Q&A: Where will top free agents land?

Originally Published: June 30, 2010
ESPN.com

LeBron James and Dwyane WadeDavid Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty ImagesWhat will be the name on the front of King James' and D-Wade's jerseys when all is said and done?

NBA free agency tips off tonight at 12:01 a.m. ET. How will it all go down? We asked our experts for their best guesses on where the top 10 free agents will land this summer.

James

Where will LeBron James sign?

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Chicago Bulls. Though if playing with Wade and Bosh trumps all, he'll end up in Miami. More likely than 50-50? No.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls. They have max salary space and they're playoff-capable even without him. But with so many other teams vying for his interest, it's not an even money bet. More likely than 50-50? No.

Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Chicago Bulls. Along with the Nets, they are the only team in the field that features youthful assets (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and the cap space required to sign an additional max contract to play alongside James. More likely than 50/50? No.

Larry Coon, ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls. Big city, a team that's clearly his to lead, and a nucleus that can be competitive right away all add up to the biggest free-agency defection since Shaq in 1996 -- but nobody really knows the mind of LeBron. More likely than 50/50? No.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls. They offer the best combination of a huge market and a chance to win now with a young supporting cast. More likely than 50/50? No.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls. I see Chicago and Cleveland as slight favorites, but Miami, New York and New Jersey are very much in the game. More likely than 50-50? No, not even close.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: New York Knicks. He has done some of his best flirting at Madison Square Garden. (I was a witness.) More likely than 50-50? No.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Cleveland Cavaliers. I still see this as a 50/50 deal with at least four other teams (Chicago, Miami, New Jersey and Dallas) about to get serious consideration from LeBron. So I'm going with the Cavs by default -- for now -- for two reasons:

(1) I can't believe no one else in this group thinks he's staying and (2) I think leaving his hometown team is far more emotionally wrenching than any of us on the outside realize. Watch this space, though. More likely than 50-50? No.


Wade

Where will Dwyane Wade sign?

Abbott: Miami Heat. The only way he's not there is if something crazy happens to unite all the top three free agents somewhere else like Chicago or New Jersey. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Adande: Miami Heat. With the chance to stay home and make the most money, all that's left is for him to lure two stars to join him. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Arnovitz: Miami Heat. Miami is Wade's basketball home, and Pat Riley has the capacity to lure one of the premier power forwards on the market. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Coon: Miami Heat. By default you have to assume free agents stay where they are, and Miami is swinging for the fences, giving Wade every reason to stay. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Ford: Miami Heat. Wade loves Miami and believes in Pat Riley. If the Heat can bring in another top-tier free agent, Wade should be a lock to stay. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Hollinger: Miami Heat. No reason to leave that I can see. More likely than 50-50? Yes, more like 90/10.

Sheridan: Miami Heat. He likes the lifestyle there, he has been unofficially recruiting for them, and he's been in on this "three-max" plan all along. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Stein: Miami Heat. The lads have covered all the bases. This is as close to a slam dunk as there is on the board. More likely than 50-50? Yes.


Bosh

Where will Chris Bosh sign?

Abbott: Chicago Bulls. The real answer to this question is "wherever LeBron goes." More likely than 50-50? No.

Adande: Chicago Bulls. If he can get paid and play with LeBron it would be ideal, but this is his chance to make huge dollars, so it's not odds-on that he winds up alongside another star. More likely than 50-50? No.

Arnovitz: Chicago Bulls. They can offer Bosh the max, his natural position alongside a defensive-minded center, and the opportunity to play with a perimeter superstar. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Coon: New York Knicks. Bosh is the hardest call of the bunch -- the Raptors are open to a sign-and-trade, which puts the entire league in play. More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: Miami Heat. Bosh has so many options, but I think it's likely he pairs with either Wade or Bron. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: Not even sure who to make the favorite; I'll say Chicago. More likely than 50-50? Nowhere close to 50-50, obviously.

Sheridan: New York. He wants to go where LeBron is going, so my answer here has to match my LBJ answer above. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Miami Heat. More and more I believe that Bosh wants to make an early commitment to the Heat and then LeBron will either join Bosh and Wade or do his own thing. But Chicago is still out there as a very enticing option for Bosh, especially if he goes in tandem with LeBron. More likely than 50-50? No.


Johnson

Where will Joe Johnson sign?

Abbott: Los Angeles Clippers. The also-ran of teams with max cap space meets the also-ran of max free agents. More likely than 50-50? No.

Adande: New York Knicks. Because it's less likely than 50-50 that they get LeBron ... and Johnson has long been considered the Knicks' Plan B. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Arnovitz: Dallas Mavericks. They are intent on improving and could situate Johnson on the wing with an aggressive sign-and-trade offer. More likely than 50-50? No.

Coon: New York Knicks. If the Knicks strike out on LeBron, a frontcourt-backcourt tandem that includes Quiet Joe makes sense for New York -- but does New York make sense for Joe? More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: Chicago Bulls. They have been high on Johnson all year, and they have a big need at the 2. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: New York Knicks. I think he lands there unless the Knicks get a LeBron-Bosh duo. More likely than 50-50? Probably so.

Sheridan: Chicago Bulls. Aside from LeBron, he is the best option for what they need. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Los Angeles Clippers. If there's a harder call on this list, I don't want to see it. You can easily make a case for Johnson winding up with the Clips, Knicks, Bulls or staying with the Hawks. More likely than 50-50? No.


Nowitzki

Where will Dirk Nowitzki sign?

Abbott: Dallas Mavericks. If he's angling to sign somewhere else, he has been very quiet about it. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Adande: Dallas Mavericks. He re-signs and spends the remainder of his career in Dallas; you haven't heard of any other teams planning to fly to Germany to get him to sign on the dotted line. More likely than 50-50? Yes, highly likely.

Arnovitz: Dallas Mavericks. No superstar has a more unwavering relationship with his franchise than Nowitzki has with the Mavericks. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Coon: Dallas Mavericks. Dirk has no intention of going anywhere and is opting out in order to lock in more years under the current CBA. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Ford: Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban lost Steve Nash a few years ago in a very similar situation. He won't let it happen again. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Hollinger: Dallas Mavericks. He'd never leave Steiny Mo. More likely than 50-50? Yes, a lot more.

Sheridan: Dallas Mavericks. With a no-trade clause in his contract, because he can get one of those (just like Kobe) now that he is opting out. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Stein: Professor Hollinger makes a pretty valid point. More likely than 50-50? Yes.


Pierce

Where will Paul Pierce sign?

Abbott: Boston Celtics. It's hard to leave a team that has just had three years of very deep playoff runs. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Adande: Boston Celtics. He finishes as a Celtic, even though the thought of his heading home to Los Angeles as a Clipper is intriguing. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Arnovitz: Boston Celtics. Although Pierce's decision to opt out of the final year of his contract presents the Celtics with a chance to get younger, the Celtics will find a way to keep Pierce in green for a few more years. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Coon: Boston Celtics. Pierce will check out the free-agent market but will return for another run with KG, Rondo and (he hopes) Ray. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Ford: New Jersey Nets. If the Nets strike out with LeBron, Wade and Bosh, they're going to throw a lot of money Pierce's way, and I don't think Boston can or wants to match. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: Boston Celtics. Can't see him leaving and can't see the C's letting him walk. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Sheridan: Los Angeles Clippers. It'll come down to money here, and Donald Sterling will be willing to open his wallet wider than Wyc Grousbeck will. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Boston Celtics. The big difference between Pierce and Nowitzki is that Pierce is wide open to fielding offers from other teams. But Doc Rivers' return is a strong signal that the Celts will find a way to re-sign him to a deal both sides can stomach. I like the way Chris Broussard has been saying it on TV: Pierce is the modern-day Mr. Celtic. He really doesn't want to leave and they certainly don't want to lose him. More likely than 50-50? Yes.


Stoudemire

Where will Amare Stoudemire sign?

Abbott: Phoenix Suns. There's bad blood, but he's not going to find a team that better suits his skills. More likely than 50-50? No.

Adande: Phoenix Suns. I'm told he wants either Phoenix or Miami, so if the Knicks and Nets are taken out of the equation, that makes it practically a coin toss, weighted toward which team's cash is heavier. More likely than 50-50? Exactly 50-50.

Arnovitz: Miami Heat. If the troika can't come to terms on a Miami scenario, the Heat could tap Stoudemire as Wade's low-post counterpart. More likely than 50-50? No.

Coon: Miami Heat. He's been talking extension with the Suns this week, but ultimately his heart lies elsewhere -- teaming up with D-Wade makes a lot of sense for everybody. More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: Nets. Pierce and Amare may not be LeBron and Bosh, but they immediately make the Nets relevant and dangerous. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: New Jersey Nets. Phoenix, Miami would be co-favorites in this race. More likely than 50-50? No, way less.

Sheridan: Miami Heat. It'll be him and Wade as the cornerstones, with the rest of the cap money split on second- and third-tier free agents. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Phoenix Suns. After all the trade speculation and tension, Amare will ultimately decide that life with Steve Nash is better than life without him. More than 50-50? No.


Boozer

Where will Carlos Boozer sign?

Abbott: New Jersey Nets. The Nets have tons of cap space and need production alongside Brook Lopez, and Boozer fits the bill. More likely than 50-50? No.

Adande: New York Knicks. He'd prefer Miami, but the Heat might look elsewhere, leaving him to search for other options. More likely than 50-50? No.

Arnovitz: New Jersey Nets. As the third free-agent power forward in line behind Bosh and Stoudemire, Boozer will have to wait for the music to stop to see where he lands. New Jersey might be the team with the open seat. More likely than 50-50? No.

Coon: New Jersey Nets. When Stoudemire and Bosh are off the market, Boozer will land with the remaining team dangling max cap room. More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: New York Knicks. The Knicks have to sign somebody … right? More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: Miami Heat. He's had eyes for the Heat for a long time, and the only thing that could thwart him is if Miami hits the LeBron-Bosh jackpot. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Sheridan: Chicago Bulls. If I am right about Joe Johnson going here, too, Booz can be convinced that a starting five of Rose, JJ, Deng, Boozer and Noah could come out of the East. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: New Jersey Nets. I reserve the right to claim I answered Miami if Bosh doesn't go to the Heat. I've been strongly advised Boozer has serious interest in the Nets, but this is one of the tougher calls because Chicago has legit interest, too. More likely than 50-50? No.


Lee

Where will David Lee sign?

Abbott: New York Knicks. New York can't lose the closest thing they've had to "the face of the franchise" walk in the same summer they strike out on James. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Adande: New Jersey Nets. The Nets could use another forward after sending Yi Jianlian to Washington, and in this case they wouldn't even have to pay moving costs. More likely than 50-50? Yes.

Arnovitz: Phoenix Suns. Like Boozer, Lee sits behind the glitzier power forwards in the free-agent pecking order. Could he be a low-cost alternative to a departing Stoudemire in Phoenix? More likely than 50-50? No.

Coon: Toronto Raptors. Knicks may work out a sign-and-trade to bring Bosh to New York and give the Raptors Lee to help make up for the loss. More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: Utah Jazz. If Boozer goes to New York, I can see the Jazz getting Lee back as part of a sign-and-trade. Jerry Sloan would love him. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: New York Knicks. It all depends on whom Knicks can get instead. More likely than 50-50? No.

Sheridan: New Jersey. Derrick Favors is going to be a nice player, but he is not ready to get the Nets to the playoffs next season, as Prokhorov has promised. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Toronto Raptors. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I find Lee's situation to be one of the more interesting wrinkles of this whole process. Predicting where he winds up is mostly guesswork because the Knicks are going to ask him to delay his decision while they pursue bigger names ... while Lee is sure to get big interest from other teams trying to steal him and mess up New York's plans.

I'm going with Toronto not because I expect Bosh to go to New York in a sign-and-trade but because I know the Raps are D-Lee fans. Can they figure out a way to acquire him? Wouldn't put it past Bryan Colangelo. More likely than 50-50? No.


Gay

Where will Rudy Gay sign?

Abbott: Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are enamored with their starting lineup, but small forward is the issue. More likely than 50-50? No.

Adande: Minnesota Timberwolves. A team that's been all point guards and big men recently could use a good wing player. More likely than 50-50? No.

Arnovitz: New Jersey Nets. They have some room on the wing, while the Grizzlies drafted a swingman in Xavier Henry. More likely than 50-50? No.

Coon: Los Angeles Clippers. Striking out on LeBron, and with Aminu in the fold, the Clippers will settle for the cheaper option at the 3. More likely than 50-50? No.

Ford: New York Knicks. If the Knicks can't land a star, they try the next best thing and sign a young guy who could be a star someday. More likely than 50-50? No.

Hollinger: Los Angeles Clippers. I think they'll be left holding the bag in late July and will splurge on the last guy left. More likely than 50-50? No, way less.

Sheridan: New Jersey Nets. The Nets are probably the only big cap-space team that can afford to wait a week and see if the Grizzlies will match, and if Memphis does, New Jersey will still emerge in a strong position as the team with the most remaining cap room. More likely than 50-50? No.

Stein: Los Angeles Clippers. Another really good player no one's talking about. But the Nets and Knicks have been linked plenty with Gay, too, so this is another case where it's really too early to say. More likely than 50-50? No.



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