The days of young teams ousting the established champions are gone - though the Thunder are looking threatening - with marquee players increasingly abandoning their teams and joining forces to beat age. Usually this only happens when the players are desperate enough or free-agent enough to sacrifice their own game. A team's fortunes seem to shift ever quicker in the modern game, although perennial losers like the T-Wolves will likely stay that way barring a miracle, and the chances of a legitimate dynasty where a team not only wins multiple championships but dominates the regular season also seem slim, because veterans don't need the regular season, and they seem to be the only ones winning championships.
However, there are a few teams floating around which have a good core group, and just need a little bit more to be contenders. So here are a few of my trades and free agent signings which I think will be best for all involved and create a more level playing field in an ideal world in an effort to up the number of teams able to compete with the likes of the Lakers.
- Miami: Wade has needed a dominant inside scorer since he lost Shaq and the rest of the old-timers in 06. Give him Stoudemire and you've got a pretty sweet deal right there. Stoudamire can play up-tempo which suits Wade and is used to playing second fiddle so won't need the ball in his hands all the time. Wade doesn't need a playmaker, as he showed himself capable of getting his teammates involved, he just needs better players around him. Enter Devin Harris at the point and you have a pretty intimidating offensive team. Goran Dragic would be tailor made for this situation also, as he gets tunnel vision and just attacks, with Wade limiting his touches he could be a solid contributor.
- Chicago: Rose, Noah and Deng each bring something a bit different to the team; leadership, hustle, and a decent jump shot. However, they need another shooter and a more offensively talented big man. Enter Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh. These 5 as starters is a little bit scary. You could swap Bosh for any of the free agent PFs really though. David Lee could work.
- Clippers: If it weren't the Clippers I'd be more hopeful here, but God knows they aren't dependable. However, if everyone stays healthy they've got a pretty good starting 5 with just the one whole at SF. This could be filled in the draft, but why not give Tracy McGrady a shot? Sure, he is primarily a 2-guard but he doesn't lack the height and has expressed a willingness to take a back-seat role. Davis, Gordon, McGrady, Griffin and Kaman. Sounds like a plan to me.
- Nets: The Nets have a promising Centre in Lopez, a promising PF in either Yi or Favors or Cousins (take your pick), and a promising SG in Lee. However, Devin Harris is not the leader of the future. But while we are looking at young players, bring in a young PG while you're at it in Collison from the Hornets. He ran the team admirably in CP3s absence and showed remarkable poise when playing from behind (something the Nets will be doing often I think). Like the Thunder, if this group is allowed to grow together they could be a contender in the 5 years the Russian is promising.
- New Orleans: The best PG in the game, a good scorer in Thornton, solid bigs in Emeka and West and the hole remains at SF. Good fit here would be someone who can shoot the long ball (a weakness for the Hornets) like McGrady. I know I already gave him to the Clippers, but if most of these situations are a fantasy anyway so why not have fun with it.
- Atlanta: The reason the Hawks lost was because their C is a PF. Move J-Smoove to the SF position where he belongs and let Horford be that energetic PF. All Atlanta needs now is a big, defensively minded C to stop Dwight Howard destroying them and they could be ready to take that last step. Why not bring in Brendan Haywood. Everyone loves a 7-footer!
- Cleveland: I've said this before, but Beasley, Hickson and Varejao could be an intimidating set of bigs. All they need is the right guards. Parker could still be useful, but a point guard is what they lack. Maybe Collison doesn't work out at the Nets and comes to Cleveland. I have faith in his ability to run a proper offense - which the Cavs might actually have without Mike Brown.
Stoudemire is the most valuable free agent in terms of what he brings to an established team; he can move without the ball and play the pick and roll well. He has also shown his ability to explode when required and knows how to be a superstar role-player. If he ends up in either Miami or Chicago, things could get very interesting out East. Bosh would be a close second only because he is used to being top dog in Toronto and I'm not sure how he would handle the transition to second fiddle in another team.
This whole free agency bonanza is giving me a headache. I can't wait to see it play out, but I hope a few of these situations come about.