One day remains until teams can officially start signing free agents, and needless to say I’m a bit excited. Normally the draft is best time for a team to improve itself. Every year, there are usually a couple of good free agents that can improve a team, but not many. Sometimes a few good players get traded, normally due to contract restraints. Top players usually get locked up to long term contracts by their teams. For obvious reasons few are traded. It’s hard to trade in the NBA where it often feels like teams are enslaved by the salary cap. If you want to get a franchise player, your best chance is to have a top 3 pick & a lot of luck.
This year has been another story. Arguably the best 5 NBA players are (in my particular order): Shaq, Duncan, Garnett, McGrady, and Kobe. Two of these players are already slated to change teams, and a third (Kobe) is available as well.
It’s not the drinking water that is creating this GM’s Gone Wild effect. It’s just the culmination of two lucky events. The only way a team trades a top notch player is if the unhappy player is an upcoming free agent and demands a trade. The format circumstances that landed Houston T-Mac’s isn’t completely unheard of; it seems only yesterday that Phoenix traded for an unhappy Charles Barkley.
However the Lakers’ breakup seems more rare. NBA dynasties don’t get broken up with the players still at their high level of play. David Robinson retired from the Spurs and Duncan is still minding the paint in San Antonio. When the Bulls dynasty broke up, the main cog Jordan retired (twice). For the second dynasty, Pippen was traded, but was more pumpkin than carriage. Hakeem stayed with the Rockets until the age of 38, while Drexler retired in a Houston uniform.
Going back to an earlier generation, Isiah, Laimbeer, and Dumars all finished their careers with their championship team. So did Magic, Kareem, and Worthy. The same with the Celtics’ Bird, McHale, and Parish (OK Parish didn’t, but he was 40 when he left). Dr.J stayed in Philly as well. That gives us a good 25 years of NBA history where no dynasty has broken up like the current Laker one.
These three players changing teams alone will make for the most interesting offseason since the ABA/NBA merger. However throw in the crop of players available this year either because of free agency or trade (and a little controversy), and it seems we’re in for one of the best offseason rides.