This summer’s sports free agency period is far from over, but the big names have landed and are already preparing for a run at next year’s title. As promised, it was a wild and wacky two-week period that saw both the unimaginable and the unforgettable.

Welcome to the new NBA, where championship teams are built via free agency and sophisticated trades. For teams still looking to build through the outdated way of the draft, they should take a page out of the Lakers’ and Celtics’ books; the best way to construct a championship team is picking someone else’s roster. The AFRO constructed its own championship list of this summer’s free agency winners and losers and decided who best copied the winning formula and who failed in making the grade.

The Biggest Winners

Miami Heat
When you come away with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade over a two-day span, it’s safe to say you’re the summer’s free agency winners. Add in Chris Bosh and the Heat now has the foundation in place to compete for multiple titles over the course of the next six seasons (James, Wade and Bosh all signed six-year deals on Friday). Although Wade re-signed, prying James away from Cleveland was something that even Miami didn’t think was accomplishable. But the brilliancy of team president Pat Riley to land Bosh and re-sign Wade presented James with an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. Now, picking the Heat to win the title for the next few years will be something several sports writers won’t be able to turn down.

Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had a plan to land James and some may even argue they had the best presentation: an elite point guard, an up-and-coming center, loads of cap room, an appealing market and the chance to still be “The Man.” Although they didn’t land James, they did land Carlos Boozer to pair with Derrick Rose (that elite point guard) and Joakim Noah (that up-and-coming center). Boozer is a career 17-point and 10-rebound performer and definitely fills Chicago’s need for a low post scorer. What other Eastern Conference teams do after Miami’s free agency triumph almost seems moot at this point, but the Bulls became a legitimate challenge with Boozer’s acquisition.

Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks didn’t make the huge splash in this year’s free agency but they did upgrade their roster with some key veterans. Milwaukee resigned John Salmons to a five-year deal, traded for New Jersey’s Chris Douglas-Roberts and Golden State’s Corey Maggette, and signed Drew Gooden in free agency. Pairing the aforementioned players with last year’s rookie sensation Brandon Jennings and promising center Andrew Bogut makes the Bucks a team on the rise. It’s only so many players you can attract when you play in Milwaukee but the Bucks probably did the most with the least out of all of this summer’s NBA teams.

The Biggest Losers

Cleveland Cavaliers
The obvious pick. Two days prior to James’ decision on Thursday, the Cavs were in the running to land Bosh in a sign-and-trade which definitely would’ve been enough to keep James. After Bosh made his announcement on Wednesday to join Miami, James had two options: stay in Cleveland without any marquee help and risk the embarrassment and criticism of more playoff oustings, or bolt to a franchise where he’ll be assured of reaching the NBA Finals and risk the embarrassment and criticism for leaving. James chose the latter and left the Cavaliers’ organization —namely team owner Dan Gilbert— devastated. Losing James could qualify as one of the biggest player losses of any team in sports history.

New York Knicks
Signing Amar’e Stoudemire was pure consolation for missing out on James, Wade and Bosh. Stoudemire is scheduled to have microfracture surgery in a few seasons and is still recovering from an eye injury he endured two seasons ago. Stoudemire’s an amazing and efficient scorer, but landing James had been the Knicks’ Plan A, B and C for the last three years. If New York is able to acquire Carmelo Anthony next season as has been speculated, then the Knicks will surely be on the path back to respectability.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO