After all of the speculation and incredible amount of interest in the NBA over the last two days it is 100% official that LeBron James will team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami in hopes to finally win a championship. While the NBA became the most popular sport in the country for a few hours as possibly the most sought after free agent in the history of sports was making his decision, it did come at a price.
With Baltimore not having a team I’m just a general NBA fan. Sure, I like certain teams and certain players more than others, but I really just want to see the best I can in the NBA. This free agency period was supposed to make the NBA a much better and more balanced league all around, and while some (Mike Wilbon) believe it has, I’m still not convinced that right now the NBA is better than it was last season.
Before I get to far I want to say that I don’t blame anybody for anything that happened. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Pat Riley are worried about winning championships, not how competitive the NBA is. Some people think LeBron James sold his soul by leaving his home town to go win someplace else, but in all honesty, people wouldn’t be angry at all (at least outside of Cleveland) if he weren’t drafted by the Cavaliers and then passed them in free agency. The three guys want to win, and Pat Riley’s job is to put a team together. The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets decisions to clear up all of their cap space to get LeBron may have backfired on them, but it is something that those franchises must live with as they knew there was a chance that James could be headed somewhere else. The NBA may not be what it could have been, but it will at least be fun to watch the biggest three night in and night out.
In my dream scenario for the NBA (in terms of making it as balanced as it could be) free agency would have looked like this:
Miami: Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh
New York: Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson
Chicago: Carlos Boozer
New Jersey: Rudy Gay, David Lee
Cleveland: LeBron James
Houston: Yao Ming
Dallas: Dirk Nowitzki
That would have made for a very balanced Eastern Conference, while the West would not have been hit too bad.
Once again, I don’t think that the Western Conference is going to be effected by this much. Utah lost a very good player in Boozer, but they certainly have the talent still on the team to be competitive, especially with Deron Williams’ continued development. Same goes for Phoenix. Stoudemire is a big loss, but Jared Dudley has been developing into a guy more than capable of filling his spot on the team.
But as for the Eastern Conference, last season there were only really three teams that were contenders for an NBA championship: Cleveland, Orlando, and Boston. Orlando and Boston got out of this mess completely unscathed, and are still serious contenders for next year, but Cleveland has dropped in a big way. While it did take more than LeBron James to have the leagues best record the last two seasons, his loss really hurt them, and all that really happened was Miami replaced Cleveland on that list and Chicago moved in as well. Slight improvement from last year, but if the above scenario would have happened you would have had contenders out of Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, and New Jersey, so instead of seven it is now four competitive teams.
Maybe I’m nitpicking, from an outside perspective that is my opinion on the matter. I may think differently if there were a moment in my life that I lived in a city that actually cared about the NBA– Baltimore has it’s basketball fans, but it is nowhere near the atmosphere like it is in a city that supports an NBA franchise–but as just a guy that wants to see the best out of the NBA I possibly can, I don’t think I have.
But then again, I don’t think it will be too bad. It is easy to just say that the Miami Heat will run away with a championship next season, but can three superstars and nine minimum salary players do enough to win? To really be competitive in the NBA you probably need to score around 97 points per game. If James, Wade, and Bosh can all manage to scored at 25 per game, where will the extra 22 points come from each night? A bench full of minimum salary players? It takes more than three superstars on a team to get a championship. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce still had a solid supporting case around them. Kobe Bryant has a stellar team with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum, and Derek Fisher to help out.
Right now, I still think the team to beat in the NBA is Los Angeles, even if they can’t get Fisher, or more importantly Phil Jackson back, they still have the depth and talent to be a serious contender. I don’t see that in Miami, unless the three take significantly enough money to lure in two or three mid-level players to supplement what the Heat have on their roster right now.