NBA Free Agency Preview: The End of the Big 3?

     I am now positive that the Miami Heat do not read this blog.  What a shame.  If they did, they could’ve survived San Antonio and took the NBA Finals back to South Beach for game 6.  Instead, they were crushed.  Again.  I wrote that they needed to win the battle of the benches and defend the three, and the Heat’s inability to do these things killed them.  But all props go to the Spurs for playing great team ball.  Now we’re in the aftermath.  Coming off a bad loss in the finals, and now in a free agency period where LeBron, D Wade, and Bosh can all opt out of their contracts, the future of the Big 3 is in question.  Similarly, the Spurs may have reached their expiration date with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.  Other stars like Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki are free agents, and the Pacers could be switching things themselves.  I’m going to give my opinions on the big headlines of free agency.
     Let’s start right off with the biggest storyline: the Miami Heat.  Are their best years behind them?  I believe so.  And it doesn’t even start with the big 3.  Key role players Ray Allen and Shane Battier have retired.  Chris Andersen is also a free agent.  Just like that, the majority of the Heat bench is gone.  Now they’re going to need some more veterans to sign cheap minimum contact deals just to keep the contracts of the Big 3.  Speaking of the Big 3, I am nearly 100% sure Dwyane Wade stays with the Heat.  Bosh will probably also stay, though it is not nearly a done deal.  The big question lies with LeBron.  Will he go on TV and make another decision?  Is a trip back to Cleveland in the cards?  The way I see it, King James has three options.  1) Leave Miami and try to win a title somewhere else.  2) Stay in Miami and encourage veterans to come and join him.  3) Try to lure in Carmelo Anthony to create one of the best lineups ever.  I say his best option is #2.  I don’t believe Carmelo will fit in well with the Heat, and doing so means he, the rest of the big three, and basically the whole team will have to take a pay cut.  I don’t think everyone’s really up to that.  The biggest reason that I can think of that LeBron would leave is for his “legacy.”  He is now a less than impressive 2-3 in NBA Finals.  Plus, his two wins came with manufactured rosters.  He may feel like the only way to be cemented as an all-time great is to really lead a team by himself and take them to glory.  Only time will tell which option he chooses.
     The Spurs’ main problem is age.  They are just old.  A few years ago everyone thought they’d be calling it quits, but yet they’re still here, still winning consistently.  Tim Duncan is 38 years old, and in my opinion should retire now while he’s still on top.  Some guys jeopardize how they are remembered by trying to stretch their careers out too far, and playing poorly in their final years.  Mr. Fundamentals hasn’t hit that point yet.  Manu is 36, and has been playing professionally since 1996, three years before even I was born.  Tony Parker is the baby of the bunch at 32.  He still is an elite player and I believe he will definitely continue playing.  Coach Pop is a hard one to judge.  Everyone knows how cryptic he can be, but he has publicly stated intentions to continue coaching.  I used to think that Coach Pop and Tim were a package deal, but now I don’t feel as strongly that they are.  I think Tim and Manu will call it quits, but Coach Popovich and Tony Parker will stay.  They still have young talent like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to help keep the Spurs in a good playoff position.  They will also have salary cap room to make some moves.  But would it surprise me if the whole gang stuck together for another year or two, going for the magical sixth ring for Tim Duncan?  Not at all.  And they just proved they are capable.
     I see the Indiana Pacers as a big mystery.  Everyone is still trying to figure out how a team that was so good and full of talent fell flat late in the year.  A lack of team unity seems to be one of the most likely causes.  Now that their year is over everything is starting to come out.  Paul George and Lance Stephenson don’t want to play with each other, and Roy Hibbert wouldn’t mind a trade.  All of a sudden, the Pacers could be a thing of the past.  If they stick together, they can still make a run, but at this point I’m not sure how things are looking in the locker room.  It will all come out eventually.  What we do know is that Frank Vogel will remain head coach.  Apart from that is a mystery I doubt the Pacers front office has even started solving.
     Now for some of the big name players and what I think will happen with them.  Carmelo Anthony is going to Chicago.  Joakim Noah’s recruiting efforts will not be in vain.  Dirk is staying where he belongs in Dallas.  The Raptors will lose their stars again: first Vince Carter, then Chris Bosh, now Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan.  Eric Bledsoe will not get the max contract he’s looking for.  He’s just not worth all that money.  Pau Gasol’s career is in desperate need of a reboot.  He’ll get it somewhere besides L.A.  Besides that, everything is still a mystery, and the cards will be played over the next few months.  Expect to see some familiar faces wearing new jerseys next season.

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