Early Bosh move would change scenarios

As word spread over the weekend that, before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, there will be some serious interest in Chris Bosh from the Rockets and Lakers (among others), the reaction around the league was swift.

If the Raptors were to trade Bosh to a contender in February, a team with which he might want to stay, it could dramatically alter the 2010 NBA free agent landscape.

Here’s why. A number of teams with cap space -- including the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks -- could pretty much kiss LeBron James and any other elite free agent goodbye.

The dream scenario for both New Jersey and New York is LeBron and Bosh would bolt their respective teams to go to a big-market team.

Privately, Knicks and Nets sources have told me that’s the only scenario in which they think they would have a real shot at prying LeBron out of Cleveland.

If Bosh were to leave for the Lakers or Rockets -- teams he would be expected to sign with, given the financial advantages involved in doing so -- it would change things for the Nets and Knicks.

Even before the rumors surfaced this weekend, the Nets were having second thoughts about their 2010 summer strategy. A source close to the Nets’ thinking told me that they are concerned that if they don’t land LeBron or Bosh, they may be stuck in the same situation the Pistons were in last summer -- with no elite free agents on the market, the Pistons were forced to overpay role players to fill out their roster.

“Because of our record we are going to be forced to overspend on guys like David Lee and Rudy Gay and perhaps Boozer if you can’t land LBJ,” the source told ESPN. “I don’t want to be like Detroit and spend just to spend.”

That position has prompted the Nets to begin looking at other possibilities, including using their expiring contracts at the trade deadline to bring back players that can help their team now.

The same source said that the Nets might be willing to move Devin Harris, along with an expiring contract or two, if they could land an All-Star and another young asset. The source said Brook Lopez was the only untouchable on the team.

The thinking is that if the Nets can land two good players now, that might be better than having to overpay to good players this summer out of desperation.

The Knicks haven’t gone that far yet. A source familiar with the Knicks thinking told ESPN.com that the plan, right now, is to stay the course and use their roughly $20 million of cap space this summer. They Knicks could greatly enhance their space if they could trade either Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry for an expiring contract. Team president Donnie Walsh is trying to do both, but it’s difficult.

But the Knicks source also said it’s possible the Knicks may have to change their plans as well -- either trying to use their expiring contracts for talented players now or possibly putting off spending money until the summer of 2011, when both Jeffries and Curry come off the books. On the other hand, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, sources say, doesn’t want to wait until 2011.

If both the Knicks and the Nets were to get out of the 2010 market, that would greatly open things up for the three other teams with some serious cap room next summer -- the Heat, Bulls and Thunder.

All three teams have some star power already and might be able to lure another top free agent to come there without the added competition from the Nets and Knicks.

The Heat believe they have a real chance at landing LeBron this summer, regardless of what Bosh does, but also feel their hand would be dramatically strengthened if they could add Bosh and James to a team already anchored by Dwyane Wade.

The Bulls will be devastated if they can’t get Bosh, their top target this summer. But they know they are in a scrum with a number of other teams and could become, along with Miami, the top free-agent destination in the league.

The Thunder don’t have Miami’s South Beach or the trappings of a big city like Chicago, but they do have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the most exciting young team in the league.