The Top 10 NBA Free Agents of 2010

Originally published December 11, 2008.
Updated November 12, 2009.

The phrase “Summer of 2010” has become part of the NBA lexicon. Teams have been tripping over each other trying to clear cap space for next summer so that they can sign an impact free agent (or two). With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead at the free agent crop of 2010.

Below is a list of the top 10 players that are likely to be free agents next summer. I’m ranking them based mostly on talent, but it’s also important to note each player’s age in July of 2010, as that will affect his value and skill. For example, a 31 year-old Paul Pierce holds much more value than a 33 year-old Paul Pierce. Get the drift?

1. LeBron James, SF (26 years-old)
James is the golden boy of this free agent class and is the player that every franchise would love to land next summer. He will have just turned 26 and whatever team is lucky enough to sign him will – barring injury – enjoy four or five years of the best basketball of his career. The Cavs have gone “all in” this season, signing Shaq, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, and re-signing Anderson Varejao. In the process, they gave up whatever cap space they would have enjoyed next summer. If Cleveland’s season ends in disappointment once again, it wouldn’t be surprising if LeBron decides to take his game elsewhere. Three teams — the Knicks, Bulls and Nets — jump out as good fits. LeBron has stated that his top priority is to become a “global icon” and playing in Manhattan would serve that purpose. If the Knicks are able to unload Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries before the trade deadline, then they’ll have the projected cap space to sign two top players on this list, and that might be enough to convince LeBron to sign on the dotted line. Plus, he’s familiar with Mike D’Antoni (via the duo’s work with Team USA) and the Knicks’ up-tempo system would be a near-perfect fit for LeBron’s skill set. The Nets offer a better supporting cast (led by Devin Harris and Brook Lopez) and the (impending?) move to Brooklyn would boost the franchise’s profile. Chicago has a number of pieces already in place (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich) and is bigger market than Cleveland. But would LeBron want to go to the franchise that Michael Jordan built?
Note: Player option (PO)

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Is the NBA ’09 free agent class better than ’10?

When I saw the headline — “’09 free agents may be better than ’10 class” — I was ready to jump all over David Aldridge for saying that any free agent class could be better than the one that will likely feature LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire. But as I read the full article, he made some sense. I still don’t agree with him, but I see his point.

Here’s a look at the possible free agents in ’09:

Those with asterisks either have options for ’09 or can terminate existing contracts for ’09, and many are expected to do one or the other, for one reason or another:

Kobe Bryant*, Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Hedo Turkoglu*, Mehmet Okur*, Andre Miller, Mike Bibby, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Kyle Korver*, Anderson Varejao*, Drew Gooden, Stephon Marbury, Grant Hill, Brandon Bass, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Zaza Pachulia and Anthony Parker. Jermaine O’Neal could join the group if he walks away from $23 million next season. (Don’t hold your breath. There’s no asterisk by Boozer because he’s already said he’s opting out next summer.)

Aldridge has four major arguments:

1. 2010 is fool’s gold.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that unless seismic changes take place, James is either going to stay in Cleveland in 2010 or go to New York. Maybe Los Angeles. Wade will almost certainly choose between Miami, New York, L.A. and Chicago. Bosh will choose between the preceding cities and, perhaps, Detroit. And that’s it.

Without the Big Three on the market for most NBA cities, the ’10 class loses a good bit of its luster. That’s going to leave a lot of teams with max money to spend on mostly not-max players.


Read the rest after the jump...

Four NBA trades that need to happen

About this time every season, the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders and teams that are struggling to stay in the playoff hunt are starting to look forward to next year. With that in mind, here are four trades that I’d love to see pop up amongst the NBA headlines in the coming weeks. I’ve done my best to make these trades equitable and realistic, but if you’re a fan of one of these teams, or just a fan of the NBA in general, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

1. Shawn Marion for Lamar Odom and Sun Yue
Yes, I know that the Lakers have the best record in the West, but let’s get real – they’re starting Luke Walton at small forward. No matter what the Laker faithful believes, they have a hole in their lineup. Lamar Odom can’t play alongside Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol because he can’t shoot. He proved in the Finals against the Celtics that he wasn’t tough enough to battle Kevin Garnett. Trevor Ariza is a slightly better option, but after a quick start, he’s shooting 29% from long range. Vladimir Radmanvoic? Sasha Vujacic? Come on.

Is Marion the perfect fit? Not really. His three-point accuracy (34%) could be better, but he’s still more of a threat than Odom (32%), especially from the corners. Are there any other holes in his game? He thrived in the Suns’ up-tempo system and the Lakers boast the third-fastest pace in the league. He’s a much better defender than Odom and is far more versatile on that end of the court. Marion could even give Kobe a break defensively by covering the other team’s best perimeter player. That would keep Kobe’s legs fresh for crunch time. (Sun Yue is a throw-in to make the numbers work.)

What’s the upside for the Heat? Well, they can still make a run at Carlos Boozer if they choose, and if that doesn’t pan out, they can re-sign Odom, a versatile forward that can play alongside Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley. He’s a better passer than Marion (so he can better set up Wade and Beasley) and is every bit the rebounder. Odom had one of his best years when he was in Miami and would be a solid backup plan if Operation Boozer doesn’t succeed. It doesn’t look like the Marion experiment is working, so they should acquire a player they at least might want to re-sign next summer.

See this deal in the ESPN Trade Machine.

2. Michael Redd for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and J.J. Hickson
Redd still has two more seasons on his deal at the tune of $35 million, but that shouldn’t matter to the Cavs. Right now, it’s all about surrounding LeBron with enough talent to get to the Finals. Redd’s numbers have taken a dip this season, but that probably has more to do with fewer attempts (-2.1) than anything else. His shooting percentage is down (-2.3%), but he’s a career 45% shooter, so there’s no reason to believe that he wouldn’t get back to that level of accuracy playing alongside LeBron and Mo Williams.

Barring a mid-season surge by the Bucks, they are once again looking at finishing in the lottery. They’ve struggled with injuries and may yet make a push, but right now it looks like another year of rebuilding. This trade would get the team out from under Redd’s monster contract (because Wally’s deal is expiring) while also giving the team a starter-quality shooting guard (West) and a nice power forward prospect (Hickson) who isn’t getting any minutes in Cleveland. With Redd’s contract jettisoned, the Bucks would have a significant amount of cap space (~ $14 million) to throw at a guy like Joe Johnson.

See this deal in the ESPN Trade Machine.

3. Dirk Nowitzki for Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Price and Jarron Collins
Right now, Carlos is saying all the right things, but if he has the option of a max contract in Utah and a max contract in Miami (where he lives in the offseason), which do you think he’ll choose? Sure, he and Deron Williams make a nice combo, but with Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley, Miami is just as attractive. So if you’re the Jazz and you see the writing on the wall, don’t you want to get something in return? Nowitzki would replace Boozer’s scoring and rebounding and keep Utah’s winning ways going. Dirk really needs a change of scenery (to put the memory of the 2006 Finals behind him) and the Jazz would be one step closer to putting together an all-international roster.

For Dallas, it’s about changing things up. They’d get younger – Boozer is 27 while Dirk is 30 – and he’d give the team someone to build around for the next few years. This move would make a lot more sense for the Mavs if they hadn’t traded away Devin Harris (because re-signing with Dallas would make a lot more sense for Boozer), but if they could get a commitment from Boozer that he would re-sign, the deal makes sense. (Of course, as Cleveland fans know, trusting Boozer’s word is awfully dicey.)

See this deal in the ESPN Trade Machine.

4. Mike Miller for Bruce Bowen, Roger Mason and a first round draft pick
At 28, Mike Miller is one of the best shooters in the league and is languishing on a team that is going nowhere. Spurs fans may not want to give up Mason, but Miller is the better shooter, passer and rebounder. Plus, he’s a natural small forward, which would make him a better fit alongside Manu Ginobili on the wing. He would be deadly spacing the court for Tim Duncan’s post play and Tony Parker’s penetration.

What’s the upside for the T-Wolves? Well, they’d get a solid player in Mason and another first round pick, which would give them five for next summer’s draft. They should be able to turn five picks into two (or three) star- or starter-quality players.

See this deal in the ESPN Trade Machine.

The Top 10 NBA Free Agents of 2010

Originally published December 11, 2008.
Updated November 12, 2009.

The phrase “Summer of 2010” has become part of the NBA lexicon. Teams have been tripping over each other trying to clear cap space for next summer so that they can sign an impact free agent (or two). With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead at the free agent crop of 2010.

Below is a list of the top 10 players that are likely to be free agents next summer. I’m ranking them based mostly on talent, but it’s also important to note each player’s age in July of 2010, as that will affect his value and skill. For example, a 31 year-old Paul Pierce holds much more value than a 33 year-old Paul Pierce. Get the drift?

1. LeBron James, SF (26 years-old)
James is the golden boy of this free agent class and is the player that every franchise would love to land next summer. He will have just turned 26 and whatever team is lucky enough to sign him will – barring injury – enjoy four or five years of the best basketball of his career. The Cavs have gone “all in” this season, signing Shaq, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, and re-signing Anderson Varejao. In the process, they gave up whatever cap space they would have enjoyed next summer. If Cleveland’s season ends in disappointment once again, it wouldn’t be surprising if LeBron decides to take his game elsewhere. Three teams — the Knicks, Bulls and Nets — jump out as good fits. LeBron has stated that his top priority is to become a “global icon” and playing in Manhattan would serve that purpose. If the Knicks are able to unload Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries before the trade deadline, then they’ll have the projected cap space to sign two top players on this list, and that might be enough to convince LeBron to sign on the dotted line. Plus, he’s familiar with Mike D’Antoni (via the duo’s work with Team USA) and the Knicks’ up-tempo system would be a near-perfect fit for LeBron’s skill set. The Nets offer a better supporting cast (led by Devin Harris and Brook Lopez) and the (impending?) move to Brooklyn would boost the franchise’s profile. Chicago has a number of pieces already in place (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich) and is bigger market than Cleveland. But would LeBron want to go to the franchise that Michael Jordan built?
Note: Player option (PO)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 10 NBA Free Agents of 2010

Originally published December 11, 2008.
Updated November 12, 2009.

The phrase “Summer of 2010” has become part of the NBA lexicon. Teams have been tripping over each other trying to clear cap space for next summer so that they can sign an impact free agent (or two). With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead at the free agent crop of 2010.

Below is a list of the top 10 players that are likely to be free agents next summer. I’m ranking them based mostly on talent, but it’s also important to note each player’s age in July of 2010, as that will affect his value and skill. For example, a 31 year-old Paul Pierce holds much more value than a 33 year-old Paul Pierce. Get the drift?

1. LeBron James, SF (26 years-old)
James is the golden boy of this free agent class and is the player that every franchise would love to land next summer. He will have just turned 26 and whatever team is lucky enough to sign him will – barring injury – enjoy four or five years of the best basketball of his career. The Cavs have gone “all in” this season, signing Shaq, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, and re-signing Anderson Varejao. In the process, they gave up whatever cap space they would have enjoyed next summer. If Cleveland’s season ends in disappointment once again, it wouldn’t be surprising if LeBron decides to take his game elsewhere. Three teams — the Knicks, Bulls and Nets — jump out as good fits. LeBron has stated that his top priority is to become a “global icon” and playing in Manhattan would serve that purpose. If the Knicks are able to unload Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries before the trade deadline, then they’ll have the projected cap space to sign two top players on this list, and that might be enough to convince LeBron to sign on the dotted line. Plus, he’s familiar with Mike D’Antoni (via the duo’s work with Team USA) and the Knicks’ up-tempo system would be a near-perfect fit for LeBron’s skill set. The Nets offer a better supporting cast (led by Devin Harris and Brook Lopez) and the (impending?) move to Brooklyn would boost the franchise’s profile. Chicago has a number of pieces already in place (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich) and is bigger market than Cleveland. But would LeBron want to go to the franchise that Michael Jordan built?
Note: Player option (PO)

Read the rest of this entry »

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