Friday, July 9, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
Now that LeBron James has decided to play for the Miami Heat, the most-anticipated decision in NBA free-agent history has been made and the balance of the league has changed--or has it?
With only four players on its current roster after trading Michael Beasley-- the former No. 2 overall draft pick behind Derrick Rose--Miami obviously has to make some additions. While a lineup of James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and two random South Beach denizens would dominate your local pro-am league, not only are 12 players required to be on an NBA roster, Mario Chalmers alone won't cut it. That's why some people felt James should join the Bulls, as their more complete roster seemed tailor-made for a superstar to push Chicago to the next level.
Whether he would have been the right fit--Derrick Rose is a true point guard, requiring the ball in his hands the majority of the time, as does James; neither player is a pure outside shooter--is another story. However, by making the move to South Florida, James proves that the selfless, playmaking instincts that came so natural to him as a high school phenom--he was more Magic Johnson that Michael Jordan back then; some of his multi-faceted game has been since diluted in order to carry the scoring load in Cleveland--have been rediscovered. Say what you will about how his decision came across or perceived lack of personal ambition by joining a so-called "super team," but his selflessness is being manifested in the forms of accepting less than a max deal, recognizing his individual star power could be somewhat muted and assuredly knowing he may have to adjust on the court by becoming more of a floor general.
Miami is Wade's team, where he won a title and on which he is the face of the franchise. The Chicago native has commented in the past about wishing he had a playmaking partner to shoulder more of the ballhandling duties, and James' passing abilities should only further enhance Wade's scoring effectiveness.
As for Bosh, while he'll surely be the Heat's top post threat and able to unleash his accurate mid-range jumper as a frequent recipient of the talented perimeter pair's passes in pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick situations, he'll likely be also utilized as a third scoring option, rebounder and energy player. With his bluster about wanting to be a team's alpha dog, not reaching a feasible sign-and-trade scenario with Toronto and frustration about not being able to lead the Raptors past the first round as their franchise player, Bosh is likewise sacrificing.
The players who won't be missing any figurative meals are the supporting cast of the new "Big Three." An announcement about sharpshooter Mike Miller's signing could come any minute, but with convenient trade of Beasley to Minnesota, point guard Mario Chalmers is technically all that's in the cupboard, with second-round draft choices Da'Sean Butler (whose NCAA Tournament injury dropped his stock; the former West Virginia star isn't expected to be ready to play at the beginning of the regular season), shot-blocker Jarvis Varnado and widebody Dexter Pittman, as well as 2009 pick and Windy City product Patrick Beverley, who was stashed in Greece for a season, all waiting in the wings.
A blend of a handful of the aforementioned youngsters and several inexpensive veteran free agents should fill out the team's roster. Obviously shooters--Miller will apparently decline New York's financially more impressive offer; his versatility is a bonus and he's not as one-dimensional as many would like to believe--a true center (Bosh's reluctance to moonlight in that role is well-documented; a familiar name to Bulls fans, Brad Miller, is among the possibilities for the Heat) and additional help at point guard are necessities. Despite the lack of big names still available on the market, Miami's role players will be expected to be reliable, play within themselves and only be proficient in limited capacities.
The man responsible for orchestrating this perfect storm, Heat president Pat Riley--although Wade should get some of the credit, whether or not he was entertaining other teams in his hometown to stall or gather intelligence, as is suspected by some--isn't done playing puppeteer, but one string he's unlikely to pull (at least not immediately) is that of head coach. Erik Spoelstra will have the opportunity to sink or swim with his talented trio and regardless of his relative inexperience and lack of success, winning cures all. Remember the general opinion of Doc Rivers prior to the formation of the "Big Three" in Boston?
Some tweaking by all of the above primary parties will be necessary to pull off their expected goal, especially in James' case. Suddenly reviled in Cleveland--and a lot of other places--"The King" certainly wasn't deserving of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's stinging missive, posted on the team's website shortly after "The Decision," but the scrutiny he'll receive will be even more intense than ever before.
It will take time for the start-from-scratch squad to truly connect, but even in a best-case scenario, they'll still face staunch competition in the Eastern Conference from the Celtics and Magic, not to mention the rising Bulls--the significance of acquiring Carlos Boozer has almost been overlooked by the basketball landscape as a whole, but he's joining a back-to-back playoff team with burgeoning young talent, an expected upgrade on the sidelines and a front office that still has bullets left in its gun this offseason--and of course, the two-time defending champs, if Miami was to meet the Lakers in the Finals.
It's still early July and there are plenty of moves to be made, both on the trade and free-agent markets--or a combination, such as the Knicks' sign-and-trade of free agent power forward David Lee to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azuibuike and Ronny Turiaf--and things could be even more dramatically altered by next February's league-wide trade deadline. So while it's pondered how Miami's presently incomplete roster will fare this upcoming season, it may be wise to sit back, take a deep breath with the major free agents having determined their destinations and wait for some actual basketball to be played.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.