Posted by: dvolpe | July 8, 2009

NBA Free Agency 2010 (the fast forward edition)
Unlike the NBA Playoffs, in the game of Free agency, everyone gets to play. Unfortunately the teams that lose during the regular season, tend to lose at this game too…

With a lull in the frenzy of free agent activity the past couple of days, now is as good a time as any to speculate on the really big free agency season coming up next year. You know the one where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade become free agents? Not to mention Dirk Nowitzki, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler and others.  But many of these contracts are opt out, meaning that the player has the option to become a free agent, or stay where he is. So the big question becomes. Who stays and who goes?

So here’s my top 10 free agents of 2010 and my take on whether they stay with their current team or find themselves a new one in 2010:

1. LeBron James: I think LeBron stays. He has been close to winning a championship in Cleveland and there’s absolutely no guarantee that he would get that close on any other team. Cleveland went a long way to show him that they are dedicated to doing what it takes by going out and getting Shaq. The only way I see him leaving Cleveland is if he and another olympic buddy, such as D-Wade or Melo, decide to go somewhere together, and form a team like the Lakers or Celtics that is just so star studded that it becomes an instant contender.  There’s has been a lot of talk that he will want a bigger market, and maybe that’s true. But to go to Chicago or New York would be a huge step backward in terms of contending for a championship, and there would have to be some crazy salary cap wizardry done to fit him in on LA or Boston. So in the end I think that Cleveland will win the LeBron James sweepstakes, again, but this time by default.

2. Dwyane Wade: Dwyane Wade goes. He’ll get his money wherever he goes. He’s got a ring, unlike Lebron, and perhaps most important of all Miami hasn’t really been part of the championship conversation for a couple years now. I don’t see them contending again anytime soon, so unless Wade knows something I don’t, I think he’ll find his fortunes elsewhere. Perhaps a team like the Orlando Magic (a team I’m expecting to take a step backward this year) would be able to lure him to O-Town. D-Wade plus Dwight Howard would be a good bet for a championship or two, provided they can find the cap money to cover both players costs. But wherever Wade plays on the 2010/2011 season, I don’t believe it will be Miami.

3. Dirk Nowitzki: Dirk Goes. I don’t honestly know if Dirk will leave Dallas for another team. But he should. Dallas has tempted and teased him for years, but always ended up an also-ran. Like the Sacramento Kings of the Chris Webber years and the recent Phoenix Suns squads they know how to win 60 games in the regular season but they are just never defensive, or tough minded enough to get it done in the playoffs. Dirk should move on to a scrappy, defensive team that needs scoring, and an All-Star to lead them.

4. Amare Stoudemire: Amare goes. After several years of Phoenix adding insult to Stoudemire’s injuries, by dangling him as trade bait, Amare’s pride should be sufficiently hurt by now that he wants nothing more to do with Phoenix. Like the Mavericks, they have also proved that their philosophy is a recipe for an early vacation come playoff time. They light up the scoreboard, put fans in seats, have exciting, winning seasons and then fall flat in the playoffs when the going gets tough.  Stoudemire will most likely land in a city that is hoping to rebuild and in need of a big man. Maybe Houston or Detroit.

5. Chris Bosh: Bosh goes. Nothing hurts a professional player more than losing. Bosh has done a lot of losing ever since being drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 2003. If he doesn’t take this opportunity to flee a losing situation, then he deserves whatever he gets in the upcoming seasons.  Bosh is a defensive minded, big man who’s an adept scorer. The question is less who will get him, and more where does he want to go? Look for Bosh to pick a proven winner such as Phoenix or Utah.

6. Joe Johnson: Johnson stays. The Atlanta Hawks have been slowly developing into a really nice team. If that trend continues they may find themselves going as deep as the Eastern Conference Finals this year. Being on a team that’s just a few moves, and a little growth from being a legit contender is a good place to be. Joe Johnson will likely stay and see where this team can take him.

7. Yao Ming: Yao stays. It is sad to say but with the condition of his foot being what it is, Yao’s free agency in 2010 may be rendered moot by a retirement. But assuming he stays on, and returns to health, I think he will appreciate the loyalty that Houston has showed him and become one of the rare players to retire from the team that drafted him.

8. Paul Pierce: Age will make Pierce a less attractive prospect than  many of the others on this list. In addition, Boston will likely still be a contender in 2010. So why not finish his career in one of the most historical, and respected franchises the NBA has to offer? Pierce finishes his career a Celtic.

9. Tracy McGrady: T-Mac goes. Injuries will cause other teams around the league to shy away from T-Mac, but his talent will convince one or two of them to roll the dice. The Rockets on the other hand, will have taken their shot with him, and will be ready to move on and spend his salary cap money on one of the other hot free agents out there. McGrady will most likely end up on a middling team trying to improve itself, or on a championship caliber team, looking for a part time player (which McGrady has been his whole career intentionally or not) to give them a boost off the bench. T-Mac might go deep into the playoffs and get himself a ring yet, if he can swallow his pride and accept life as a reserve.

10. Tyson Chandler: Tyson Chandler stays. An argument could be made that he’s a little high on this list. Chandler has historically been a little anemic offensively, but he makes up for it with defensive intensity and 1 or 2 blocks a contest. Never underestimate the need for players 6′ 10″ and up in the NBA. If he wants to find a new home he will. But playing with an perennial All-Star and a distributor at that, in Chris Paul is about all any player can hope for. Chasing dollars would most likely leave Chandler on a lesser team for only slightly more money. Look for Chandler to stay put unless one of the other teams in the league makes him an offer that (monetarily speaking) he can’t refuse.

Quick Bits:

John Kuester: John WHOster? Apparently the Detroit Pistons are going to hire Cleveland Assistant Coach John Kuester as their new head coach. Joe Dumars after being turned down by Doug Collins and, in turn, turning down Avery Johnson, rather candidly explained that he didn’t want to pay 4 million for a top tier coach when the Pistons were in a rebuilding year anyway. Well… fair enough, I guess.

Pacers too pale? Apparently there’s been a little hubbub about the Indiana Pacers having around 50% White American players while the league average is more like 10%. I say, so? Some team had to have the most white players. I doubt there’s any racial conspiracy behind it. And anyway, who cares if there is? If any GM in the league wants to draft players on any other criteria than their ability to win games, I say let him. As long as it’s not MY team. More wins for the rest of us.

Fair warning: I know it says “Sports Blog” on this blog, and then there’s a little Hockey guy and a Baseball player on the banner but… yeah. I’m probably never gonna write anything about Baseball or Hocky unless it’s a really major news story or Detroit’s doing something in the playoffs. Just thought I’d give you all a heads up on that.


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