Lebron James made it official last night, he will join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat. The more and more I think about this situation I think it is great for the Milwaukee Bucks and here are some reason why.
1. Central Division is Much Weaker
At one point in this free agent mess there was the possibility that Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Lebron James would have all been in the division with Wade in Chicago, Lebron in Cleveland and Bosh with one or the other. Now Cleveland has been wiped out and Chicago did not get any new superstars. The Bucks already made huge strides last year passing everyone in the division but Cleveland and with the moves made by John Hammond pre-draft and the start of free agency the Bucks have positioned themselves to be at worst in contention for the division title with Chicago. Every other team in the division has become an after-thought, something the Bucks were for years.
2. A Great Rivalry With Chicago Reborn
Milwaukee and Chicago have had a good sports rivalry between them going back decades with the Packers and Bears. The city rivalry got better when the Brewers joined the National League with the Cubs. Now the two best teams in the Central division will be Chicago and Milwaukee, the rest of the teams are not even close to these two at this point.
Rivalries are great for sports, and regional rivalries get the blood flowing better than any Boston-LA, across the country rivalry could. The Packers-Vikings Monday Night Football game was the highest rated game EVER on cable last season for a reason. There was bad blood and a lot of drama. I am not sure if the Bucks and Bulls can ever supply that much drama, but the bad blood will be there and the NBA needs it. The NBA needs something to happen in the middle of the country that fans care about. It cannot just be about the Lakers, Celtics, what will the Knicks do, or now the Heat. All of those things can still matter, but now two of the top four seeds in the East will likely come from cities less than two hours a part.
3. Bucks Early Free Agent Strikes Will Look Better
There are a lot of teams left with money, they WILL spend it. This will drive the price up for all remaining free agents. This will be one reason Luke Ridnour is as good as gone. I would rather have Drew Gooden and John Salmons, no offense to Luke he did very well last year but a starting two guard and a 4 were bigger needs.
If Salmons and Gooden were still on the market they could likely get more money from any of the teams that have been left out. Who are the Nets going to sign? The Knicks still have money? The Bulls still have money? Even the Clippers have plenty left. I feel the Bucks truly got a bargain with both players compared to the contracts of Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Amare Stoudemire, wait until you see the contracts for players we do not think are at the same level as Salmons and Gooden.
4. The East Got Worse
Instead of spreading the wealth to the Knicks or Nets in some combination of Lebron or Wade or Bosh going to one of those teams or staying in the Central, they all went to one team. Only the Miami Heat got anything from the big three. The Knicks and Nets will have to compensate by overspending on players which only weakens your team more down the road. Cleveland will have a funeral sometime soon and Toronto will go back to being completely forgotten that they exist.
The Magic did not get better. The Hawks got a little worse in my opinion since Joe Johnson should not be the highest paid player in this free agent class. Boston got older. One team got better, a whole lot of other teams stayed the same or got much worse.
5. Not Known How Good Heat Will Be
The ultimate debate will now be how good can the Heat be with three superstars and nine nobodys. They will have to fill out the roster will a lot of minimum salary guys. These guys will likely have to be on one year contracts which means they will not be getting high quality role players and they will have to reshuffle every year. I think there are some problems with the setup of Heat that should be very interesting to watch. While the Bucks build a solid core around 7-8 players that add a player or two each year the Heat will have to turn over more than three quarters of their team each season. I think that will create larger problems than people realize.
Also, two of the most important positions, and toughest positions to find, are point guard and center. The Heat have neither with these three players, they will have to be weak at both positions. They have two great scorers who can bring the ball up the floor but neither is a point guard, and a very good power forward. The Bulls were never great at those positions but they had quality guys filling both spots that I do not think the Heat will be able to afford.
The pressure to win that the Heat will now feel will be immense. They will be labeled a bust if they do not win several titles and each year that passes without one will add to that pressure. Right now I still think the Lakers would beat the Heat regardless of who the Heat can add, that would add at least one year of pressure.
In all, I think the move is good for the Bucks. Yes, it gives them one giant hurdle to jump to get to the NBA Finals, but it made getting to the playoffs, getting a good seed, and advancing much easier. Go Bucks!