NBA free agency begins tonight at 11pm CDT, and with it the frenzy of recruitment of some of the biggest names in the game. The Chicago Bulls, who worked hard to clear cap space in order to sign one guy to a max contract (16.5 million for 5 years) and another to nearly that (about 15 million per year for 5 years), are hoping to be real players here, and would seem to have the core of players to support a couple of big signings. But there is going to be stiff competition...
LeBron James is, of course, the biggest of the names out there, and he will get to go wherever he wants and command whatever salary he wants, within the NBA salary cap rules. The Bulls want him, but so do most of the other teams with cap space. And his own team, the Cavaliers, can resign him for 6 years instead of 5, and give him approximately 30 million dollars more than any other team.
The teams competing for the prizes are the Bulls, the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, and the New Jersey Nets. Other teams have cap space (the Clippers, the Kings, the Thunder and the Wizards), but not enough for one max deal. However, they could become players by taking contracts from some other team wishing to become a player and clear enough cap space.
The athletes out there include James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in that first tier of players (though I'm not sure Bosh deserves to be named with the other two), followed by Dirk Nowitsky and Paul Pierce (both of whom opted out last night, I've heard), bigs Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudamire, and David Lee, and guard Joe Johnson. There are plenty of third tier names available also.
To throw a wrench in the whole thing, the Denver Nuggets have said that they will consider doing a sign-and-trade with Carmelo Anthony instead of losing him to free agency next year.
Of course I would love to see the Bulls get James and another big, but I'd also be happy with Joe Johnson and with Carlos Boozer, especially if signing the latter pair leaves enough cap space to sign a pretty good veteran at a position of need. I would also think that maybe dealing Luol Deng for Anthony might be a good move, as I put him up there with James and Wade in that upper tier. That trade would leave the Bulls with probably enough space to get Boozer AND Johnson, assuming that both of these guys will take less than the max , maybe something in the 13.5 million a year range. A lineup of Rose, Johnson, Anthony, Boozer and Noah is pretty awesome on paper. I don't know if it would be as good on the court, just because there might be too many guys needing the ball to be effective.
I will be watching the next couple weeks with baited breath..hopefully one or two of those big names will take the bait!