The most important day in recent NBA history will be July 1st. This is when free agency officially begins and judging by last week's trade deadline, the Super Bowl and Election Day combined for some teams. With a free agent class that includes LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh among other stars, it's not a stretch to say this summer could define the NBA hierarchy for the next ten years. With respect to the New York Post, which is already predicting a Knicks championship in 2011, there should be a clear-cut favorite in this summer's frenzy. The Bulls.
Six teams can sign a marquee player to a max contract this summer. The Knicks, Bulls, Nets, Heat, Wizards and Clippers.
The Nets are a complete train wreck, so historically bad that you can cross them off the shortlist of any player who wants to win.
The Wizards and Clippers have young pieces but both have too much trouble on and off the court for a player like James or Wade to consider them.
The Heat are interesting because they have the ability to sign a max player in addition to resigning Wade. They could potentially be the big winners this summer, yet there's one pressing issue. Wade doesn't particularly seem to want to stay. He refuses to directly answer questions about his status, but isn't bashful about singing the praises of other potential suitors.
The Knicks will get somebody this offseason. They simply have too much money and have invested too much time to walk away empty handed. While playing in the greatest city in the world is an attractive idea, playing for a laughingstock isn't. Over the past decade the Knicks have been one of the most inept franchises from top to bottom in sports. Their roster will be almost completely bare come July 1st. Why would Lebron leave a championship contender for that? Even with Broadway and the Greatest Arena on Earth.
And then there was one. The Bulls haven't received as much free agent buzz as the Knicks because Chicago is a significantly better team. They've been to the playoffs four of the past five years and unlike New York, haven't had to gut any of their roster for cap space. They have a budding superstar, 21-year old all-star point guard Derrick Rose. They have a young center in Joakim Noah who was leading the NBA in rebounding before a foot injury and a steady 18ppg scorer in Luol Deng. The Bulls would be an instant championship contender with the addition of Bosh. If you put James or Wade on that squad we're talking dynasty.
So why are Bulls fans nervous right now? Because since the Jordan era, the Chicago front office has been incapable of making a substantial move. There have been imminent reports of everybody from Kevin Garnett to Kobe Bryant getting set to join the red and black. Of course, none of these moves materialized. Bull's fans have come to expect the worst.
The truth is, nobody knows what's going to happen July 1st. No matter what potential free agents say now, they probably won't decide until the 1st or later. What we do know is the Bulls have the best combination of talent and cap space to attract free agents. If they fail to do so it will be crushing for their front office. And it will feel eerily familiar for their fan base.