Posted Feb 19 2010 11:14AM
Bring on the summer.
The offseason everyone has talked about for years has been waiting patiently, with the allure of a debutante calmly longing for a worthy dance partner. Line 'em up. The passing of the Thursday's trade deadline means it's on. Charles Barkley once tried, unsuccessfully, to lobby LeBron James not to talk about 2010.
Well, Chuck, that's next on the dance card. After a late flurry that put a cap on 11 trades involving 39 players (and Drew Gooden twice), NBA rosters can't be significantly altered until the free-agency period that begins after The Finals. The ranks of teams with money to spend -- nine have at least $10 million burning a hole -- grew once the dust settled on the wheeling and dealing.
Until it's time to cue the music and set up the chairs in July, here's a footloose guide to the Summer of 2010:
Cavaliers: Did the squad with the league's best record have a need? Yes, and Antawn Jamison fills it. The debate will rage on whether 'Tawn or Amar'e Stoudemire was the best fit, especially if the title drought continues in Cleveland.
But there's no question the three-team deal, which also adds Sebastian Telfair, enhances the odds of Cleveland landing/re-signing the Alpha Male of free agency. LeBron James has to stay if the Cavs win it all, right? If not ... the beads of sweat are already forming on Danny Ferry's forehead.
Mavericks: In the same luxury-tax heaven as the Cavs, the Mavs thrust themselves into summer spending not by carving out cap space, but by acquiring assets. Mark Cuban's crew has Erick Dampier's fully non-guaranteed contract ($13 million) to play with and pieces to use in a sign-and-trade, starting with freshly acquired Caron Butler.
Dallas isn't looking to part with Butler now, but what if LeBron or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh is looking to play an extra game or two at Cowboys Stadium? (Cuban is thinking about using All-Star site on occasion.) Though the Mavs aren't the frontrunners for any of the "top" guys, they've emerged as the top fallback option.
Rockets: They're not going to win a title this year and that was obvious before the season started. Uncooperative body parts never gave the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady union a chance, and that rocket ship has sailed. Houston forges forward with a new No. 2 (Kevin Martin) while No. 1 heals, a lottery pick (Jordan Hill), and a versatile big (Jared Jefferies).
No one in Clutch City wanted to part with Carl Landry, but that's an appropriate price to pay for a proven backcourt scorer to pair with Aaron Brooks. Martin has been injury prone -- always a concern in H-town -- but he's played for Rick Adelman, and T-Mac had no future there. Don't count on the Rockets making a serious charge this season. The scene changes next.
|Top 10 Free Agents|
Knicks: What does $30-plus million in cap space buy the New Yorkers, besides nearly the entire Grizzlies' roster? Puppet hope. Most estimates actually put the Knicks in the $32-36 million range, which is easily enough to pursue not one, but two max-level free agents. Why stop at LeBron when you can add D-Wade or Bosh or Joe Johnson or T-Mac circa 2005.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh did exactly what he set out to do when he arrived in Gotham, and the deadline-beating rush that jettisoned six players for six with expiring contract included the league's highest-paid player in McGrady. Only four are under contract next season -- Danilo Gallinari, Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas -- forming a less-than-intimidating core. And the King and a buddy. Much better.
Nets: Moving to Newark should never be considered an upgrade, but that's not the only oxymoronic circumstance in the Garden State. The worst team in the league (history?) could be in line for the best offseason. That's what at least $26 million and a revamped front office can do.
Mikhail Prokhorov, once approved as owner, is posed to usher in a Russian Revolution starting at the top. Every name from Colangelo to Krzyzewski to Wooden has been thrown out there as potential Nets' employees. The appeal of Brooklyn and Jay-Z is tailor made for a worst-to-first scenario if the right guys come onboard. We all know who they are.
Wizards: Everyone's preseason darlings are reinventing themselves thanks to a pair of blockbusters and other minor moves orchestrated by general manager Ernie Grunfeld to beat the deadline.
The Wiz had cleared around $19 million in cap space and that can soar beyond $23 million if Randy Foye is renounced. The possibility of voiding Gilbert Arenas' deal is another wildcard. Grunfeld also endeared itself to agents by moving Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Co. to better situations. Don't underestimate that.
Bulls: Come home, Dwyane Wade. That'll be the pitch in the Windy City for M.J.'s old team, which begins the shopping spree with at least $18 million to throw around. Bringing in the stud to team with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich (for now) is a solid start on the road back to contention.
Jazz: The hottest team in the Western Conference decided to keep Carlos Boozer and not mess with chemistry. Getting rid of starter Ronnie Brewer is nothing more than a money move, though Utah has adequate swingman depth.
Spurs: Talk of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess -- the two offseason prizes -- being on the market signaled a sense of panic in the Alamo City. The Spurs don't do panic, but they have to realize were they stand in relation to the Lakers, Nuggets and Mavs. It's not tall.
|Cap space following 2010 Trade Deadline|
|Projected salary cap for next season is ~$53.6 million.|
Suns: Amar'e Stoudemire lives to wear orange and purple for at least another two months. STAT appeared disappointed the Cleveland deal fell through, and Suns management had a smooth-things-over dinner planned Thursday night. Phoenix GM Steve Kerr didn't throw in the towel on the season, but it still feels that way.
Heat: This is a franchise with over $21 million in cap room projected for this summer and somehow it feels hollow. The prevailing opinion was Pat Riley had to make a major move to bring in a top-flight complement to keep D-Wade happy. Riles has done that before with Shaq and it netted a title. Where's the loyalty, Dwyane?
Celtics: There wasn't a better player out there for Ray Allen, so Danny Ainge was smart not to deal for deal's sake. Still, there's something that feels played out in Beantown. If the C's are healthy -- big if -- they right in the thick of it. You have to wonder, though, if the Boston Three Party has run its course. Think Detroit.
Lakers: Why mess with a good thing? The champs remain the favorites, even though the gap seems to have closed in several locales. L.A. made its upgrade last summer with Ron Artest, has the best frontline in the game and Kobe Bryant remains the premier closer. They're ready for all comers.
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