Some of us got to thinking following this tweet from Yahoo Sport’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Yes, one of the most involved and reputable reporters covering the NBA lockout says that Commissioner David Stern could start threatening to void the players’ contracts. Every. Last. One.
Wow. Think about it. Last offseason, the entire NBA fanbase was drooling with anticipation as two of the NBA’s best players (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And yes we’re ignoring Chris Bosh) were free agents. Imagine if every single NBA player, from superstar to bench warmer, were suddenly a free agent. Brian and Asaf decided to take things a little further.
While we both are more than willing to admit that this is a seemingly unlikely scenario, please indulge us as we play around with the thought. Does everyone bum rush South Beach? Will Durant stay in OKC? Will anyone sign Darko Milicic? The possibilities are endless. Look for Asaf to give you the thoughtful insight you’d get from a seasoned NBA observer, while Brian gives you the most entertaining possibilities that a casual fan would enjoy seeing.
ESPN recently ranked every player in the NBA from 1-500. Who was #1? You guessed it, LeBron James.
Asaf: LeBron isn’t going anywhere. He gets to play with D-Wade every night, a privilege for James, while soaking up the sun and partying in South Beach. The downsides are having little to no depth on the bench and the lack of a consistent point guard. Say what you will about Bosh (he sucks) but he can fit into this system, that’s not where they need an upgrade. Look for James and Wade to throw on some of those Craig Sager-esque post game outfits and try to lure a real point guard down to Florida. “Hey Deron Williams, why don’t you void that contract in Turkey and come on back to the States? Cubans and Cajun food on us.”
Brian: To be completely honest, Asaf is right. LeBron James would be one of the least entertaining free agents in the voided-contract-palooza. The most likely scenario would be for the Heat to look incredibly similar to how they do now (with one major change I’ll get at later). There’s no reason for LBJ to leave the city of Miami and Florida’s zero percent income tax. Believe me, that would most certainly be a factor in at least one or two superstars’ decisions. The only changeup LeBron could throw us is if he decides to bring D-Wade and a superstar center back to his old hometown of Cleveland. That’s the kind of thing that could happen if all the contracts got voided. James could bring the people of Cleveland a real, entertaining basketball team. But let’s be honest, no NBA star given the choice of any team in the league would go to Cleveland. The city’s river caught fire once. Seriously.
If James and Wade get another star to join them in Miami there simply wont be room for the biggest talent in the state. Next up, Superman.
Asaf: Whether contracts are voided or not, there is an all too real possibility that Dwight Howard dons the purple and gold when the NBA returns. Can you even fathom that? Trying to score on Howard and Andrew Bynum in the post would be nearly impossible. Or say the Lakers stick with Gasol’s savvy style of play next to Howard and feature the best low post offense in the game. Then there’s this guy named Kobe Bryant who you also need to guard. Plus LA has the same benefits as Miami with warm weather, big market, celebrity fans, but an even bigger overall fanbase. With new contract agreements and players willing to take pay cuts, this is feasible. Quick question. Will the back of the jersey say “World Peace” or just “Peace” on it?
Brian: Dwight Howard as a Laker would be pretty cool. Kobe would help command an impressive front court, and I really think that a team with those two would be unbelievable. Asaf makes good points as to the upsides of playing in LA. But let me tell you what would make me the happiest. No, not Howard as a Timberwolf, but instead staying in Florida and moving over to the hated Heat. Now, I hate the Heat as much as the next casual fan. Honestly, screw what they did. However, I have a hate that goes beyond that. A hate for Chris Bosh. It drives me nuts when people refer to the Heat’s Big Three. No. Just no. It’s the Heat’s Big Two. Bosh just got lucky enough to be carried along by LeBron and D-Wade’s coattails. So here’s what I’m thinking: LeBron and Wade get together with Pat Riley and say, “Listen, while things went pretty well here, screw Chris. Let’s go get Dwight Howard”. Wouldn’t that be glorious? James and Wade invite Howard to be a Super Friend with them. Then to top it all off, I would hope Bosh ends up somewhere like Utah, Milwaukee, or better yet, Cleveland. Even though I like Dwight Howard, I would still love to see this new (and actual) Big Three choke away playoff games and never win a championship.
Speaking of the Lakers, could Kobe possibly reel in Dwight Howard and the best point guard in the league sans injuries?
Asaf: CP3 would be a hot commodity in a world of free agents. He has no reason to stay on a team going nowhere and currently owned by the NBA, even though they have these sweet Mardi Gras jerseys. Why would Paul hang around to play with Emeka Okafor, who is actually very consistent and could turn heads, and Trevor Ariza when he could suit up with Kobe and maybe Howard? Or Carmelo and Amare in New York? If Amare didn’t have his knee issues I would say the right move is the Knicks because Kobe is getting older. However, the chance to play with Kobe and Howard may be one of those offer you can’t refuse sort of things.
Brian: Here’s where a team’s intangibles come into play. I can see where a handful of top-level players would love to go play for Jay-Z out in Brooklyn. To be honest, that’s where I would want to go play too. Plus, if everyone was a free agent, what would stop Jay from throwing a few guys contracts that are below-max and then throw them GIANT endorsements from Roc-A-Fella. CP3 could go make bucket loads of money playing for the coolest owner in the NBA in a brand new arena. You can see where both All-Stars and role players would want to go there. In the voided contract scenario, the coasts would be the big winners, and I could see the Brooklyn Nets being one of the biggest winners. CP3 could draw some top big men (K-Love? Z-Bo? Darko?) to Brooklyn with him. Imagine the cross town rivalry. CP3 and his cast vs. Amare and ‘Melo. I hate the professional sports east coast bias, but if ESPN is going to be slobbering over it anyways, I hope the Nets and Knicks go big.
Now we come to three franchise players, none of which are looking to jump ship, and I don’t expect any of them would. I am speaking of the reigning Finals MVP, regular season MVP, and back to back scoring champion.
Asaf: First we have Dirk. Man, what a year this guy had. Dirk played out of his mind, well maybe out of my mind but normal for him, basketball this year. Some of his accomplishments this year include sweeping Kobe’s Lakers, dismantling Durant’s Thunder, and shutting down Wade’s (that’s right, Wade’s) Heat…all in the playoffs. There were 82 games before that! Dirk has no reason to leave a team and a city that adore him and would do anything for him. Sure his current team is on the older side, but after shuffling something like 500 players, I’m sure he would end up with some decent sidekicks. Being backed by a crazy billionaire is also a good way to lure people to Texas. Also, Dirk has the second best hand motion to celebrate a three pointer, the German three.
Brian: To be honest, Dirk is one of the least entertaining superstars in the voided contract scenario (Besides Tim Duncan. He’ll be back in San Antonio, but I would hope no one would sign Tim Duncan). Dirk will stay in Dallas, but I don’t think he helps draw together anyone to form a super team. In this post-apocolyptic NBA world I see the competitive balance looking like this:
1) Super teams comprising of 2+ mega-superstars. These will be highly concentrated on the coasts. LA, NY, Florida.
2) Good teams that have a superstar or two. Solid, middle of the pack teams that look a lot like the good teams you see today. Dallas, Chicago, Boston, etc.
3) The teams that no one wants to play for. The Island of Misfit Toys essentially. These teams will be talent wastelands for their fans for the first couple of years following the voided contracts. Minnesota, Utah, Milwaukee, Toronto, etc. would be in bad shape.
Asaf: Beside the big markets we’ve already mentioned, there is one more city that could have a large draw for players. Not to mention they’ll probably retain their superstar point guard, Derrick Rose. It’s highly likely that Rose tries to return to Chicago and build the Bulls team that the management can’t seem to get right. First thing would be to call up Joakim Noah and get him back, then order a hit on Carlos Boozer if he tried to return to the team. I think Rose could get some real talent to come to Chicago so the number two scoring option isn’t Luol Deng. O.J. Mayo and Rip Hamilton were both possible fits at the two guard spot, so why not grab both. Put Rip in the starting lineup and remind him that he wasn’t always a miserable waste of space on the court, and Mayo has had success coming off the bench in Memphis already. Add a big man who can actually score and things are looking good in the Windy City. The fun possibilities for Rose should be much more interesting.
Brian: I agree with Asaf. The odds that Rose would want to stay in Chicago and go down in Bulls lore as second only to MJ are high. But what if he made a one year pit stop to take care of some old business? Yes, D-Rose should head back down to Memphis on a one year contract and try to redeem himself in eyes of the local Memphisians. They could even let him cheat on some standardized tests. Rose should redo his one and done status down in Memphis and try to bring home a championship.
Asaf: Last in this trilogy is the ultimate NBA superstar and all around amazing person. Kevin. Durant. Teams would kill to have KD at the center of a rebuilding process in a free agent free for all, but he’s going back to OKC. There’s no doubt in my mind that Durant returns to the city and the fans that have welcomed this team with open arms and been rewarded by one of the most exciting group of players in the league. This Thunder team is something special. They play the right way, they’re run the right way, they’re coached the right way, and they’re just good guys. Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, and even a guy like Nick Collison, they’re more than teammates, they’re brothers. And brothers don’t abandon each other. Sam Presti is also a basketball Billy Beane of sorts and he’s not paying anyone who doesn’t work with this team. The Oklahoma City Thunder, your 2013 NBA Champions.
Brian: We always hear about what a good guy Durant is, but what if he took this opportunity to shock the world and OKC by leaving? This would quite possibly be the biggest news out of the whole voided contract scenario. Durant could stab Oklahoma City’s back so hard. Remember how mad Cleveland was at LeBron? They were expecting it. If Durant left OKC you would see fans the maddest they’ve ever been at a player. And you know what? I wouldn’t blame Durant. He should go win a championship with CP3 in Brooklyn. It’d be much better for him there.
When you’re building your team you want a leader that can guide his teammates on and off the floor. That’s why the PG position is so important, especially in this league where there aren’t enough competent ones to go around. Let’s look at three key guys.
Asaf: John Wall, John Wall. This kid has the tools to be an elite NBA point guard with his speed, ball handling, driving ability, and smart passes. If Gilbert Arenas is any indication, Washington is not a good place to be an All-Star point guard with no supporting cast. I would love to see Wall and Zach Randolph make the move to Brooklyn. I think they complement each other’s style of play and would love playing for Jay-Z. The Nets are going to be a bit of an experiment with a new home and no Deron Williams because he’s not coming back. John Wall is the perfect candidate to take over that team with some hot free agents and an arsenal of ZigTech shoes from Reebok.
Brian: Well I’ve already put CP3 in Brooklyn so he needs somewhere else. John Wall definitely is a big time player with a big time personality. LA is the place for him. Luckily there are two great options there. He could go to the Lakers and help Kobe play out the rest of his career. On the other hand, I see the Clippers being a big winner in this scenario, and I could really see Wall being a part of that. Wall and Griffin. That’s an electrifying duo.
Asaf: The Clippers can keep Blake Griffin, but they need a dependable point guard not named Mo Williams or Eric Bledsoe. The answer? Steph Curry. Oh baby, I just got chills. Can you imagine Steph serving up at least three Sports Center highlight alley oops to Griffin every game? Add a budding center in DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon, who could be a perennial All-Star if he stays healthy, and this young team could build a really solid core. Steph needs to get away from the black hole better known as Monta Ellis and the mess in northern California. With Blake doing work down low there would be plenty of room for Curry to cut to the basket and hit open jumpers. This is a solid pairing that could pay huge dividends for everyone involved.
Brian: Well again, I’ve already got a player where Asaf put Steph. For whatever reason, I see Steph Curry as the kind of top-level point guard who goes somewhere not as prime time. Maybe he’ll go down Dallas and play with Dirk. To be honest, he’s a heckuva play maker that any team would love to have, and I really think he could end up just about anywhere.
Asaf: Steve Nash used to dribble tennis balls around the campus of Santa Clara University to help with his ball handling. I would say it paid off. Nash has been one of the top point guards in the game for years now, but has missed out on that elusive NBA Championship. There’s a dilemma with Nash because of his age and injury concern, but you can’t overlook the double digit assists and stellar free throw and three point shooting. Steve Nash is a workhorse who should have won a title with one of those Suns teams. Now, is it too late for him to get the ring he deserves? Is it fair to Nash to be downgraded to a veteran floating around the league trying to win a title (Shaq)? I’m really not sure where Nash would end up in this chaotic state. Honestly, and this pains me to say, he could work in Miami. He’s a clear upgrade over Mike Bibby and maybe he could mentor Mario Chalmers during his time there. He definitely gives them a better chance to win a title, but a player like Steve Nash deserves a better championship than that. I’m torn on the issue.
Brian: Here’s the thing about Nash. He loves Canada. That’s where he’d go. Toronto would be the place for Nash to ride out his career. He’s the kind of player who makes everyone around him better, so I dont even think it would matter who else was there. Maybe Bosh comes back to team up with Nash. Either way, I see Nash becoming less and less relevant following the voiding of contracts. There’s too many other superstar point guards at this point.
There are a lot of players in the NBA. A lot. We can’t hypothesize about all of them, so we have a note for each team and their best plan of action in a world of free agents.
Atlanta Hawks: Doesn’t look good for the Hawks. There’s no way they keep Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, maybe one of them but that’s it. Their best bet is to keep Horford who is the most promising and arguably the best of the trio. Then build off of him with a stronger point guard than Jeff Teague.
Boston Celtics: What do you do when you are dealt a strong hand in poker? Stand pat. Paul Pierce isn’t about to leave Boston, and it would be pretty easy for him to convince the rest of the Big Three to stay. The biggest concern is making sure Rondo doesn’t get lured away to play with some younger stars. Boston will bring back their guys and maybe capitalize on existing teamwork in a reshuffled league.
Charlotte Bobcats: Does anyone want to go to Charlotte to play for Michael Jordan? Nope. When Larry Brown was coaching this team he was begging Stephen Jackson to actually try on the court. Now they’re both gone but the problems are still there. Try your hardest to bring back D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker and be thankful you can ditch Corey Maggette before he even plays a game.
Chicago Bulls: Basically what was said earlier, Rose will come back and the combination of him and the opportunities Chicago offers will bring in more talent. The Bulls are set, but could benefit to the tune of Joe Johnson. Maybe Rudy Gay?
Cleveland Cavaliers: I do not envy this team, and I’m a Timberwolves fan. The Cavs have nothing going for him. I’d be shocked if they were able to keep Kyrie Irving, but at least they don’t have to keep Baron Davis. They do have some young guys who could turn out to be promising talents, so bring them back? Good luck.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk and Mark Cuban’s wallet (and maybe even Jason Kidd’s corpse) could bring in some good players. However, last year’s championship is going to be the last one for awhile. Monta Ellis and Marc Gasol would be interesting fits in Dallas.
Denver Nuggets: After the Carmelo trade the Nuggets were wildly successful with their new squad. After trading Ray Felton for Andre Miller they opened up the point guard spot for Ty Lawson, which is an awesome move. If they could bring back their core guys it would be a win for them. Their problem is Nene, the topic of trade talks and a highly coveted free agent. If they can’t keep Nene it would be nice to see them find a quicker big man to fit into their uptempo system, Brook Lopez or J.J. Hickson perhaps.
Detroit Pistons: Oh boy. A whole new team is exactly what the Pistons need. Lawrence Frank is a capable coach and it would be to their advantage to put together 12 guys who didn’t have to deal with last year’s woes. Devin Harris has fallen off the map, but he and Frank were in New Jersey together and maybe they could start over in Detroit. Targeted players: anyone young.
Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, David Lee. Kiss ’em goodbye. The Warriors have decent talent in Al Thornton, Reggie Williams, and one of last year’s biggest breakouts Dorrell Wright. If they can keep Wright and complement him with a point guard to give him the ball and a big man to draw attention in the post, then who knows. Unfortunately they’ll probably grab Aaron Brooks and DeJuan Blair.
Houston Rockets: Bring back the guys they had, minus Jonny Flynn, and see what they can do. Kyle Lowry is an awesome up and coming point guard and Hasheem Thabeet could have a legitimate turn around in Houston. If they keep Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger they could be a fun team.
Indiana Pacers: No more Danny Granger, that’s for sure. Maybe Roy Hibbert sticks around because he seems to like Indiana, enough at least to appear on Parks and Recreation which is set in Indiana. A team built around him, Darren Collison, George Hill, Paul George, and Tyler Hansbrough/Josh McRoberts (you don’t need or want both) could find themselves in the 7 or 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
LA Clippers: Griffin stays and gets a lot of help. The chance to be on the Clippers team that surpasses the aging Lakers (assuming they’re still old after free agency) is a draw along with all the obvious reasons. The point guard is the key in this puzzle, get a good one and this team is going places.
LA Lakers: Dwight Howard. Chris Paul. That’s it.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies will probably lose most of the guys from a talented team last year. It’s a shame, but I bet they end up keeping Mike Conley. Chalk up another team to the middle of the heap.
Miami Heat: Done talking about these guys.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Holiday Folk Fair International is in Milwaukee this year. Since they have no hope of getting real players, and they have so many foreign born players already, Milwaukee will be the site of the International Team. Carlos Delfino (Argentina), Andrew Bogut (Australia), Tiago Splitter (Brazil), Prince Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Cameroon), Mickael Pietrus (France), Linas Kleiza (Lithuania), Beno Udrih (Slovenia), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey), and last but not least Yao Ming (China).
Minnesota Timberwolves: And the depression is sinking in. This team might maybe have had a slight chance to perhaps possibly turn things around. Now we’ll never know. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will find new homes and all we’ll be left with is Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley’s ego. Damn and I had such modest hopes for these guys. Pros: No clothing tax in Minnesota. Kahns: Well, you can figure it out.
Brooklyn Nets: Everyone who doesn’t want to play with Melo and Stoudemire. Wall and Randolph could match up pretty well with their new in state competitors. Jay-Z better be as big of a factor as we’re expecting or all these fun plans wont come to pass. Then again every contract being voided probably wont come to pass either so…
New Orleans Hornets: The Chris Paul days are over whether mass free agency happens or not. I bet the Hornets wish they still had Darren Collison now, so maybe they’ll bring him back. Between Emeka Okafor and David West you clearly want West, but they should take Okafor because West isn’t staying. New Orleans should become the party team with all the crazies, and make sure they never have games scheduled for Mardi Gras. Key additions would be Delonte West, Stephen Jackson, DeShawn Stevenson, Chris Andersen, and bring Jason Williams out of retirement.
New York Knicks: Get Carmelo Anthony. Oh, they finally did that? Then…
Oklahoma City Thunder: Bring back the whole team. Every last one.
Orlando Magic: The Magic will go out and bring back Marcin Gortat to be their next franchise center. With the Polish Hammer filling it up in the middle it would be nice to surround him with some outside shooters like Anthony Morrow and Ben Gordon. Well that doesn’t sound like a good start, but count on the pros offered by Florida to draw some solid players.
Philadelphia Sixers: Might as well bring back AI.
Phoenix Suns: Just find anyone that isn’t Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, or Vince Carter.
Portland Trail Blazers: This team has an excellent camaraderie and swapping out Andre Miller for Raymond Felton is a huge bonus. Everyone needs to come back because this team has serious championship potential. The Trail Blazers also have the best hand motion to celebrate three pointers, the three goggles.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings should seriously consider getting their team to re-sign. They have solid young talent and after adding Marcus Thornton last season and Jimmer Fredette, J.J. Hickson, and John Salmons in the offseason they could be pretty good. Worth a shot.
San Antonio Spurs: The most boring team in this scenario. Everyone comes back and the contact doubles as a death certificate for the rest of their careers. The Spurs are done winning after a year off.
Toronto Raptors: One of the hardest markets to get people to. Maybe the NBA should take this opportunity to move the Raptors to Seattle or Las Vegas or something. If not, consider them another hub for foreign players.
Utah Jazz: The Jazz might actually be able to keep Al Jefferson but no Paul Millsap and probably no Devin Harris. Guys like Kris Humphries and Goran Dragic are going to end up in Utah. Maybe some Kirk Hinrich action.
Washington Wizards: There’s some skill in Washington right now between Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, and Jordan Crawford. Why not keep it together and see what one of the thuggest teams in the league can do.