The Wizards remain confident they can keep Trevor Ariza, but clearly the free agent has options. The price of small forwards exploded in recent days thanks to the pursuit of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and Chandler Parsons' offer sheet.
The overall free agent market remains in limbo until James makes a decision on where he plays next with Cleveland and Miami the projected finalists. Which place he picks affects the overall NBA landscape and more locally, Ariza's options.
James returns to the Cavs
- Heat - Otherwise known as the "Ship Be Sinking" scenario in South Beach. Chris Bosh jumps to the Rockets for his max deal. Pat Riley still takes care of Dwyane Wade, who sticks around for a contract in the neighborhood of 4-years, $52 million. Miami enters either rebuild mode or attacks the remaining market place (Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson, Greg Monroe, Isaiah Thomas) with its enormous amount of available cap space. Even Riley will struggle to make the situation attractive in the short-term for veterans like Ariza.
- Rockets - Reports strongly indicate Texas-native Bosh will indeed return to his home state if James moves on. Houston has more salary-dumping work remaining if it wants the power forward and restricted free agent Chandler Parsons, who signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Having Bosh, Dwight Howard and James Harden would form the NBA's next "Big 3." GM Daryl Morey might not have enough financial room to hand out and other sizeable contracts to outside free agents.
- Mavericks - The odds increase that Parsons joins the Mavericks in this scenario assuming the Bosh-to-Houston buzz has legs. Parsons and Ariza play the same position, removing Dallas from the list of Ariza options.
- Cavaliers - After the fist pumping, after the Johnny Manziel-like partying and after all the "He brought his talents back home" comments, Cleveland reportedly will aggressively target Minnesota's Kevin Love. Even if the cost is Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs may simply have to say yes. The core of James, Love and Kyrie Irving with Anderson Varejao playing whenever possible becomes them Eastern Conference favorite.
- Bulls - Chicago's fate seems more tied to Anthony's decision. Ariza would be a solid addition, but the Bulls need an offensive creator and Ariza's scoring derives from being setup by others. Stephenson makes more sense as a Plan B here.
- Lakers - We'll get to Kobe Bryant and crew momentarily, but first...
James stays with the Heat
- Heat - Bosh also re-ups along with Wade. Assuming James receives the max contract and Bosh/Wade don't work for peanuts, Miami won't be able to add much more to the roster besides the previously revealed Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger deals.
- Rockets - Houston now has three days to match the Mavericks' three-year, $46 million offer to Parsons. Even at $12 million per year, Ariza would be cheaper.
- Mavericks - If Dallas does not land Parsons, they've been mentioned as a team interested in Ariza. Mark Cuban knows the title-winning window is closing with Dirk Nowitzki nearing the end of his highly effective playing days. That could lead to aggressive pursuit of the remaining notable free agents, including Deng and Ariza.
- Cavaliers - Not sure fans of the Brazilian national team would be as devastated as the city of Cleveland if James spurns them yet again. At least 7-1 only happened once. Anyway, the Cavs would be in no man's land in this case. No LeBron, no deal for Love, no Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev. At this point, Cleveland becomes the leading candidate to overspend heavily. Deng played with the Cavs last season, but reports already have Ariza as Plan B if James stays away. Irving isn't a pass-first point guard like John Wall, but he's certainly an attractive playing partner.
- Bulls - See previous entry
- Lakers - Los Angeles is the wild card in both scenarios. If James and Anthony pass on joining Kobe Bryant, the Lakers must pursue trades or the remaining free agents in the hopes of cobbling together a competitive roster. Bryant's two-year extension begins this season, meaning Los Angeles could offer deals that overpay in the short-term but leave needed cap space for the summer of 2016. That's when Kevin Durant enters free agency and we start this madness all over again. Southern California is also where Ariza calls home.
There are plenty of other wild cards in play; the Clippers for example cannot sign Ariza as a free agent, but could make a push for a sign-and-trade with Jared Dudley and future picks the possible prize. Add it all up and it appears those who want Ariza back with the Wizards should root for LeBron James to pick the Cavaliers. Those hoping Washington loses Ariza if a bidding war drives his price well past $9 million per season seemingly should pull for James to go for an Eastern Conference five-peat with the Heat.
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