The numbskulls at ESPN have all predicted that LeBron will remain in Cleveland, but they couldn't be more wrong. It's a decision between New York and New Jersey right now, with Chicago in third. Cleveland is a distant fourth, and the Clippers and Heat are out of the discussion.
As much as LeBron wants to play with Derrick Rose, I think the shadow of MJ is keeping him from Chicago. I think he wants to play in Brooklyn, but the Nets aren't moving there until 2012 and he doesn't want to waste two seasons in New Jersey. I think the allure of being the best Knick of all time is too enticing for him to pass up, as well as creating a legacy as perhaps the greatest New York athlete of all time. He wants to be the "global icon" and there's no better place to do that than the biggest city in America.
Just like I predicted a couple months ago, LeBron will be a New York Knick in 2010. Probably within 48 hours. I think Amare Stoudemire does affect the decision positively, but I think it would have happened either way.
Once that happens, Chicago will pull the trigger on Wade. They're close, but waiting to hear for sure what LeBron's going to do. But I think Wade is ready to commit to Chicago, his home town, and will sign there within 24 hours of LeBron's announcement.
Shortly after Wade's arrival, Chris Bosh will join him in Chicago. Bosh's priority from day 1 of free agency has been to join either LBJ or D-Wade; he's tired of carrying the load and wants to be the sidekick for a few seasons. Wade+Bosh+Rose will actually give Chicago the best team in the NBA, although the Knicks and Lakers will be very good. Next season is going to be loads of fun.
With Dirk and Pierce and Joe Johnson staying put, the next big domino to fall is Carlos Boozer. I thought he would go wherever Bosh doesn't go, which will end up being Miami. But if Boozer is wise, he'll opt to stay in Utah since Miami without Wade is a wasteland. So Carlos remains in Utah yet again.
Now that the Knicks have Amare, their need to re-sign David Lee is diminished and he's up for grabs. Unfortunately for the Nets, he's their constellation prize. But he is a perfect fit there - a goofy white guy in New Jersey playing with Brook Lopez.
There's a lot of talk about Carmelo Anthony's upcoming free agency next summer, as well as Kevin Durant's. I'll squash those rumors right now and let you all know - both will be signed to contract extensions before September and locked into their current teams for another 4 years and $100 million. Denver and Oklahoma City don't want to risk what Cleveland's going through now.
Speaking of Cleveland, they'll have loads of cap room to spare once LeBron is a Knick and all the others have gone their ways. So too will Miami. So what will be their respective fates? Well, it's bleak. Let's just say it won't be pretty. Neither team will be making the playoffs next season; in fact, neither will win more than 30 games. There has to be a couple losers in this free agency, and sorry Cleveland and Miami, but you're it.
There are a few unsettled situations left to be resolved. One is Manu Ginobili. Another is Ray Allen. I think both will stay put, but the Nets will be willing to overpay either guy since they didn't get Lebron. They may successful steal Ginobili, who will probably be eager to join the much less competitive Eastern Conference. Allen will stay in Beantown for one more shot at a ring.
Then there's Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Shaq - three free agents who would have been coveted 5 seasons ago but are now very late afterthoughts. I think Houston has to re-sign Yao after losing the Bosh sweepstakes, and McGrady goes somewhere for a minimum contract, like the Kings. Shaq will replace Rasheed as Boston's backup big man.
And that leaves two wildly overrated shooting guards left in free agency - Richard Jefferson and Michael "Always Injured" Redd. I think the Spurs re-sign Jefferson to a one-year deal so they can get him off the books next season in order to keep Duncan next summer, and I think Redd can't find any love from the Bucks now that they have Salmons locked in long-term. Actualyl he probably won't find much love anywhere, but will settle for a small deal - say 3 years and $14 million - from a scorer-needy team like Minnesota or Charlotte.
So to recap:
LeBron joins Amare on the Knicks, Wade & Bosh to the Bulls, Lee & Ginobili to the Nets, and Boozer and Allen stay put.
Your 2011 NBA Finals: Bulls over Nuggets in 6.