Monday, May 17, 2010

King Without A Crown

One of the biggest free agent frenzies in recent history will take place this summer in the NBA. Up for grabs are superstars like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce and of course Lebron James. Where these players end up could drastically impact the futures of several NBA franchises. With that being said, these signings might not impact them in the positive way that you would think though. So be careful what you wish for New Jersey, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, et al., getting one or even two of the players via free agency might not be the ticket to the finals that you imagine it to be.

Wherever Lebron James goes this summer, he will certainly command the maximum amount of money that he can get from that team. While I will not argue that Lebron is not worth that much money, I will point out that paying that much to get one or two players is extremely damaging to a franchise. If a team spends big bucks to sign Lebron, or even bigger bucks for say Bosh and D Wade, they might not be able to throw enough money at other players to field a truly NBA championship caliber team. The best teams out there are usually not the teams that make a big splash in free agency, but the ones that draft well and trade well.

Let's take a look at the remaining teams in the NBA Playoffs; the Magic have gotten where they are today because of one man, Dwight Howard. They have put some solid free agent pieces around him in Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, but the reason they are in their second straight conference finals is because they got Dwight Howard with the #1 pick several years ago. The Celtics both drafted and traded well, and that is how they were able to get a nucleus of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and KG. The Lakers made the deal of the century trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant 14 years ago, and also got Pau Gasol from Memphis for pennies on the dollar. Andrew Bynum was also a solid draft pick a few years back, and there you have the Lakers. Phoenix has constantly tinkered with their team, but the most important piece of their puzzle is Steve Nash. While he was originally drafted by Phoenix, he was re-acquired via free agency from Dallas in 2004. Every rule has an exception I guess, and Nash is it. Without 2003 first round draft pick Amare Stoudemire though, the Suns wouldn't be where they are right now.

What about some of the teams that have made a big splash in free agency recently? The Sixers shelled out big bucks to sign Elton Brand a few years back and have done nothing since. What about when Orlando cleared up enough cap space to make a run at both Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady about 10 years back? They ended up with T Mac and Grant Hill and eventually became so bad that they were able to draft Dwight Howard #1 overall. So maybe in the long run that wasn't so bad, but definitely not what they intended to happen. Finally, who can forget when the Wizards won the prize possession of the 2003 offseason. His name? Gilbert Arenas. Enough said.

While these free agents may appear to be the solution to your team's woes this offseason, keep in mind that free agency often hurts a team in the long run. With all of the money tied up in one or two players, there is no money left to sign solid role players. Try telling that to a GM looking to put butts in the seats though.

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