NBA general managers may have felt this week like siblings watching the stack of presents swell under the tree in the days before Christmas.
Look, there's LeBron James next to the electric train set!
Wow, that's Carmelo Anthony beneath the stockings!
Hey, the shape of that gift sure looks a lot like Chris Bosh!
Of course, just because there are fancy packages to be opened doesn't mean front-office executives won't wince when they see the names on the wrappers. "FROM LEBRON JAMES" can only mean "TO" one team.
James may very well return to the Miami Heat, though a legion of front-office executives can dream.
"When you recruit," said one general manager, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be considered tampering, "all you have to do is turn someone's head for a minute."
The decisions of James, Anthony and potentially Bosh to opt out of their contracts could make a handful of executives merrier than expected when free agency begins at 9 p.m. PDT Monday.
The wooing will commence with phone calls and meetings and creative enticements (hopefully more effective than the "STAY" signs that couldn't convince Dwight Howard to remain a Laker last summer). Players cannot officially sign with teams until July 10.
In keeping with the Christmas-in-July theme, here's a look at the dreamy gifts, worthy splurges and stocking stuffers teams will be trying to load up on in the coming days:
Everything starts with James, who has already dined with Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Bosh to discuss their futures. Bosh reportedly is still deciding whether to opt out of his contract. The consensus is that they are all going to return with contracts structured to enable the Heat to significantly upgrade its roster.
One likely target in a stay-together scenario would be Kyle Lowry, giving James a dynamic point guard to play beside for the first time in his career.
If James decides to leave the team he led to two championships and four Finals forays, possible destinations would include Houston, Chicago, the Clippers or Cleveland. One front-office executive said it wasn't a given that James stays with the Heat.
"Whenever a player opts out, it creates uncertainty," said the executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because he could not publicly discuss free agents. "You look at Dwight last year, he left the Lakers, and that's the Lakers.
"Players these days come up through the AAU circles where they like being recruited, they like being shown everything they can be shown. It's a fun, sort of ego thing for them but there's also something real there because I don't think anything's ever a sure thing."
Anthony acknowledged as much last year when he said he intended to explore free agency for the first time. The New York Knicks hope to keep him but will have to ward off advances by Chicago, Houston, Dallas and the Lakers, all of whom would consider Anthony a rousing consolation prize if their pursuit of James failed.
Dallas is probably a longshot to land either player considering its history of failed pitches to elite free agents (see Deron Williams, Howard), but one player the Mavericks can count on retaining is Dirk Nowitzki, still among the game's top 15 players at 36.
There are two other transformative talents available this summer.
Lance Stephenson sure can be maddening, but there will be plenty of teams willing to shrug off idiosyncrasies such as blowing in an opponent's ears and gyrating on the court as long as the 23-year-old continues to blow by defenders the way Stephenson did last season. And did we mention he's only 23?