Free agency is 5 minutes away and will probably officially start by the time I’m finished with this entry. Before I put my thoughts about free agency as a whole, I want to put forth what my philosophy would be if I were running an NBA team. I’m a person that believes in building your team through the draft. If you look at the history of free agency, great players rarely leave the team that originally drafted them. To me, the Oklahoma City Thunder is a case study on how to build an NBA team, as that team has been built through the draft. Of course, they lucked up with the lottery and were able to land their star in the draft in Kevin Durant, but they have done a great job of getting solid complimentary players to surround him with. I also want to give them a lot of credit for their maneuvering in the 2010 NBA draft. They were able to parlay two late first round picks into a lottery pick and landed the big man their team desperately needed in Cole Aldrich. I feel free agency overall is fools gold. What happens when you dip into free agency to build your team is you end up overpaying, and teams never quite seem to get what they felt they were getting when they decided to give out all that money. For every Shaquille O’Neal that leaves his original team that drafted him, there are a host of Allan Houston’ss, Eddy Curry’s, and Tyson Chandler’s.
I believe all teams should strive to maintain salary cap flexibility, and to do that, you should be very selective in who you are giving a max contract to. Personaly, I wouldn’t give out a max contract to a player unless I drafted that player, and that player has legitimately become a star on my team. I feel it is foolhardy to basically deconstruct your roster in an attempt to position yourself to pay a max contract or two to free agents who are not currently on your team.
Now that free agency has basically started, it appears that many of the rumors about so many free agents changing teams are just that. Rumors. There are reports that Joe Johnson prefers to stay in Atlanta now, as I stated in the prior entry. Suddenly, LeBron James has not decided where he will land and Cleveland still has a legitimate shot. Dwyane Wade is currently trying to recruit a low post player to come play with him in Miami, whether that player is Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer. Now there are reports that Amare Stoudemire would rather stay in Phoenix than move to another city and may actually take a 5 year deal at less than max money to do just that. The chances that Dirk Nowitzki leaves Dallas is slim to none.
It appears that the only big time free agents that may actually change teams are Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and Miami have basically made major moves to create enough salary cap space to pursue these free agents, and it is very possible that two of these teams will end up clearing all that cap room for Bosh and Boozer, neither of which is legitimately a max player if those contracts are to go to the very elite in the league. Of these teams, Chicago is the only one with a young core in place that may be able to withstand not bringing in the big name and still make the playoffs. New York really pushed this off season when they blew their team up a couple of years ago. Basically, if everyone stays with their current teams, then what good did it do to create all that cap room.
My message to NBA owners, general managers, and coaches. Do a better job of evaluating talent at the college level and invest on improving what you do on draft day. Along with that, spend your money wisely. Don’t bank on free agency being able to bail you out of drafting mistakes.