NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers
by Trevor Whenham - 7/9/2010
The initial excitement of the most hyped free agency period in history has passed after the debacle that was The Decision on ESPN on Thursday night. We saw all the twists and turns we expected, and there were a lot of hearts broken. It’s far to soon to assess the long-term impact of this unprecedented period of free agent frenzy, but it’s never too soon to get a sense of some of the winners and losers. There are too many of each to count, but here’s a few of each, and two teams that the jury is out on for a while.
Chris Bosh - Coming into this free agency period Bosh was a respected star toiling in obscurity for an irrelevant team. Through good time, good luck, and making the right friends, no one has seen their reputation enhanced more than Bosh this summer. He was the guy that Wade and LeBron both begged to join them. He was the power broker. If he had wanted to play in Cleveland then James would have stayed in Cleveland. If he liked Chicago then one of the big two would have gone with him. Through all of this Bosh was somehow the one guy who was all but assured to land in a prime spot no matter what happened.
Golden State Warriors - Golden State quietly ended up with David Lee on board. He’s not one of the best players available, but he’s very good, and he’ll fit in well with the Warriors. The contract is reasonable, and the price they paid in the sign-and-trade is fair. Golden State was never a factor in the free agent talk, but they came out as an improved team anyway.
Kobe - There is now no doubt in my mind, or in many others judging by the initial reaction, who the best player in basketball is right now. LeBron basically admitted that he didn’t think he could win without superhuman help. Kobe would never dream of showing weakness like that. Bryant’s skills are essentially equal, but his killer instinct, pride, and determination to win are unquestionably superior.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Quietly on Thursday night the Timberwolves secured a very sweet prize. Because the Heat are in serious cap trouble they needed to get rid of Michael Beasley, so Minnesota was able to land him for a very reasonable price - a second rounder and a future swap of first rounders. Beasley has a mountain of upside, and a change of scenery will be a very good thing for him. Nice deal.
LeBron - The image is tarnished. By making this decision he admitted that he believed that he would never be able to make Cleveland a winner by himself. Even if he felt that he wasn’t going to win with the Cavs he could have gone to the Bulls, contended immediately, played with one of the best point guards in the sport, and been ‘the man’. Instead, he’s the guy who is going to Dwyane Wade’s team. He’ll get his championships - probably a few - but he’ll never again in my eyes be viewed as the equal of the very best in the league. MJ would never have done this. He didn’t have any titles in Chicago until he was older than LeBron, but he never would have jumped to play on an all-star team. MJ found ways to make himself and his team better. LeBron found a way to join a better team.
New York Knicks - You spend two years sucking so that you are ready for free agency, and all you end up with is Amare Stoudemire and a mountain of cap space. Stoudemire is a very nice player, but he can’t play alone, and he’d be much more effective as a complementary piece than as the main man. Plus, David Lee left town. The frontcourt will be fun to watch with Stoudemire, Randolph and Gallinari, but if you believe that they are a serious contender then you’re a sucker.
Cleveland Cavaliers - I don’t need to explain this one, do I?
New Jersey Nets - You have a rich Russian owner, a mega-star rapper as a minority partner, a new building to fill in a couple of years, and mountains of cap space. What do you have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. None of the big players landed in New Jersey, and they didn’t even steal David Lee from the Knicks. This was a giant slap in the face and a sentence for much more obscurity.
Chicago Bulls - On the surface the Bulls didn’t win - they tried for the big guys and failed. More than anyone else, though, they were still left as a serious contender. They got Carlos Boozer on board, and he’s going to fit in brilliantly. They have some cap space to play with, and they have the guy who is going to be the best point guard in the league for the next decade. There are a lot of nice complementary pieces as well. With LeBron on board they would be unbeatable, but if they were a stock I’d still be buying them.
Miami Heat - There is no question that landing the big three is a major coup. If there was any doubt that Pat Riley was as good as it gets then there shouldn’t be anymore. I still can’t get entirely on board with this team, though, until I see how it plays out. Now that they have traded away Michael Beasley the entire signed roster of this team now consists of the big three and Mario Chalmers. Chalmers s no superstar, and no matter how good these three are they can’t beat teams 3-on-5. Riley has to find a point guard worthy of quarterbacking these talents and keeping them all happy, and a center to keep Bosh safe inside, and some bench depth as well. No easy task.
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