NBA Free Agency: A Primer

LeBron James --keithallison-flickr -- In Post.jpg
Keith Allison/flickr

Just how stacked is the NBA's free agent class of 2010? Let's put it this way: If you organized a pickup game between this year's free agents and the rest of the basketball world, the 2010 free agents would win. Going away.

We're talking about a squad that could start LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire, with Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer coming off the bench (and yes, LeBron plays point guard on this de facto Dream Team.) The septet of superstars leads the best free agent class in league history and has a handful of large-market teams (led by the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat) salivating at the possibility of adding multiple elite players.

The abundance of top players and cap-friendly teams has created a morass of scenarios that's left even the savviest NBA analysts scratching their heads. Consider the following breakdown from ESPN basketball experts Marc Stein and Chris Broussard.

Sources insisted, meanwhile, that other scenarios were discussed at the weekend meeting apart from the Miami plan. One source said James' admiration for Bulls legend Michael Jordan is such that he is determined to hear Chicago's pitch later this week, keeping alive the possibility that both James and Bosh could still wind up together with the Bulls.

In that scenario, sources said, James and Bosh would join Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago, while Wade would hope to be joined in Miami by close friend Carlos Boozer, who was not at the meeting.

Sources said James, furthermore, has not ruled out staying with the Cavaliers.

Clearly, free agency in 2010 is chess, not checkers. So who's going where once the market officially opens on Thursday? Let's break down the free agents one mega-star at a time.

Old Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Profile: Like you really need to ask. But in case you've been living under a rock for the last seven years, here are some mind-boggling CliffsNotes on King James: Two-time defending league MVP. Averaged 29.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game in 2009-10 (numbers not seen since the days of Oscar Robertson). Arguably the best natural athlete in the sports world. Only 25 years old.

Who wants him: Everyone. Literally everyone. We're about two days from the Cleveland Browns offering him a max contract to play outside linebacker or tight end.

Where he'll end up: Changes every day. At last count, LeBron was entertaining the notion of joining forces with Wade and Bosh in Miami to form a real-life version of the Mon-Stars. Last week he was all set to follow in Michael Jordan's footsteps and go to the Bulls. And there's still a chance that he'll make the sentimental choice and stay in Cleveland, or that the Knicks will make him an offer he can't refuse. Best guess? Chicago.

Old Team: Miami Heat

Profile: The shooting guard is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game. Exhibit A: his 46-point, five-rebound, five-assist magnum opus in Game 4 of Miami's first round series against the Boston Celtics this year. Wade has been injury-free for the past two years, and the 28-year-old should be an offensive force for years to come if he stays healthy.

Who wants him: Any team would love to get their hands on Wade, but the Heat is putting on a full-court press (pun intended) to keep its star in Miami. The New Jersey Nets are planning to meet with Wade on Thursday, and new owner Mikhail Prokhorov has limitless pockets.

Where he'll end up: Miami. There's too much potential for the Heat to improve and too much sun in South Beach for Wade to be content playing in Brooklyn for the rest of his career.

Old Team: Toronto Raptors

Profile: Bosh is the best offensive big man in the NBA not named Pau Gasol. The lanky power forward averaged a career-best 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds a game for Toronto last season and has proven he can score at will in the low post. But whether Bosh can be the best player on a championship team remains an open question.

Who wants him: The Knicks, Bulls and Heat have emerged as frontrunners to land Bosh. But the overwhelming sentiment among league insiders is that Bosh wants to follow LeBron to whatever promised land he chooses.

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Jake Simpson is a New York-based writer.

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