Again, like after the 2010 season, the huge watch of what LeBron James will do for the future is going to be front and center. Will he stay in Cleveland or will he go? Time will tell on that. That being said, it is also a very different situation in my eyes for the King. 8 years ago he was just entering his prime. He was already living life and the NBA was his for the taking. He wanted to play with his pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, also entering their primes. And it was a star-studded gala down there and they made it a show. They enjoyed nearly every second of it as they were acting like big kids (and I mean that as a compliment).
However, times have changed. LeBron is now 33 and while many consider him to remain in his prime, there maybe about 3-4 years left of it at the most. Winning and cementing his legacy as the Greatest of All Time has now gone into the forefront. However, detractors have said LeBron hasn’t been able to win championships without having a Super-Team to his credit. But as we’ve seen with Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors, it is becoming a “yeah, but he is still winning championships.”
One of the other differences I believe is that LeBron’s status with the Cavaliers may be more fractured than when he left the first time. The front office has somewhat tuned him out of the personnel moves the Cavs have made recently and perhaps have somewhat taken LeBron’s input with a grain of salt. I think that may play a larger role in this go-around now. So what I will do isn’t necessarily look at the teams who are in the LeBron sweepstakes but what LeBron may want from the next team he is on, whether it is the Cavaliers or others.
HE NEEDS TO BE ON A CONTENDER: Obvious statement. Teams like the Hawks, Clippers, Mavericks and a reunion to the Heat will NOT be involved. Even if he goes to a team like the Heat or even the Hawks where he can make them an instant threat in the Eastern Conference, it will be similar to what we saw in Cleveland this year of getting ran out of the building by the Western Conference champions. So that means the likes of the youthful and exciting Sixers come into play. It means that the Rockets come in the mix. The rumblings of maybe LeBron joining the team he’s seen in June the last 4 years in the Warriors come into the forefront. And while they haven’t shown they are a contender, the Lakers are the Lakers and getting LeBron and another star is definitely in the realm.
HE NEEDS TO BE THE FOCAL POINT OF THE FRANCHISE: This is where Cleveland has a major advantage over all else alongside giving him more money than any other team. If he goes to the Rockets, Warriors, or even the Sixers, he won’t be “the guy” as those teams have built in stars that run things. He would have to be somewhat of a “complimentary” figure to those guys. Even when he was with the Heat, it was still Wade’s team and LeBron knew that. He accepted it, but even in his final year there, you can sense that it was bothering him he wasn’t the guy. It isn’t a “bratty” attitude to have like some may point out, but for him and his caliber, he needs to be that focal point on the court and in the locker room. And I also think this is where Golden State is out of any running because of how that team is run by Steve Kerr and the players. I think it would be a clash of cultures if that happened.
HE NEEDS TO BE ON A TEAM THAT VALUES HIS INPUT OF MOVES: Meaning, he can tell the GM what the team should run out and get. This is where it got sticky for Cleveland this past year. Whether or not the whole story of Dwayne Wade being traded without LeBron’s knowledge is true, it is an interesting situation. Some believe that perhaps LeBron wants to be a player-GM so he can get his buddies of Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Bosh, and Chris Paul together thus creating his SuperFriends team. However, that window all but likely has closed as Bosh’s heart issues have pretty much ended his career. Wade has said after the Heat trade that Miami will be his last stop (though he is a free agent). Carmelo has one year left if he opts in ($28 million) with the Thunder, and he would be insane to take what maybe at least a $20 million pay cut and it wouldn’t be the same Anthony we saw for the first half of his career by any means. But I think “wanting to win another championship” would trump “wanting to play with his buddies all on the same team” for LeBron anyway. If he does choose the latter, it doesn’t matter what team he would be on, that team would collapse fast.
So which teams would have the best shot at getting the best player at least of this era? I think only 7 teams have an actual legit shot.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: If the relationship with LeBron and the front office hasn’t been so cold over the past year or two, I believe LeBron staying was as easy as LeBron driving to the lane and dunking it. However, LeBron has griped to the front office and the front office has pretty much told him in essence to shut up and play your game as we’ve done what you’ve asked for. Negotiations will be simple for any contract. LeBron would get the max, but LeBron would probably want assurances that the Cavaliers would have a stronger build around him. It’s feasible he stays. CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE CAVS: PRETTY GOOD
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: If you can’t beat ’em…join ’em. Even last year, rumblings of LeBron joining the Warriors have occurred. However, if you think that would be a mega-super-team, forget it. You can probably bet that Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would be having new zip codes in 2018-2019. And you probably can add a few other players not named Durant or Curry. There are a few things however. Golden State somewhat has a free-spirited team where it is like organized chaos. They have fun, screw around somewhat in practice and just enjoy being around each other and have a great balance. Even Kevin Durant has fallen into that mindset and it has shown. If LeBron wants to win at any cost, great and he would probably fit right in. But if he wants to win it “his way” I think that is where you’d have issues with how the Warriors run things. So it could go really good or really bad. Then again I said that about Durant signing with Golden State so what do I know? CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE WARRIORS: SLIM TO NONE
HOUSTON ROCKETS: This is an intriguing one for sure. Houston already has to find a way to keep Chris Paul in the mix as he helped taking over the Rockets to the best record in the Western Conference with James Harden. If Houston can keep Paul in the mix, Paul may do his best to influence LeBron to join the Rockets and we can see possible 7-game wars for the next season or two with Golden State. And it may work. But it may also depend about the “whose team is it?” bit with LeBron and James Harden and LeBron may not be overly happy on that. CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE ROCKETS: OK
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: They have the space and there really isn’t that pure franchise player, despite what LaVar Ball says of his son Lonzo. Heck, Lonzo may be an actual trade casualty if the Lakers opt to do a tandem of LeBron/Paul (which in that case, stay clear of LaVar). But it looks like if there is a tandem, it is LeBron/Paul George. So this will also be a bit intriguing. Much has also been made about LeBron purchasing a home in the Los Angeles area and how he is preparing for life after the NBA (i.e. being in entertainment). Some wonder if it is the start of him joining the Lakers soon. And the Lakers are also that team of “win now” so it does make sense, but Laker great Kobe Bryant doesn’t necessarily see a LeBron-to-the-Lakers as a match made in heaven. I’d take more of that if Kobe was technically a part of the Lakers management. Adding on, even if LeBron goes to the Lakers with Paul or George (or both…) not sure if it is enough to overtake Golden State either. CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE LAKERS: GOOD
MIAMI HEAT: This rumor has started to grow more & more. Wade said he is staying put as he is really a role player at this point. And there really isn’t a franchise guy at this point for Miami. He can come back and really be THAT guy that he wasn’t the first go-around. Now the big question will be if he can dictate what happens with other moves the Heat may make or if he can trust Pat Riley to do the right thing. My gist is he probably would be fine with what Riley can do for him. Speaking of Riley, he is obviously whistling a new tune saying that LeBron did the “right thing” leaving Miami for Cleveland as opposed to the original reaction of being furious. If this generates more steam, there may be something to this. CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE HEAT: DECENT
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: The Sixers turned heads this year as the draft pick players are really coming into their own and alongside Boston, may be the biggest threats to the Cavaliers (assuming if LeBron stays). Adding LeBron to that group would just make them sicker. And maybe LeBron would be the guy in Philly and maybe it would be enough to take down Golden State in June. But the one question is, can Philadelphia make the moves to open up the space for him and the question will be can LeBron (and the Sixers) win with Markelle Fultz at point? The same Markelle Fultz who only played 14 games last year as a rookie because of injury? While the Sixers would (and will) make a strong push to get LeBron, I think there are too many things working against them, notably of who they hire as GM, and if they can add other pieces for depth. I don’t see LeBron to Philly happening, though it wouldn’t be out of the realm. CHANCES OF HIM SIGNING WITH THE 76ERS: BELOW AVERAGE
I think it is going to be down to the Cavaliers and Lakers with the Heat having an outside shot. LeBron’s legacy is already polarizing as is so regardless, he will be scoped. If he stays with Cleveland, he pleases most masses, but some will argue he stayed so he can avoid the Western Conference and have an easy route to the Finals while dictating a team. If he goes to the Lakers, he’s a sell-out and can only win with other stars in place. If he goes to the Heat, he’s still a sell-out. My take is he stays home in Cleveland as the Cavaliers will re-tool and try to get a few other players to help him out, perhaps Chris Paul if they can clear enough cap space. So in the end, I think LeBron stays for at least another couple of seasons before he does go out West for good.
I guess we will see soon enough.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat