UPDATE #2: In a surprise move, Chris Bosh has officially agreed to a five-year, $118 million dollar deal with the Miami Heat instead of the four-year deal from the Rockets. This now means that things should largely stay the same in the West – the Rockets will most likely match the offer for Chandler Parsons, keeping their core from last year intact, and the Mavericks will not acquire Parsons.
With Carmelo reportedly ruling the Lakers out, there is only one potential move remaining that could really affect the Blazers – some sort of deal between the Timberwolves and the Cavaliers centered around rookie Andrew Wiggins and All-Star power forward Kevin Love. This appears to be speculation at this point, but if it happened, the Blazers could very well see a franchise-altering player (Wiggins) soon playing for a bitter division rival.
Free agent forward LeBron James has officially decided to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers. In an essay penned for Sports Illustrated, James emphasized the importance of going home, as well as asking, “Who am I to judge?” (This last question is almost certainly directed at the vitriol he received from the Cleveland community at large when he left last time).
While this is LeBron, and it all takes place in the Eastern Conference, whenever the best player in the world makes such a monumental decision, it affects the whole league. You better believe that the ramifications will reach Portland.
What matters now is where and how the rest of the players fall. The most relevant dominoes left are Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Anthony’s decision is harder to peg, but I personally think he will either stay in New York or join the Bulls. Either way, that would leave him in the Eastern Conference. The only way he would greatly impact the Blazers is if he decides to join the Lakers, but this is looking less and less likely.
More relevant will be Chris Bosh. With LeBron out of Miami, he will almost assuredly take the Rockets’ offer of a four-year max contract. This makes the Rockets scary. Very scary. The Blazers squeaked by the Rockets in six games in the playoffs last season, but now imagine them with a floor-spacing four who is also an elite defender. Once again, the Western Conference gets collectively tougher with the addition of another blue-chip player, and the playoff road for our Blazers is that much harder.
The trickle-down effect continues even further, though. If the Rockets do acquire Bosh, this means they will be hard-pressed to match the three-year $46 million deal for Chandler Parsons on the table from the Mavericks. While the Rockets reportedly would still try to match, if it does not happen, the deal will make the Mavericks a stronger team as well. A starting lineup that contains Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Parsons, and Monta Ellis coached by Rick Carlisle has a good as chance as any of a postseason run.
UPDATE #1: It looks more and more like the Rockets will match the Parsons offer sheet. If this is the case, the Rockets simply become scarier, and the Mavericks less so. A Rockets starting lineup containing James Harden, Parsons, Bosh, and Dwight Howard instantly vaults to being one of the favorites in the West.
With no draft picks, and minimal flexibility with free agents (ultimately resulting in Chris Kaman and Steve Blake), the Blazers will have to rely heavily on internal development and improvement to keep pace in the arms race that is the Western Conference.