There is so much, for lack of a better word, stuff happening around the NBA, but we all keep coming back to one man: LeBron James. It feels like four years ago all over again. You turn on ESPN, trying to get even a smidgeon of the latest sports news and free agency news, but it’s LeBron, LeBron, LeBron. ESPN’s LeBron coverage has somehow turned into CNN’s missing plane coverage.
All the rumors, all the hype will end soon, and we can get back to talking about the real happenings in the NBA and the other middle tier free agents who still have the ability to change the NBA landscape. For now, let’s talk about LeBron… from a Portland Trail Blazers perspective, of course.
The LeBron stalemate is doing wonders for the Blazers, actually. By my calculation, there are at least three teams out West– the Suns, Lakers, and Rockets– directly hung up on this whole LeBron situation, waiting for him to decide so they have a better idea of Carmelo Anthony‘s and Chris Bosh‘s availabilty. And, most of the other teams are still waiting just in case another team has to move players for cap space or just see what the real market value of certain players will be based on LeBron and what he decides. Portland, on the other hand, is sitting pretty right now. The roster is basically set for next season, and they have a step up on most teams because they can start preparing, schematically, right now for next season. Maybe I’m overestimating that advantage, but if there is a roster turnover epidemic in the next month, which is definitely possible, you have to assume that it benefits the Trail Blazers for next season.
While other teams start to sign players and work on fitting them together, the Blazers have the summer to tinker with different things and try to make the team better from the inside-out. There also won’t be this “transitional period” where teams have to become accustom to playing together. The only piece to the puzzle Portland has yet to guarantee is backup guard Mo Williams.
There have been contradictory reports in the last few weeks about Williams and where he will end. We all know he said he wanted to stay in Portland. Coach Terry Stotts likes Williams as the backup guard and go-to guy off the bench, and General Manager Neil Olshey likes Williams, too. Williams, though, opted out of his contract in pursuit of a three-year deal. The Blazers, if they plan on re-signing Aldridge (it’s already in the works), and Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, need cap flexibility without having to go over the cap and into the luxury tax. Technically, Williams taking the Non-Bird Exception and a three-year deal wouldn’t necessarily tie up all of Portland’s resources, but it does make the situation a whole lot more difficult.
We can go back and forth all day about what Williams will decide to do, but it’s up in the air at this point. Dallas, Williams’ other suitor, did bring back point guard Devin Harris and brought in Raymond Felton in a trade with the Knicks. But the Mavs are still waiting on other bigger name free agents to decide before they know how much they’ll have left to offer Williams. They presented Chandler Parsons with a three-year/$46M offer sheet earlier this afternoon, so a lot depends upon if and when the Rockets match.
When LeBron makes his decision (2.0) all the dominoes of free agency will come tumbling down. For the time being, it’s pretty fun watching the teams out West deconstruct themselves to have a chance at signing a big-name free agent. The thought of Houston signing Anthony or Bosh is slightly terrifying, but right now, I’m definitely enjoying all the respective fan bases convincing themselves they have a chance at signing top talent. It gives Portland a slight preparatory advantage heading into next season, and that’s totally fine with me.