-agents this off-season, however it won’t be on the players their fans have waited two years for. Sorry Spike, but this off-season will be more depressing and devastating to the state of Knicks fans everywhere than anything that Isaiah Thomas did in his Knicks tenure once Lebron signs elsewhere, that is until…
6. Chris Bosh will sign with the Knicks as the unquestioned leader of the team
Knicks fans everywhere will be shaken at missing out on Lebron James, but will ultimately be calmed by the arrival of Bosh, arguably the best power forward in the game today. While many people have penciled in Bosh as joining forces with Wade in Miami or even with James via sign-and-trade in Chicago, the fact is CB4 has consistently stated that he wants to be the main star on whatever team he goes to.
Once James is off the market the Knicks will move quickly to sign Johnson, who as mentioned above is a great player, but not someone who can be your number one on a championship caliber team. Insert Bosh, who will team with Johnson for one of the best inside/out combos in the NBA and who will undoubtedly be the top dog of that Knicks squad.
7. The Clippers will be a dark-horse candidate to sign Lebron, but will ultimately settle on over-paying Rudy Gay
Clippers fans everywhere have been hoping that this off-season changes the fortunes of their downtrodden organization. With young guns like Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, along with veterans like Chris Kaman and Baron Davis, as well as life in Los Angeles, the Clippers should be a desirable destination for all free agents.
However, we are talking about the Clippers after all. Which means they will break the hearts of their fans by flirting with James before ultimately losing out on him. In a mad scramble to spend their free agent money on someone who can help, they will settle for trying to sign restricted free-agent Rudy Gay away from the Grizzlies. Because Memphis will match nearly any offer for him, the Clippers will offer Gay the max, a contract too rich for the Grizzlies, and ultimately leave free agency with the most overpaid player.
8. Amar’e Stoudemire will opt out of his contract and leave the Suns in the dust to sign with Wade in Miami, and it will end badly for everyone involved
While Stoudemire is one of the biggest names on the market, there’s a reason that not many people see him as a max free agent type of player. Stoudemire just finished a Western Conference Finals in which he averaged only six rebounds per game, even worse than the 6.6 boards he averaged in the postseason. This was as the only rebounding big on his squad with “center” Channing Frye residing mostly outside the paint.
However it is well noted that him and Suns management have not had the best relationship, and Miami will move quickly to sign Stoudemire away from Phoenix to team with Wade. Most people might see this as a good move, however most people fail to realize that Steve Nash is the main reason Stoudemire gets the stats he does. In Miami, Stoudemire will underachieve and make Wade wonder why exactly he stuck around with the Heat. Phoenix will lose their only serviceable big and drop off greatly from their Conference Finals appearance last season, and people will start to appreciate Steve Nash even more.
9. Dirk Nowitzki will cause Mark Cuban some heart palpitations, but ultimately re-sign with the Mavs
When it was announced that Nowitzki intended to opt out of his contract and enter the free agent bonanza of 2010, Mavs fans everywhere were faced with the prospect of losing their franchise player and adding insult to injury after being eliminated in the first round of the post-season. It is unlikely Nowitzki will head anywhere else, but his opting out is a clear message to Cuban and Dallas management that the Mavs need to make some roster moves to get themselves back into the championship picture.
Nowitzki has expressed a willingness to sign for less money if it means bringing in more help, and with the trade chips that Dallas has they just may be able to do that. They will be a dark-horse team to get Lebron in a sign-and-trade before ultimately missing out on him and settling for a lesser star. While it is unlikely, the Mavs could push for a trade with the Hornets to bring in CP3 to push their high-powered offense to another level.
10. The summer of Lebron will be full of suspense, but ultimately James will end up signing with the team that makes the most sense, the Cleveland Cavaliers
There is no fan-base living under as much uncertainty as the Cleveland Cavaliers fans. This off-season will shape their franchise for the next decade, and in each scenario the effect is extreme. Should James jump town and sign elsewhere, the Cavs will get nothing in return and be stuck with an aging group of players with big contracts (Antawn Jamison anyone?). Should James stay, the Cavs will be contenders for the NBA championship for years to come.
While James will be wined-and-dined by teams and thrown rallies by fan bases everywhere, at the end of the day his heart is in Cleveland, and he is a loyal person. James grew up in Cleveland, he understands better than anyone what will happen to this city, this fan-base, this community if he leaves them in the dust for greener pastures. The pending loss of James will push the Cavs to make quick decisions regarding their roster, including trading guys like Mo Williams and upgrading the team in hopes of bringing back James. When training camps open this fall, the Cavs will indeed have a roster that doesn’t resemble last seasons, but James will still be their centerpiece.