With July 1st only one day away, I guess I should call my shot on how I think the NBA free agency is going to play out. Such a huge free agent class, deep in superstar talent, will make for an exciting month.
LeBron James - Everyone makes a big deal about the extra $30 million he'll give up if he walks away from Cleveland because they can offer him a slightly larger per year deal and offer one extra year. Truth is - It's probably closer to $12-15 million because any deal he signs will probably have a player option after the third year. He'll opt out and sign a max deal at that point. Plus, if he decides to sign in Miami, where there is no state tax, that number becomes even closer.
If you listen to the media, depending on the day, LeBron is a guarantee to sign with the Knicks, the Bulls, the Nets or joining D-Wade in Miami with Chris Bosh tagging along. Anything besides those four, I don't believe really have any serious shot...sorry Dallas, it just won't happen.
Where does LeBron sign? Let me say this. I can't think of a single superstar who has turned down Bird-rights max deal contract option to play for a Championship. Ever. I haven't even seen a player in the NBA sign for less than max to help ensure the signing of other quality players. Ever. I've seen many proclaim it and say they will, but in the NBA, I've never seen it. That being said, LeBron will not be the first.
LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disclaimer: In case I'm wrong, you'll see him in a New Jersey Nets uniform next year and thirty years from now we'll learn about LeBron's secret Russian bank account where his salary was annually doubled by his new owner.
How about the rest of the league?
Dwayne Wade - Miami. He'll opt out and resign a max deal or he'll just sign a max extention. A few costly lawsuits and nasty divorce mean Wade's going for the money now.
Chris Bosh - Adios Toronto, hello Miami. Bosh can say he's a center-piece all he wants but somewhere deep down, he knows he needs another superstar. I think he may worry that Lebron would cut in on his stats but looking at Dwayne Wade and how Shaq still flourished with him, it seems appealing. Cleveland will try very hard for a sign and trade but will fall short.
Dirk Nowitski - Opts out of $20+ million...idiot. He's resigning for with the Mavs. No doubt.
Amar'e Stoudemire - New York Knicks. Look for him to be rejoining the coach who never yelled when he didn't play defense.
Joe Johnson - New York Knicks. The Bulls will try as I really think the Hinrich move was specifically to target Joe Johnson but NY will overpay to get him.
Carlos Boozer - Chicago Bulls. Toss up here. New Jersey really needs a power forward after trading Yi Jianlin to Washington and they might overpay to get him after losing out on the Lebron/Wade/Bosh/Stoudemire lottery. Flip side: Becoming the old vet playing side by side with Kevin Durant on a young Thunder team might be too much to pass up. Same explanation for the Bulls with Derek Rose, Joakim Noah.
David Lee - New Jersey. With Amar'e coming to the Knicks, Lee becomes expendable. Look for New Jersey to push hard though. If/when they miss out on Boozer, Lee will sign. They will see Lopez and Lee as a fierce young front wall in the Eastern Conference. If the Bulls can't get Boozer, look for them to try for Lee.
Paul Pierce - Celtics. Another $20 million opt out idiot. He'll resign with Celtics for around 6 year, $85 million.
Luis Scola - Houston. He's restricted and expect the Rockets to match any deal for him.
Rudy Gay - Miami. They will slightly overpay to ensure Memphis doesn't match the deal but a legit 3rd option will make Miami Eastern Conference favorites.
Ray Allen - Cleveland or Miami. After making $20+ million last season for the Celtics and then having only one good game in the NBA Finals, he's going to have to take a significant pay cut and maybe accept a veteran reserve role status if he wants to play on a playoff legit team.
Brendan Haywood - Miami. They need a center who can focus solely on defense.
Shaquille O'Neal - Boston. He made $20 million last year but will probably get a 2 year, $10-12 million deal. Dallas is a longshot.
Others: Tony Allen - He'll sign with Cleveland or Miami but it will be the one the "other Allen" does not sign with; Shaquille O'Neal - Boston; Luke Ridnour - Knicks; Raymond Felton - Bobcats; Marcus Camby - Knicks; Kyle Korver - Miami or Knicks; Jordan Farmar - Lakers or Knicks; Udonis Haslem - Miami
Jermaine O'Neal is available but I really have no idea who will be dumb enough to pay anything more than the veteran's minimum for him. Whoever does, he'll sign before they change their mind.
2010-2011 NBA Champion? Three-Peat Los Angeles Lakers...come on, did you really think I'd pick against them?