John Wall Is the Summer's First Big Move
The Free Agent Panic of 2010 officially started last Thursday, when the Celtics bounced LeBron James and his Cavaliers from the playoffs sooner than expected. As much of a shock as this brought on, though, it was nothing new. Most NBA fans have spent the last year or more churning over various Summer of 2010 scenarios. Cleveland's big fail certainly changed the tenor of this summer; inertia doesn't seem to be on the Cavs' side anymore.
Strong as that sounds, it's still pure speculation, not that different from what had been going on for months already. From now till July, it would just be louder. Friday morning caught many people bemoaning the arrival of a truly tabloid-esque NBA news cycle, that might blot out even the Finals. But less than a week later, we'll have a new development to chew on. After the lottery on Tuesday night, the landscape for free agents could look quite different.
The Nets, Timberwolves, Kings, Clippers and Wizards are all lottery entrants who also have the cap space to be part of the free agency derby. In the most sensational terms possible, that means there are five teams with a shot at LeBron James, the most coveted free agent ever, and the most coveted prospect since King James. Of course, it's not that simple. Some have no shot at James even if they land Wall; others could benefit from adding consolation prize Evan Turner to their nucleus. And then there's all those other free agents to consider.
Either way, after tomorrow night, we may actually have something new to talk about.
At the risk of hyperbole, or bestowing god-like powers upon an untested 19 year-old college freshman, John Wall could very well help decide who goes where this summer. That starts at the top, with LeBron James himself -- the player who has taken the greatest interest in Wall. Whether or not the ex-Wildcat is actually going to sign with LeBron's marketing agency LRMR, the fact remains that the two have been sniffing each other out for a minute now. James recognizes how good Wall could be, as both a player and a commodity, and sees the advantages of some sort of partnership, mentorship, or just plain relationship.
Here's the why-the-lottery-really-matters part: Since this is the summer of superstar alliances, James -- and possibly others -- are likely to see Wall more as a peer than a hot-shot rookie. If they're building dynasties here, a point guard like Wall is a key piece in a year or two. Rajon Rondo, anyone? That's not to say that Wall decides his destiny, or anyone else's. But if James or someone else is interested in playing with Wall, it's safe to assume that these heralded "discussions" we've heard so much about will not freeze out Wall or his people.
Let's ramp it back up a notch: John Wall's destination could, for all intents and purposes, be the first domino to fall in the whatever realignment of the league takes place this summer.
The Nets, of course, are the doomsday scenario, likely with two max contracts to dangle, Jay-Z hanging around, and the Brooklyn relocation two seasons away. That's the blockbuster everyone both dreads (because we love fairy tales) and pines for (because it would be totally awesome). It's storybook in the manner of cave painting, heroes, and slayed mammoths, not little kids saving the day. The Clippers have an outside shot, too, one better thought than understood. The Wizards aren't expecting Bron to come walking through that door, and do have perennial wild card Gilbert Arenas sticking around, but Wall is Wall.
Sadly for everyone involved, though, some destinations just aren't thought to be on LeBron's list. But don't despair, Minny and Sactown. Wall's presence would be a nice shot in the arm, altering their trajectory -- or in the Kings' case, correcting it -- and possibly helping them land another stud free agent. A Wall-Tyreke Evans backcourt is downright scary. Minnesota is already a gigantic mess, what with that Ricky Rubio situation they need solving. However, John Wall, right here, right now, means they can deal Rubio for something fun. They have big man talent to spare, and who knows, might emerge as a sleeper in the FA race, picking off a single straggler toward the end of the process.
Memphis doesn't have room to sign any free agents, but will likely be looking to re-sign Rudy Gay. That team almost made the playoffs in the West this past season despite persistent shakiness at the one. Wall would make this team really dangerous, really fast.
If the Nets end up with Evan Turner, they're still in a good position with regard to LeBron, though not necessarily much better than they were before. The deeper-than-you-think Clippers already have Baron Davis under contract; in some ways, Turner would cause less of a logjam, and the fact that he can both play some PG -- to say nothing of LeBron's passing abilities -- might make him a better fit for them. If there's such a thing as a rational version of an irrational, enigmatic possibility.
It goes without saying, then, that Turner also provides an intriguing sidekick for other free agents to consider, on any team. He doesn't command the same authority in the proceedings that Wall will. Yet the Kings, and Evans in particular, might rather have the versatile Turner than Wall, since 'Reke already dominates the ball and plays the resident superstar. The Wiz may or may not belong in this category. Can't they ever make sense?
Here comes the cold water: It's possible that Wall ends up with a team with no financial flexibility this summer. We've got an entirely different sort of intrigue on our hands if he's sealed to New Orleans, Utah, or Golden State; Philadelphia and Houston are looking at instant credibility. Whatever happens -- well, unless the Pistons get Wall -- this lottery will yield big news.
There's a good chance, though, that John Wall could emerge Wednesday morning as not only the league's prized rookie, but the opening salvo we've all been waiting for -- the Lexington and Concord of what's looking to be a long, eventful summer.