Let The NBA Free Agent Games Begin

By Marcus Shockley

New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul (R) drives on Los Angeles Lakers Derek Fisher during Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference first round playoff basketball game in Los Angeles, California April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


Oh, there’s so much to talk about these days.

With the end of the lockout, you would think that the real NBA discussions wouldn’t begin until sometime after the first exhibition game tipped off; this is a sport, after all, and the primary focus is supposedly who wins and loses the games, but that’s never stopped the sports media from churning as much out of nothing as they possibly can.

One of the best formulas for creating sports stories out of thin air is what comedian Greg Proops once called the ‘What-If’ News, as in, ‘What IF Chris Paul joined the Knicks’ or ‘What IF the Celtics tried to trade Rajon Rondo?’. This, of course, is all speculation on what will happen many months from now, on the other side of a season, albeit shortened, but still rather lengthy. This is also ignoring the current free agent market that’s about to open, under the new CBA, because the current free agent market is rather dull, with the largest target possibly being Nene.

No, the discussion is lot more interesting when we talk about players like Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

With all of the first little bevy of rumors spilling out, we’ve heard already about the Nets trying to offer big deal to Howard, and how Deron Williams won’t sign an extension with them. Yesterday the rumor was that Chris Paul wanted to go to New York, but Paul rebuffed those rumors. Honestly, it’s far too early for any of this to have real credence, but there are some things that can be used as guidance on how this could shake out, and it starts on the West Coast.

The Lakers are one of the teams that really understands how to look to the future, and they have a long history of going out at the right time and putting together the next glamour team that will contend for, and usually win, a few NBA titles. The Lakers also have a solid track record of letting other NBA teams work almost as a farm system, taking risks, getting the bust draft picks, until the good players shake out and the Lakers move them to L.A.. Consider this: Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers only one year after winning the league MVP. Kareem Abdul Jabbar didn’t get drafted by the Lakers, but he retired there with the all time scoring record in his back pocket. Shaq did his young days alongside Penny Hardaway in Orlando before he teamed up with Kobe. If you want to know the big free agent moves that are about to happen, all you need to know is that the Lakers are about to transition away from Kobe into their next incarnation, and that whatever that team looks like will be one that will sell tickets and more than likely win some championships. Does that mean Chris Paul and Dwight Howard? Or Deron Williams?

What happens next summer will be driven by what the Lakers are going to do; not because everyone in the league is scared of the Lakers, but because most of the teams in the league are just bad at putting together deep, winning teams. The closest team right now that has a roster to be afraid of for the long term is Chicago, and with the Mavs and Spurs aging, the league is poised for new blood, such as the Bulls or maybe the Heat, to make a move.

The only problem is, the Lakers have seen this before. The Spurs and Mavs make good moves on their own as well, but they have a hard time competing with the deep pockets and glitz of L.A., so it’s tough to say where their long term prospects are. The Spurs draft really well but is there another Tim Duncan out there in the college ranks?

So even though I won’t be paying too much attention to all the made up and strategically ‘leaked’ free agent talk, I will be paying attention to what the Lakers do this offseason.

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