With league MVP Lebron James the obvious front-runner, the current crop of NBA free-agents make up a virtual all-star team, comprising of the likes of Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, and Carlos Boozer. This 2010 NBA free-agent class is no doubt the most star-studded and sought after group of players in the history of NBA free-agency, but they have yet to prove that they belong on a list of the greatest NBA free-agent signings ever.
It is clear that once the dust settles on the 2010 free-agent signings, some of those involved may make this list, but until then, I’ve decided to go back in time and assemble the 5 best free-agent signings in NBA history. The criteria for my decisions vary, as I use value, cost, and impact as my primary factors in determining this all-time NBA free-agent list.
The top five free agent signings of all-time are:
5. Chauncey Billups – Detroit Pistons (2002)
At the time of his signing, Billups was considered a journeyman player with a limited up side by most NBA scouts. Some questioned the financial sense in his six-year, $35 million deal with the Pistons.
Little did they know that Billups would develop into the cornerstone of the Pistons team, leading them to an NBA championship and becoming one of the NBA’s top point guards.
4. Steve Nash – Phoenix Suns (2004)
At 30 years old, Nash was considered somewhat past his prime when the Suns inked him to a six-year, $66 million contract. Six years into the contract, it appears that Nash mat still have several years of top-notch basketball left.
The winner of two MVP awards, Nash is a perennial all-star who has led the Suns into the NBA playoffs several times. He was well worth the investment.
3. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs (2000)
In 2000 Duncan’s first contract with the Spurs expired, and even though he had helped lead the Spurs to the NBA title in 1999, Duncan only signed a four-year, $45.9 million deal making him a free agent again in 2003.
Regardless of the reason for such a shortsighted move, the Spurs went on to win another title during the 4-year contract, which laid the groundwork for Duncan to sign with the Spurs long-term.
2. Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls (1996)
In a move that is eerily familiar to the current free-agent race to sign Lebron James, after Chicago’s incredible 72-win season, the New York Knicks cleared nearly $20 million in cap space while retaining the services of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and John Starks.
Rumor has it that they were hoping to land an opportunity to sign the greatest player on the planet, Michael Jordan. Luckily for the Chicago faithful, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf offered a record-setting single-season deal in excess of $30 million, which kept Jordan in town. The rest is history.
1. Shaquille O’Neal – Los Angeles Lakers (1996)
It is important to remember how dominating a player Shaq was in the early stages of his career. When you factor that into an equation that includes a rising star named Kobe Bryant, you have a recipe for NBA dominance.
When Shaq left the Orlando Magic and signed a seven-year, $120 million offer with the Los Angeles Lakers, this storied NBA franchise was once again set to immediately contend for the NBA title. Within four seasons the Lakers were dominating the NBA on their way to securing three straight NBA titles