Free agency began with a swirl of rumors, phone calls, fake Twitter accounts and yet, after less than two days, the process seems excruciatingly slow. The reason why? The world once again waits for LeBron.
LeBron James is a free agent…no, scratch that. He is THE free agent, the one player that every team in the league would want and would transform into a playoff contender. But he’s been strangely absent from headlines, and teams are looking elsewhere as per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (via Twitter):
24 hours into free agency, LeBron James has been quiet. Teams hoping to engage have been mostly unable. No doors closed but teams moving on
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 2, 2014
They’re looking to move on but can they afford to do so? In the strange world of free agency, like a game of reverse-chess, the King must be moved off the board before the other pieces can be put in play.
Wherever James winds up (and reports are that it will be for a max contract and probably still in Miami), his impact is a known commodity. He’ll be one of the top players in the league, a near triple-double waiting to happen on a nightly basis. But what other free agents will have a big impact next season?
When searching for an answer, it seemed that there were two options; and both players will make an impact on the court as well as off of it. And those players are Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
Not surprisingly, Anthony and Bosh flip-flop between numbers 2 and 3 on everyone’s list of the top free agents (behind James, of course). The latest news on Anthony is that he was courted extensively by Chicago and will travel to Texas to meet with representatives from both Houston and Dallas. The latter two options seem unlikely choices for Anthony’s considerable scoring, though. The Bulls and Knicks have been the front-runners all along. And while New York’s Phil Jackson will supposedly have the last chance to woo ‘Melo, there’s optimism in the Windy City that he’ll join the Bulls.
Unfortunately, those wishes and dreams will be dashed yet again, like the past four years of title hopes being held together by disconnected ligaments. Chicago has done all the right things to convince Anthony – put his image on banners, treat him to dinner and, bizarrely, watch Derrick Rose work out – but it’s just a chance for him to enjoy being courted. Fans saw it four years ago when James, Bosh and their fellow All-Star Dwyane Wade were all wined-and-dined in Chi-town while having a very good idea that they’d all be wearing a Heat jersey in the near future.
Conversely, Anthony isn’t going anywhere; his situation in New York is satisfactory, the money is too good to pass up and his family – especially his wife – is happy there. Therein lies Carmelo’s biggest impact on next season. By passing up his opportunity to join Rose, Joakim Noah and one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, Anthony is basically conceding the East to other, better teams. He could have provided the scoring punch the Bulls needed to transform them to a serious title contender. Chicago might be there already but Anthony’s presence would have cemented that possibility. Instead, things will revert to the norm and New York will flounder (even with Jackson’s moves this off-season) while the Bulls will continue to grind out regular season wins before exhaustively falling short in the playoffs.
Bosh, however, represents the other end of the spectrum. If reports are true, Bosh is expected to return to Miami for a substantial discount, anywhere from $4-8 million per year. And while those same stories link Wade to return to the Heat as well, the reality is that Bosh, at this point of their careers, is the better player. A gifted scorer, Bosh’s expanded range had been a serious weapon for Miami this past season. While his shooting was sub-par in the NBA Finals, his 3-pointer near the end of Game 2 was the clinching basket in Miami’s only win against the Spurs. But Bosh’s versatile defensive abilities – especially on the pick-and-roll – are what make him such a commodity as a free agent.
His choice to remain in Miami in his prime and for the reported discount, allows the Heat to bring back James, Wade and other complementary pieces to retool a roster that has won the East in four-straight years.
There’s no judgement here. Passing up the kind of contract that the Knicks can provide isn’t an easy option for Carmelo and uprooting his family won’t be pleasant, although he has done it before. But Anthony could have swayed the tide in the Eastern Conference by joining Chicago, just as Bosh could have by forcing the Heat to pay him more or departing for greener pastures.
By remaining with their respective teams, the status quo – and perhaps Miami’s continued dominance – is maintained.