A dissection of the 2010 free agent brouhaha

As we are finally at the end of the free agency nightmare, here's a breakdown of each major name and their likely scenarios. Photo: Associated Press

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, front offices around the league will collectively ooze with trepidation. For, as we all know, the 2010 Free Agency festival will at last begin.

The array of teams clamoring for this year’s haul of boldface names – LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, even Dirk – have been undeniably shameless in their attempts to land one of these big fishes, particularly Mr. James. NBA analysts have spent an inordinate amount of breath on the possible destinations of this vaunted group of stars; Wilbon even went bald in the process. But where will these men actually end up? As we are finally at the end of the nightmare, here’s a breakdown of each major name and their likely scenarios. 

Joe Johnson

Max salary for next season: $16.8 million

Max contract with Atlanta (or sign-and-trade): $125.5 million over six years 

Max contract with a rival team: $96.1 million over five years

If Johnson leaves and pairs with any of these big names, he’ll be forced to play second fiddle without much say in the matter. If he flies solo, he’ll most likely have to sign with a rebuilding team like the Nets or Knicks and will probably have to wait a couple of years before they become legitimate contenders. 

So why depart from a good situation in Atlanta? His teammates aren’t transcendent like LeBron or Wade, but Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford are successful in their own right and form a much better nucleus around Johnson than if he looked elsewhere. Mike Woodson’s gone; that drama is, for now, quelled.

Johnson is clearly recognized as the top dog by his Hawks’ teammates. Why leave that? Take the six-year deal and continue to lead a playoff-caliber team.

Chris Bosh

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh smiling during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, in Toronto. (Photo: Associated Press)

Toronto Raptors’ Chris Bosh smiling during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, in Toronto. (Photo: Associated Press)

Max salary for next season: $16.8 million

Max contract with Toronto (or sign-and-trade): $125.5 million over six years

Max contract with a rival team: $96.1 million over five years

Bosh is definitely leaving; unlike Johnson, re-signing with his current team is not an option. He now has a chance to revive a career that was somewhat stifled with the annually average Raptors. According to multiple reports, Chicago is making Bosh their primary target, presumably to help lure LeBron to the Bulls. But that latter plan fails, the pairing of Bosh with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng would make a very good team. Bosh would give them a scoring presence down low that the Bulls cannot progress without, and he would finally play on a decent team. 

But if Bosh signs with Chicago and LeBron is hooked, the imminent future looks gorgeous for the Bulls’ organization and loyal fanbase.

Either way, Bosh should sign with the Bulls.

Amar’e Stoudemire

Max salary for next season: $17.2 million.

Max contract with Phoenix (or sign-and-trade): $130.3 million over six years.

Max contract with a rival team: $99.8 million over five years

Amar’e won’t see his career blossom without Steve Nash, but the chances he stays are as slim. (Almost as slim as Paraguay’s chances to trump Spain. That’s right: I’m World Cup savvy, too. And I do my own dishes.) Now that GM Steve Kerr is gone, the Suns’ front office aren’t in a position to compete for a sign-and-trade, either. So, rest assured that Amar’e is stuffing his goggles in a suitcase.

He wouldn’t be a bad fit in Chicago, but they want Bosh or Boozer. He could reunite with D’Antoni in New York. But if Amar’e really wants to be in the best position to win a championship, he’ll join Wade, Beasley and, er…Chamlers…in Miami.

Think about it: Wade is probably going to stay in Miami and he’s desperate for help. Besides Wade, the Heat are not awful; Beasley is a decent small forward when he’s not suicidal. Amar’e isn’t a lead player, but he wouldn’t need to be on the Heat. Wade would be give him plenty of chances as he penetrates off the dribble. And, of course, the thought of President Pat Riley awakening from the dead and taking over as coach lingers like the haunting of a greasy-haired ghost.

Dwyane Wade

Max salary for next season: $16.8 million

Max contract with Miami (or sign-and-trade): $125.5 million over six years

Max contract with a rival team: $96.1 million over five years

Wade isn’t leaving Miami. The Heat, in turn, must lure help to pair with their star. A minor purge of their players this offseason has proved that the Heat’s front office is determined to fulfill their duty. With a bucket of cash, then, Miami will land at least a second max player, if not a third. Wade should be all in.

Lebron James 

Max salary for next season: $16.8 million

Max contract with Cleveland (or sign-and-trade): $125.5 million over six years.

Max contract with a rival team: $96.1 million over five years

At last, the kingpin of the 2010 free agency hype. James’s potential destination is the most enigmatic out of any of these players. With that said, let me tell you where he will assuredly go.

Cleveland. There; I said it. I’m not happy about it. I would love to see James go to New York and become immortal, or Miami and win bunches of championships with Wade and others.

But he won’t. Winning a championship elsewhere wouldn’t be like winning in Cleveland. He owes that city after all the misery their sports fans have been through. LeBron is their icon; without him, what the heck does Cleveland have? Eric Clapton’s strat? The Dawg Pound? Yeesh. The Sixth City would brutally implode, worse than my romantic game when I have mexican food.

Really, though, staying in Cleveland is not a terrible basketball move. Reports are the Brian Shaw is the favorite to become the Cavs’ new coach. That at least shows they’ve learned from the Tom Izzo debacle . Shaw should have a better and more creative gameplan on offense than Mike Brown; but, then again, so would Posh Spice. They still will have a vaunted defense fully capable of stifling the league’s best offensive attacks. Shaq’s presumably gone and Ilgauskas is possibly retiring, leaving room in the frontcourt for Varejao’s curls and the budding J.J. Hickson. 

Althougth the Cans are capped-out, Shaq clears at least some room for an additional guard. Delonte West, Anthony Parker or even Mo Williams could be combined to make a viable trading chip, too.

But most important is Cleveland’s mental stability. One championship would cure the ailment of years of mediocre sports teams and heartbreaking losses. LeBron would become transcendent in a way that we’ve never seen. 

Staying in Cleveland would be a gutsy decision, but ultimately the right move. Tomorrow, we will discover if LeBron has a conscience. Prepare for anything, good people.


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Samuel Bovard

Sam Bovard is a weird dude on the cusp of adulthood. His immaculate capacity for sports knowledge has terminally crippled his social skills, leaving him paralyzed in large groups, and halted the growth of his maturity at age thirteen. But he's just fine with that. He is currently a student at Grove City College, just outside of Pittsburgh. Follow Sam on Twitter@Free_Samson. You know, if you want to.

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