Continued from Part 1, The 2010 Team by Team Offseason Primer:
Now it’s time to focus on the other element that makes the 2010 class matter: the players themselves.
What makes 2010 so special is not just the top-shelf guys who are getting the attention right now; 2010 has a slew of players who could be major contributors on championship contenders, and the sheer number of players matters too, especially when considering the possibility (inevitability?) of multiple higher-level guys going to the same squad.
That said, here is my ranking of the free agents in that class, with some ruminations on where they could end up.
[NOTE: All players are Unrestricted Free Agents that summer unless otherwise noted]
Tier 1: Franchise Players
1. Lebron James– The best player in the world, and also the most important domino in terms of the possibility of a free agent Pied Piper. My best guess is that his effect on other players would be much more dramatic if he chooses to go to a larger media market (Knicks, Nets), which also coincides with more desirable cities to live in. If he stays in the Cleve, the status quo there should continue, but I’d put it at over 50-50 that he would have another Max-quality free agent to play with if he went to NYC.
2. Dwyane Wade– Possibly the most interesting player in terms of 2010 ramifications because of his insane skill and the variety of places he could end up. I see him going in one of three directions: First (and most likely), he says in South Beach with Beasley and the rest. Miami is a great place to live, the “fans” love him, and they have a decent core with management that is happy to build around him. The next most likely possibility is that he moves to a new city with a star, probably LeBron. D-Wade is a winner and I could see him wanting to play with another top shelf guy, which also seems to fit his personality on the court. Finally, the sleeper option for Dwyane is Chicago. Chi-Town is home for him, and Derrick Rose is exactly the type of player I could see Wade saying “Man, I want to play with him.” Something to keep a sharp eye on is any interaction between Rose and Wade at the 2010 All-Star Game, since both should be on the floor for the same team at some point. Like Lebron, Wade will probably be one of the first dominoes to fall in the 2010 offseason, considering the salary offers won’t really vary (other than Miami and everyone else), so D-Wade can think about his decision long before it needs to be made.
3. Brandon Roy (Restricted Free Agent)- I fully expect that Brandon will either sign an extension sooner rather than later or Paul Allen will match any deal he could sign as an RFA, but he’s on here in the interests of full inclusion.
4. Chris Bosh– His choices are nearly identical to D-Wade’s, but I think he is less likely to choose Door #1 than Wade (despite admittedly no direct knowledge on the thought process). In short, he will either stay in Toronto, join forces with another All-Star (probably LeBron or Wade), or go home, which for him is Texas, and Houston should have sufficient cap space in 2010 (as could his hometown Mavericks if Dirk leaves…)
Tier 2: Top-Notch Complementary Stars
5. Joe Johnson– Of the top tier guys, Joe seems the most wide open now. Part of why I love him so much as a Free Agent in this class is that he could easily go to a team where he’d be ‘The Guy” or join up with another star, both of which make sense with his game (much like Bosh and D-Wade…hmmm….). My gut expects him to stay in Atlanta unless one of the New York area teams makes a great offer, likely New Jersey if Vince Carter ends up out of town.
6. Dirk Nowitzki (2010 player option)- By most accounts, Dirk is an incredibly loyal guy. I really don’t see him leaving Dallas unless it is clear that Dallas is not a legitimate contender for the NBA Finals and/or his buddy Steve Nash goes to the right place and he can come along. Should neither of those events occur (seems about 50-50 to me), Dirk will absolutely stay in Dallas, and it would be shaky that he leave regardless.
7. Rudy Gay (Restricted Free Agent)- Like Brandon Roy, there is a substantial likelihood that he gets offered a hearty extension. However, Rudy’s ownership does not appear willing to break the bank for anyone, which could allow a team to pry Rudy away if he wants to leave. Furthermore, I consider Rudy the most likely guy to just sign his 2010 qualifying offer to become a marquee unrestricted free agent in the 2011 off-season.
8. Steve Nash (Phoenix holds a 2009 team option)- Earlier in the piece, I referred to Lebron as a “Pied Piper.” Well, here is the other major draw in the potential 2010 class. My take on things is that players would love to play with Nash much in the same way as Jason Kidd, especially since Nash is higher up on the inevitable career downslope than Jason is. The most logical destination is the Knicks, with Steve’s former coach and a city that is incredibly desirable to live in. What makes Nash different is that the Suns have the 2009 team option to sit on which will have a substantial effect on where Steve ends up, since it appears unlikely that he would sign a one year deal should Phoenix decline his option. Continue reading