Ranking (and Predicting) the 2010 NBA Free Agent Class

Over the past two years, the talk around the NBA has centered around where LeBron James will play in 2010. Finally, that time is near. After July 1, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and many other top superstars will potentially be changing zip codes. Although some players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, and Paul Pierce have Early Termination Options (ETO) and are likely to remain with their respective teams, they’re included on this list in case they do opt out, which will only add to the biggest free agent class in the history of sports.
10. Rudy Gay – SF
An athletic, multi-dimensional forward, Gay has spent his first 4 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies and is the only Restricted Free Agent on this list, meaning Memphis can match any offer Gay receives if they so chose.
Where I think he should go: Memphis Grizzlies
The Griz are a player or two away from being a perennial playoff team only if they find a way to keep Rudy Gay, however, it’s unlikely that the small-market Grizzlies will be able to match any offer.
Where I think he will go: Miami Heat
This will count on Pat Riley finding a taker for Michael Beasley, perhaps in a sign and trade with Memphis for Gay. I think Miami’s the best fit for Gay, providing they can resign Dwyane Wade, as well as get a top tier big man like Chris Bosh or Amare.


9. David Lee – C/PF
One of the best young big men in the league, David Lee and his ability to rebound and hit the mid-range jumper, will be a great pick up for any team.
Where I think he should go: Atlanta Hawks
Assuming Joe Johnson leaves, the Hawks can easily fill his starting spot with Sixth Man of the Year Winner, Jamal Crawford. Atlanta has struggled the past couple years with their Power Forward position. If they can find a taker for Marvin Williams (or he agrees to come off the bench), it would leave the door open for the versatile Lee, who would be a good fit on the front line with Al Horford and Josh Smith.
Where I think he will go: New York Knicks
Although the Knicks have made more boneheaded moves than Sideshow Mel, I do believe they’ll do the right thing and resign David Lee. If they want any chance of landing LeBron, they’ll need to surround him with talent, and the young Lee can be a very integral part of their future.


8. Carlos Boozer – PF
A tough veteran, Carlos Boozer’s strong low post game will add power inside for any team looking to pay him. Although he’s on point with Deron Williams, he’s largely ineffective against the Lakers and with Paul Millsap waiting in the wings, it’s highly unlikely that the Utah Jazz spend the money to keep Boozer.
Where I think he should go: Chicago Bulls
I know the focus of the Bulls this summer is to sign LeBron James, so the reality of Boozer joining them is slim, however, if the Bulls were to sign James and have some money left over, both the Bulls and Boozer would be silly not to join forces, where he can play alongside Joakim Noah down low.
Where I think he will go: Miami Heat
For the past two years, every trade rumor involving Boozer had the Miami Heat’s name involved, so now that he’s an unrestricted free agent, it is only fitting that he goes to the city where he spends every off season. It’d be a perfect fit, which I’ll explain why a little further down.


7. Joe Johnson – SG
Safe to say that after his no-show in this years playoffs, Joe Johnson’s stock has definitely fallen. However, he still ranks as the second best 2 guard on the market.
Where I think he should go: Dallas Mavericks
Every year Dallas is “one player away” and every year Mark Cuban tries to find that player, whether it’s Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion or Caron Butler. Well this summer, it’s Joe Johnson. All the other pieces are in place for the Mavs, yet the one thing they truly lack is a number two option so that Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have to score 40 points for them to have the chance to win. Jason Terry tries to be that guy, but he is somewhat inconsistent off the bench. Johnson would give them a legitimate 20 point scorer and the opportunity to give Kidd some rest during the long season.
Where I think he will go: New York Knicks
Spolier Alert: I don’t think LeBron will be going to New York. Sorry Knicks fans, but Joe Johnson is your consolation prize. The bright spot would be that the Knicks will finally have a consistent scorer and someone who should benefit from Mike D’Antoni’s offense. The negative (other than losing the LeSweepstakes) is they’ll still lack a proven playoff performer.


6. Paul Pierce – SF
One of only two World Champions on the list, Pierce has the Early Termination Option, and although a few months ago I thought he might exercise said option, the Celtics’ recent resurgence and deep playoff run have put that thought on hold.
Where I think he should go: Los Angeles Clippers
Yep, I said the Clippers. I’ll give you two reasons why. First, he grew up in L.A., and although he routed for them, he wouldn’t dare play for the hated Lakers. Second, the Clippers have a young and promising team (as they seem to every year) who can use a veteran like Pierce who’s won in the playoffs.
Where I think he will go: Boston Celtics
You’d be crazy (which I am) to think Paul Pierce would finish his career anywhere other than Boston. He’s up there with Larry Bird and Bill Russell when it comes to Celtic legacy.


5. Amare Stoudemire – PF/C
Also with the ETO, I would be surprised if Stoudemire chooses to stay with Phoenix because of the fact they have repeatedly thrown his name out there in trade talks and he’s expressed his annoyances with that. If he does leave, he will provide any team with a low post scoring threat that has added a lethal mid-range jumper, however his defense is still beyond suspect.
Where I think he should go: New York Knicks
The Knicks need someone who can sell tickets and I’m not totally sure that Stoudemire can do that on his own, however, he is an uber athletic Power Forward that can score at will and reuniting with Mike D’Antoni would provide Stoudemire with a spark. David Lee can shift to center and grab the rebounds that Amare has shown he’s sometimes unwilling to get.
Where I think he will go: New York Knicks
Whether they land LeBron or not, Stoudemire is a good fit in New York for the above reasons I just named. As teams in the West look to match up with the Lakers, guys like Stoudemire and Boozer, who can’t match up with the Lakers bigs, are likely to shift conferences. David Lee, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson sure aren’t LeBron and Bosh, but they should be good enough to get the Knicks back into the playoffs in the East.


4. Chris Bosh – PF/C
A skilled Power Forward/Center, Chris Bosh has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds over his career and is hands down the best second option available and will make a great running rate with LeBron or Wade.
Where I think he should go: Miami Heat
If Pat Riley hopes to keep Dwyane Wade, he’s going to have to pull out all the stops. Not only will he have to rejoin Wade on the bench, but he will need to pick up another superstar to play down low. Chris Bosh is the perfect fit for Miami because of his unselfish play, his rebounding tenacity and the fact him and Wade are friends, draft classmen and Olympic teammates.  To me, this is a no brainer.
Where I think he will go: Miami Heat
If Chris Bosh wants a legitimate shot at a championship, other than a rumored trade to the Lakers, teaming up with Dwyane Wade is a must. Bosh knows it. Wade knows it. Riley knows it. Like I said, no brainer.


3. Dirk Nowitzki – PF
After yet another disappointing early playoff exit, Nowitzki let his emotions run free when he said that he might be willing to opt out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Most people believe he said it in the heat of the moment, if he was to opt out like the rumors say, it would change every team’s free agent approach.
Where I think he should go: Phoenix Suns
Dirk would be an upgrade over Amare, although they’ve both averaged nearly the same numbers over their respective careers, he has been a more consistent player who stays relatively healthy and has been known to put up big numbers in the playoffs. Dallas’ playoff struggles really can’t be blamed on Dirk (26/11 career playoff averages). Not only would he reunite with his best friend, Steve Nash, but his ability to create shots, hit the long range jumpers and beat defenders off the dribble will add some more firepower to the best offense in the league.
Where I think he will go: Dallas Mavericks
No way Mark Cuban allows Dirk to walk. He would probably strip the entire team and start over than to let the greatest Dallas Maverick of all time go to another team, especially a Western Conference rival. Luckily for Dirk, Mark Cuban is that type of owner who won’t just sit by. He’s got deep pockets and a dedication to winning so I’m sure he will do whatever it takes to keep Dirk and to add one more piece to that team. My opinion is a scoring 2 guard. Joe Johnson, anyone? Unless…and that’s a pretty big unless, they can get Dwyane Wade.


2. LeBron James – SF
LeBron James number 2?! Am I insane? Yes…and no. I understand that the focus of this entire summer is centered around LeBron. I understand that many believe he is the greatest basketball player in the world (I’m still picking Kobe for that title). I understand he’s coming off back to back MVP’s. However, and I truly believe this, he can’t be the leader of a championship team. At least not now. This has already been proven in back to back years in Cleveland where the best record in the league hasn’t even been able to get a Finals appearance.
Where I think he should go: Chicago Bulls
Although the pressure to win will be high wherever he goes, no doubt it would be highest if LeBron decides to step into the shadow of his hero, which I’m not sure he’s willing to do. However, the fact he already changed his number, the chance to play with Derrick Rose and the possibility of returning the Bulls to greatness could give LeBron added motivation. I personally think that of all the teams with money to sign him, Chicago is the best destination. It’s just a question if LeBron wants to burden the responsibility of bringing Chicago a title.
Where I think he will go: Chicago Bulls
Let’s run down the list. Cleveland? Nope. He essentially quit on his team, the city and his fans against the Celtics. Time for a fresh start. New Jersey? No way. Although their new owner is loaded, they will be playing in Newark over the next 3 seasons. Miami? Nah. Dwyane Wade needs a low post guy and we all know LeBron has a weak low post game. L.A. Clippers? Definitely not. Although they have a strong young core, LeBron doesn’t want to go to a city where he’ll already be second fiddle. New York Knicks? Maybe. LeBron’s favorite city and favorite arena, however they need too many pieces. Other teams have been linked in sign and trades most notably Dallas and the Lakers, however I doubt that. Chicago has the pieces in place and is ready to regain the powerhouse stature it held in the 90’s when Michael Jordan was running things.


1. Dwyane Wade – SG
Dwyane Wade is number 1 for this reason: he’s a champion. Anytime you can add an explosive superstar with a Championship and a Finals MVP, you should put him tops on the list. I think that if Dwyane Wade was on the Cavs this year in place of LeBron James, Cleveland would be representing the East in the Finals. No way he quits like that.
Where I think he should go: Miami Heat
If Pat Riley steps up and surrounds Wade with the right caliber of players, he would be foolish not to resign with the Heat. (Note to Pat Riley: trade Michael Beasley). I know Wade grew up in Chicago and there’s been rumors he might want to join the Bulls, and I feel that if this was last summer, he probably would’ve. But I think Riley will add some key pieces and come back down to the bench to show Wade that Miami is serious at another title run. Also, the Miami fans love the guy, as evident from this.
Where I think he will go: Miami Heat
Now for my explanation on why Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay and Chris Bosh will join Dwyane Wade in Miami. The Heat have so much cap space it’s crazy. They only have three players under contract for next season, one of which is Michael Beasley, who must be traded for this to work out. Then they’d have Bosh at Center, Boozer at PF, Gay at SF and Wade at SG. That’s a pretty good top four that would work. Wade would still be the Alpha Male and he’d now have two very good big men and an athletic wing man, none of which are known to be “ball-hogs”. Note: If Pat Riley sits on his hands and LeBron doesn’t go to the Bulls, Wade will.
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11 thoughts on “Ranking (and Predicting) the 2010 NBA Free Agent Class”

  1. What you're proposing for the Heat isn't possible under the NBA's salary cap.
    If the Heat were to trade Michael Beasley and some of their other bad contracts (such as James Jones or Daequan Cook), they would have enough money to offer three maximum contracts. That is their best case scenario.
    That means they could sign Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to max deals, like you say. There is no way they could sign both Gay and Boozer, though. Gay and Boozer will both demand contracts worth more than 10 mil per year. The Heat simply won't have enough space for both.
    They'd need to pick one or the other….. Or they could pick neither and just sign Joe Johnson to a max or near max deal and go with Bosh, Wade, and Johnson.
    Secondly, I'm a Heat fan, and I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment that Dwyane Wade is better than LeBron James.
    Winning a title doesn't automatically make you better than other similar players. If LeBron had more capable teammates throughout his career, I'm sure he'd have a title himself.
    The crux of my argument is this –
    – LeBron is three years younger than Wade. Wade will be 34 at the end of his 6 year deal. Lebron will only be 31. This is a critical factor in determining who is really the better player to sign to a long deal.
    – LeBron is proven to be much more durable than Wade, never having significant injury woes.
    – LeBron is simply bigger and stronger than Wade. He's physically capable of doing more on the basketball court, as evidenced by the massive disparity in career triple doubles between Wade and LeBron.
    He finishes at the rim stronger, is a superior rebounder, and his size lets him play any perimeter position AND even power forward. He's 6-9 and over 265 lbs for god's sake.
    Both are incredible players, but I don't know a single Heat fan who wouldn't trade Wade straight up for LeBron, mostly due to LeBron's youth and durability.

  2. I'm also a heat fan and i can tell you that outside of wade i can think of two other players that i would choose before lebron. and they would be kobe and carmelo. yes lebron may truly be a freak of nature in the basketball world at 6-9 but he doesn't play with the heart, passion and the love for game the why wade kobe and carmelo play the game. case in point in a interview lebron james was quoted as saying he wanted to become the first billion dollar basketball player. not the greatest player of all time or be the first player with 12 championship rings and passing the great bill russel who has 11 rings. Now to the crux of your argument. didn't the cav's win 60 plus games 2 years in a row, plus they were pick to win the east the last 2 years. while the heat wasn't suppose to make the playoffs.so you tell me who had better players and last i never seen d-wade quit on his team as the leader of his team the way king james did. he should be called lebron king quitter james. so give me a player not a quitter any day.

  3. I'm a CHI fan and I just have to say, although Wade doesn't get enough credit (3rd best in NBA), he is not better than Lebron.
    I don't understand why people continue to say he doesn't play with heart/passion, when his team just isn't that good. Yes, I know 'experts' call his team the favorites to win it all, but that's only because they have Lebron. Take Lebron off that team and they aren't winning 60+, heck, they'll be lucky if they go go 41-41.
    @cool ob ski –> I don't know where you're reading but everyone says Heat will makes playoffs (because they have Wade), they just don't expect them to get out the 1st round. And the author doesn't know what he's talking about…you can't get Wade, Amare, Booz, and Gay (all of whom he 'thinks' will be on the Heat), even if you trade away all your players.

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  6. First of all, to put Paul Pierce in the same sentence with 2 of the best players in NBA history (Bird and Russell) is sacrilegious.
    Second, your Miami team wouldn't work under current NBA rules and Chris Bosh is ABSOLUTELY NOT going to play center. This isn't XBOX. These players have egos, agents, and families and good and bad relationships with certain teams and coaches. You have to account for that.
    And finally, although I love Dwade, he is not a better player or seller of jerseys and tickets than Lebron. Thats what GM's and owners want. An interesting article overall but filled full of holes!

  7. lukeshow24 – you are a jackass. Your article sucks, doesnt present any ideas that havent been posted in a hundred other articles, and the Akron Hammer at #2? get a clue.

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