In the competitive, seemingly backwards world of NBA free agency, you've got to give up talent to get talent.
In a matter of days, the race will be on for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the stacked free agent class of 2010. And how exactly have teams prepared to lure in the game's best players? Simple — by getting rid of lesser ones.
Salary cap space is the name of the game, and with the cap for next season set at approximately $56.1 million for each team, all the major players in the sweepstakes are assessing their rosters, looking to trim fat from the payroll and keep only the bare essentials.
The Bulls picked up the phone on draft day and begged the Wizards to take Kirk Hinrich off their hands. Washington eventually agreed to taking Hinrich and the No. 17 overall pick for virtually nothing.
The Heat made an 11th-hour move of their own to clear out some room as they sent Daequan Cook and the No. 18 pick to Oklahoma City. They're also working on buying out the James Jones, whose dead weight is eating up their books for 2010-11.
The Knicks did their bidding back in February at the trade deadline, unloading the contract of Jared Jeffries by giving him, Jordan Hill and two first-round picks to the Rockets, all for the massive expiring deal of Tracy McGrady.
LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson all have between seven and nine years of experience in the NBA, meaning they're all eligible for a maximum contract of 30 percent of the cap, or about $16.8 million a year.
The Bulls have cleared out enough space under the cap for two such maximum deals. The Knicks have room for two as well. The Heat are one Michael Beasley salary-dumping trade away from having three max spots.
Without a doubt, you're looking at the three favorites to land all the top guys on the open market this summer. But in this high-stakes poker game, there will be big-time losers. Simply put, there aren't enough max free agents to go around.
If the Bulls get LeBron and Bosh, and the Heat get Wade back, what do the Knicks do with all their cap space? What do the Cavaliers do without LeBron? What's the plan from here for the Clippers or the Nets?
What if the Heat hit the trifecta with LeBron, Bosh and Wade? Does that mean the Knicks, Bulls and everyone else are all out of luck?
Everything that's happened in the basketball world in the past three years has been building up to this Thursday. And when it finally comes, and the free-agent picture begins to become a little clearer, someone's going to get left behind. At least one fan base is going to be very disappointed come July — in this free-agent fracas, absolutely nothing is guaranteed.