RAMIREZ: Contenders make splash in free agent market

Someone could let the NBA and its players know that roster moves don’t have to resemble a game of musical chairs. But what fun would that be?

Just when it seems that one team has the edge over the rest of the league, there is a change made involving a superstar or a star that causes people to reconsider everything.

First it was Richard Jefferson (previously a Milwaukee Buck) going to the San Antonio Spurs. Then one of the greatest centers of all time in Shaquille O’Neal (former Phoenix Sun) gets traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Shortly after, Vince Carter (former New Jersey Net) gets sent to the Magic before former Houston Rocket Ron Artest signs with the Los Angeles Lakers. And then former Detroit Piston Rasheed Wallace commits to the Celtics.

Honestly, it is enough to make an NBA fan’s head spin.

Below is a list of what the players mentioned will add to their respective teams.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have a strong shot at repeating as champions because of the Artest signing.

Although notorious for getting suspended and widely regarded as a loose-cannon, Artest gives the Lakers an added dimension of pure toughness, a staunch defensive player, and another scoring spark. If he can stay out of trouble and realizes that he is a role player and not the star, he should fit in nicely.

L.A. lost an athletic swingman with potential in Trevor Ariza, who could be a star sometime in the future, but the Lakers want to win now, while star shooting guard Kobe Bryant is still in his prime. Artest gives them a chance to do just that.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The 7-foot-1, 325-pound O’Neal will bolster the Cavaliers front line offensively and defensively. His ability to clog the lane and command double-teams could free up LeBron James to be even more productive than his 28.4 points and 7.2 assists per game output from last season. O’Neal’s leadership and postseason experience also helps.

If O’Neal can stay healthy, Cleveland could win the Eastern Conference and give ABC a dream Finals scenario with sub-plots aplenty — who doesn’t want to see Kobe and the Lakers go up against LeBron, Shaq and the Cavs?

San Antonio Spurs

A player on the cusp of being an All-Star every season, Richard Jefferson being traded to the Spurs transforms an aging roster that is probably the second best team in the Western Conference into a more versatile, youthful team.

The move probably made San Antonio the favorite to come out of the West until the Lakers’ signing of Artest. Bryant and Artest going toe-to-toe with Jefferson and a healthy Manu Ginobili could be a fun playoff battle to witness.

Orlando Magic

Carter going to the Magic gives Orlando an additional scoring option and adds more athleticism — if that is possible — to its already athletic roster. He is a solid veteran who has some experience in big playoff games.

Plus he fits right in to their 3-point shooting brigade (38.5 percent in 2009) and still has the ability to explode offensively at any time.

Boston Celtics

Wallace leaving for the Celtics is an intriguing move because he adds even more flexibility and depth to a roster already laden with superstars like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

In addition, Wallace is an efficient 3-point shooter (35.4 percent in 2009), rebounder (7.4 per game) and solid team defensive player.


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