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Feeling The Summer Heat

With the '09-'10 season drawing to its conclusion, the madness of this year's free agent period approaches. For over 2 years, the summer of 2010 has been the most talked about free agent period in the history of the NBA. What sets this year apart from those of the past is the truly exceptional talent that could litter this year's class. It is, without a doubt, the most talented class in the league's history, if not sport's history. Below is a list of the most sought-after, potential free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. Some will be on the market at the beginning of July, while others can choose to opt out and terminate their remaining contracts to become free agents. And there is a select few that have a team option, that if not picked up, will allow them to join this class, as well.

(P = Player Option)
(T = Team Option)

Potential Free Agents:

Paul Pierce (P)
Ray Allen (Unrestricted)
Nate Robinson (Unrestricted)
Michael Finley (Unrestricted)
Tracy McGrady (Unrestricted)
David Lee (Unrestricted)
Chris Duhon (Unrestricted)
Eddy Curry (P)
Chris Bosh (P)
Brad Miller (Unrestricted)
LeBron James (P)
Shaquille O'Neal (Unrestricted)
Rodney Stuckey (T)
Ben Wallace (Unrestricted)
T.J. Ford (P)
Michael Redd (P)
Jerry Stackhouse (Unrestricted)
Luke Ridnour (Unrestricted)
Joe Johnson (Unrestricted)
Marvin Williams (Unrestricted)
Tyrus Thomas (Restricted)
Tyson Chandler (P)
Raymond Felton (Unrestricted)
Dwayne Wade (P)
Udonis Haslem
Jermaine O'Neal
Mario Chalmers (T)
Quentin Richardson
J.J. Redick (Restricted)
Jason Williams (Unrestricted)
Mike Miller (Unrestricted)
Randy Foye (Restricted)
Kenyon Martin (P)
Darko Milicic (Unrestricted)
Marcus Camby (Unrestricted)
Carlos Boozer (Unrestricted)
Kyle Korver (Unrestricted)
Raja Bell (Unrestricted)
Steve Blake (Unrestricted)
Drew Gooden (Unrestricted)
Travis Outlaw (Unrestricted)
Jordan Farmar (Restricted)
Derek Fisher (Unrestricted)
Shannon Brown (P)
Amare Stoudamire (P)
Channing Frye (P)
Grant Hill (P)
Larry Hughes (Unrestricted)
Carl Landry (T)
J.J. Barea (T)
Dirk Nowitzki (P)
Brendan Haywood (Unrestricted)
Yao Ming (P)
Kyle Lowry (Restricted)
Luis Scola (Unrestricted)
Ronnie Brewer (Restricted)
Rudy Gay (Restricted)
Manu Ginobli (Unrestricted)
Roger Mason (Unrestricted)

This is the short list of talent that could be available within the next few weeks. The full list of players seems to be endless, which means that we could see a power shift within the league at the start of '10-'11 season.

The most talked about free agent of this class is definitely LeBron James. He could very well be the most sought-after free agent of all time. For Cleveland, it would be a knockout puch to the franchise, and a big blow to the economy of the city if James decides to take his business elsewhere. To give you an idea of what he has meant to this franchise, here's an amazing stat. When LeBron was drafted in 2003, the Cavs were worth $258 million. In 2009, the teams's value is now at $476 million, which is 5th in the NBA. The bad news for the fans of Cleveland is that the Cavs bowed out shockingly early in the playoffs, after a second round loss to the Boston Celtics. This is the second straight season that the Cavs have held the best record in the league going into the playoffs and witnessed their season end abruptly without even a taste of the NBA Finals. In fact, since being drafted in 2003, Cleveland has been to only 1 Finals, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Not to say that his time there has been all for nothing. He has captured 2 MVP awards, revived a franchise and a city, and has been to the playoffs in all but 2 seasons since being drafted. The only feat that he has yet to accomplish is to hoist the championship trophy at the end of the season. That's where the real question comes into play. Does he stay loyal to the Cavaliers and to a city and state where he has grown up and become a hero? Or does he take his chances with a new franchise, with perhaps a better core, that will give him a better chance of winning a title?

Most of this year's offseason will be focused around the decision that LeBron will make. Wherever he goes, it's possible that another big name could follow, whether it be another player or even a coach. We have already heard Chicago, New Jersey, New York, and even Miami come up in the discussion. The Bulls and Nets seem to be the unlikely frontrunners at the moment, unless he chooses to stay in Cleveland. For months, it seemed as though the Knicks would be the runaway favorite to lure him in, knowing his history in Madison Square Garden, the support of the NYC fans, and it being the center of the media least in the United States anyway. But the Nets have surfaced as another leading candidate due to new ownership, as well as his good friend, Jay-Z, being part owner of the franchise. The Bulls have surfaced because he may have the best chance to win a title with them, playing alongside Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng. It should also be noted that while growing up, he was an avid Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan fan. Plus he could carry on the legacy of Michael Jordan. But is following in the footsteps of the greatest of all time a smart challenge to undertake? To Chicago fans, they could think of nothing better.

The only other option aside from resigning with Cleveland or finding a new home on the open market would be to arrange a sign and trade. This move would allow him to find a new home, still make the money he desires, but also leave Cleveland with some extra pieces to help fill the void he would be leaving. In other words, if he truly wants to play elsewhere, this would be a move that would benefit both parties, instead of simply leaving the state of Ohio and Cleveland getting nothing in return. Some teams that have surfaced as interested parties in a sign and trade have been both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks.

Mark Cuban officially came out and made it public that he would be interested in this idea, if LeBron and the Cavs could work out a deal. After these remarks, the league came to the conclusion that this was a form of tampering, and in return, Cuban was fined $100,000. But even with the fine, Cuban made it clear that he would love to see LeBron playing in the American Airlines Center next year, but this time, as a member of the Mavs. It's well-known that LeBron is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas area in general. He even attended a Cowboys game this past season and talked to owner Jerry Jones. Then when the NBA All-Star game came to Arlington earlier this year, Jones again spoke with LeBron. One can only imagine how far the Mavs could go with LeBron, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Kidd running the show. And since Dirk is opting out of his contract, it will allow him to get a new contract with the Mavs that will help open up cap room to bring in some new pieces to the puzzle and maybe bring Dallas it's first title in frachise history. It seems to be a far-fetched idea to have "The King" playing in Big D next season, but in a summer where there seems to be limitless possibilities, you can never say never.

Many believe that LeBron will end up playing with another superstar next season. The most popular names that could join him are Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudamire, Chris Bosh, and Joe Johnson. But nothing will be decided until the conclusion of this season. Without a doubt, this offseason could be as interesting and entertaining as the season itself. We have all heard the word that this year's free agent class will hold a "summit" of sorts to discuss where everyone would like to play and what would help benefit the league. To be a fly on the wall of that meeting would be a journalist's dream. But regardless of what happens at this "summit", we will all know the answers in the coming weeks and months. All we know is that by the commencement of next season, we could indeed see a power shift in the league and a new era of the NBA could emanate. One thing is for certain...the only thing more blistering than this summer's heat will be the developments that lie ahead in a truly historic summer in sport's history.

Dylan White

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