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Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Q&A: Where will top free agents land?

ESPN.com

Bosh, Wade & James
The stars of summer -- Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James -- are still mulling their options.

Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce have found landing spots. What will happen next? We asked our experts for their best guesses on where the top remaining free agents will land this summer.

James

Where will LeBron James end up?

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com:

Cleveland: 55%
New York: 25%
Miami: 10%
Chicago: 10%

Sentiment is winning out. At least it looks that way for the moment. Check back in an hour.


Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop:

Cleveland: 40%
Chicago: 30%
New Jersey: 15%
Miami: 15%

Now that James has been sufficiently courted, he'll remain in Cleveland -- not out of sentiment, but because it's where he retains the most control. In that vein, he'll sign a contract with the Cavs that includes an out clause after Year 3. The circus returns in 2013.


Chad Ford, ESPN.com:

Cleveland: 40%
Chicago: 30%
New Jersey: 20%
New York: 10%

From everything I'm hearing, LeBron personally wants to stay in Ohio. However, he's concerned that the Cavs won't be able to surround him with a supporting cast that is capable of helping him win a championship. From what I understand, he's still undecided, which makes it tough to predict.


John Hollinger, ESPN.com:

Cleveland: 50%
Chicago: 30%
Miami: 15%
New Jersey: 4%
New York: 1%

The palace intrigue that reportedly has seen World Wide Wes pushed out of the picture in favor of the Akron Gang certainly has to favor the Cavs. While LeBron ultimately is the one to make this call, all the people advising him have a vested interest in Cleveland.


Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com:

New York: 45%
Cleveland: 25%
Chicago: 10%
Miami: 10%
New Jersey: 10%

The Knicks have the best supporting pieces to put in place alongside him, and I have argued that in hundreds upon hundreds of words here.


Marc Stein, ESPN.com:

Cleveland: 75%
Chicago: 15%
The field: 10%

It seems safe to suggest that everyone has Cleveland comfortably back in the lead, which sure makes me glad someone wedged it into the conversation back when we did our first staff breakdown of all these guys.

The only reason I'm giving the Bulls (or anyone else) as much of a shot here as I have is that if we've learned anything during the past several days, this process is fluid. Can't rule out further sea changes. In short, though, I still believe what I've always believed: Leaving Cleveland is far harder emotionally for LeBron than many of us on the outside anticipated. Not the Cavs. Cleveland, specifically. As in Ohio.



Wade

Where will Dwyane Wade end up?

Adande:

Miami: 55%
Chicago: 30%
New York 15%

Looks like finances are winning out.


Arnovitz:

Chicago: 48%
Miami: 42%
New York: 10%

The Bulls need help at shooting guard and power forward, and Wade conveniently addresses the former. If he were to commit to Chicago, the Bulls would still have enough cap space to address their final need -- power forward -- by extending Chris Bosh a hefty contract offer.


Ford:

Heat: 60%
Bulls 30%
Knicks 5%
Nets 5%

Wade is seriously considering the Bulls. Not only do they offer a competitive roster, but Chicago is home and gives him the best chance of spending quality time with his kids during the season. However, Wade is about to sign what's likely to be his last big contract in the NBA. Can he really give up the extra $30 million the Heat can offer?


Hollinger:

Miami: 55%
Chicago: 45%

It's a close call between whether he stays in Miami and takes the $30 million extra they can give him or goes to Chicago to be on a better team and spend more time with his sons. In the end I think the Heat win out, but it's just a guess.


Sheridan:

Miami: 50%
Chicago: 50%

Wade has repeatedly said Miami is where his heart is, but what is tugging at his heartstrings now is the welfare of his children, who have been living in Chicago. That fact throws a wrench into this equation that makes it a toss-up.


Stein:

Miami: 80%
Chicago: 20%

The fact that we can give the Bulls this much hope ranks as one of the shockers of this whole process. And Wade has legitimate reasons -- off the court (family) but also on the court (Chicago's talent) -- to give strong consideration to bolting Miami to sign with his hometown Bulls. But I ultimately can't envision him walking away from everything he's built in Miami and a management team that simply inspires greater confidence than Chicago's.



Bosh

Where will Chris Bosh sign?

Adande:

Miami: 55%
Chicago: 30%
Houston: 15%

Looks like the buddy system is winning out. Or finances.


Arnovitz:

Houston: 35%
Chicago: 35%
Miami: 25%
New Jersey: 5%

Bosh has a choice to make: Hitching his wagon to one of the two perimeter superstars or initiating a sign-and-trade that would deliver him to Houston. Either way, he'll likely find himself somewhere he's never been before -- a conference semifinals.


Ford:

Chicago: 40%
Miami: 40%
New Jersey: 10%
Houston: 10%

Both LeBron and Wade would really like to play with Bosh. The question is, who does Bosh really want to play with? If LeBron stays in Cleveland, it's pretty easy; Bosh most likely will go to either Chicago or Miami to play with Wade. If LeBron leaves for Chicago or New Jersey, however, Bosh is likely to follow there.


Hollinger:

Chicago: 60%
Miami: 30%
New Jersey: 3%
Houston: 3%
L.A. Lakers: 3%
Toronto: 1%

Bosh ultimately needs a sign-and-trade to get out of Toronto on his terms, and Chicago is best positioned, with assets that would appeal to the Raptors. Because of that and the Bulls' strong supporting cast already in place, I can see Bosh becoming a Bull even if neither LeBron nor Wade joins him.


Sheridan:

Miami: 50%
Chicago: 40%
Houston: 5%
Dallas: 5%

For a guy who just shaved his head, a $30 million haircut is too much off the top. But at the end of the day, if he wants to play alongside Wade, which certainly seems to be the case, he may have to take $30 million less and forsake a sign-and-trade. If not, the Texas teams come into play.


Stein:

Miami: 50%
Chicago: 30%
Cleveland: 10%
Houston: 10%

The short answer is: Wherever D-Wade is going. The prevailing sense you get from the teams chasing these guys is that they strongly believe Bosh has essentially committed himself to a D-Wade package deal. The vibes have been strong for months that Bosh is determined to play in a vibrant city … and he'll have an easier time convincing himself that he's more of an equal if he's attached to Wade as opposed to LeBron.



Boozer

Where will Carlos Boozer sign?

Adande:

Chicago: 40%
Heat: 40%
Nets: 20%

Probably wherever Bosh doesn't go.


Arnovitz:

Chicago: 30%
Miami: 30%
New Jersey: 20%
Utah: 20%

Along with David Lee, Boozer will likely have to wait until Chris Bosh makes his decision before he can write his ticket. Bosh is younger and more durable, but Boozer's work on the glass and in the pick-and-roll make him a decent consolation prize for any team in need of some help in the frontcourt.


Ford:

Miami: 40%
Chicago: 30%
New Jersey: 20%
Orlando: 10%

Boozer is playing the waiting game. Once LeBron, Bosh and Wade pick their homes, it should be pretty easy for him to fall into one of the slots left open.


Hollinger:

Miami: 40%
Chicago: 20%
Utah: 20%
New Jersey: 15%
Orlando: 5%

If I'm right that Bosh won't join Wade, it means Boozer will. The only drama would be whether he tries to join in a sign-and-trade to get an extra year on his contract, in which case the likes of New Jersey or Chicago would have a stronger shot because they have better assets to put in a deal. However, I'm not ruling out a return to Utah yet either.


Sheridan:

Miami: 40%
Chicago: 40%
Utah: 20%

His fate is tied to Bosh and the $30 million extra that Bosh would make through a sign-and-trade. If Bosh holds out for that extra $30 million, I don't think he'll end up with either of his buddies, LBJ and D-Wade, and Boozer will be Fall-back Robin to Wade's Batman.


Stein:

Chicago: 45%
New Jersey: 35%
Miami: 10%
Utah: 10%

I've heard plugged-in people insist that Chicago is Boozer's first choice. I've also heard plugged-in people swear that Boozer wants to wind up in New Jersey working for Mikhail Prokhorov. The takeaway there is that even well-connected folks are struggling to call it. But those are the two cap-room teams that will have the greatest need if LeBron stays in Cleveland and Wade and Bosh wind up in Miami, so it does look as though we're headed for a Bulls-Nets duel for Booz. One disclaimer: Miami returns to prime contention for Boozer if it somehow fails to land Bosh.



Lee

Where will David Lee sign?

Adande:

Chicago: 35%
Miami: 30%
Nets: 20%
San Antonio: 15%

Could be the second year in a row circumstances conspire to keep more people from bidding on him. Looking forward, the Spurs could use a big man to get Duncan's replacement ready. Sign-and-trade for Tony Parker to Knicks?


Arnovitz:

New Jersey: 30%
Chicago: 30%
Miami: 25%
Utah: 15%

Stoudemire's arrival in New York makes Lee redundant but, like Boozer, Lee gives teams looking for a talented pick-and-roll big man who will crash the boards a viable option.


Ford:

Miami: 30%
New Jersey: 20%
Chicago: 20%
Golden State: 10%
Minnesota: 10%
Utah: 10%

This is the hardest one to peg because it's still unclear whether the Knicks are willing to participate in a sign-and-trade for Lee. If they are, his options open up tremendously.


Hollinger:

New Jersey: 50%
Miami: 20%
New York: 12%
Chicago: 8%
Golden State: 5%
Minnesota: 3%
Toronto: 2%

Lee has become the ultimate wild card of free agency now that the Knicks have Amare Stoudemire, but I'm guessing he ends up in New Jersey since it appears the Nets will lose out on all the other marquee free agents. It's another way for Mikhail Prokhorov to fire a shot across the Knicks' bow before moving to Brooklyn, especially if the Knicks don't pursue sign-and-trade possibilities.


Sheridan:

New Jersey: 60%
Miami: 15%
Chicago: 15%
Minnesota: 10%

New Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has said he wants to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans, and I imagine he'll end up paying a premium to land the guy who was the most popular member of the Knicks for the past five years.


Stein:

Odds: Impossible to calculate

Too many options. Too many variables. Lee will be pursued by any cap-room team that misses out on the three leading men (LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh) and is already getting chased by about five teams in potential sign-and-trades … with no assurance that the Knicks will participate in a sign-and-trade. I like Hollinger's and Sheridan's theory about Prokhorov wanting Lee to strip the Knicks of a fan favorite as much as anything I've heard.