With the NBA season over, the next major event that will drastically affect the League is Free Agency 2018. Clearly, the biggest prize this Summer is going to be LeBron James. Even at 33 years old, Lebron’s ability to single handedly lead teams to a NBA finals is compelling for any team looking to catapult to “contender” status. There is, however, very little that we know regarding where he wants to go. Currently, there are 7 teams that have confirmed meetings with him this off-season. This breakdown will rank the chances each team has on nabbing the biggest superstar in the NBA.
7. Golden State Warriors
If we were talking strictly basketball, LeBron going to the Warriors would essentially be an NBA breaking move. It would leave zero competition in basketball and would hurt the long term future of growing the game. While it would guarantee LeBron multiple championships, it would certainly ruin his legacy, and be detrimental to the brand he has meticulously created over the past decade. I do not believe LeBron would want to join GSW, and I am sure that he does not want to fight with either Steph or KD over becoming the number 1 option for this team. It will be impossible for Golden State to afford LeBron without cutting important pieces as well. Likelier, LeBron would need to take a pay cut. While he would be guaranteeing more championships, it’s unlikely that LeBron would want to win this way and for that reason Golden State has the least likely chance of snagging the King.
6. Miami Heat
No one is arguing that LeBron has great history with the organization. It was the franchise that brought him his first title, his good friend Dwayne Wade is there, and they have a respectable coach in Erik Spoelstra. The issues are rooted in the roster structure. Simply put, they do not have star-caliber players on the team, and Miami does not have the assets to bring in another super star to support LeBron. While Goran Dragic and Hasaan Whiteside are descent players, it is certainly not enough to win in today’s NBA. One could argue that LeBron would struggle to even make it out of the Eastern Conference with both Boston and Philadelphia. Simply put, the only reason he would go to Miami would be due to his previous relationships. At this stage of his career, LeBron is more concerned about his family and his ability to win multiple championships.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Even if LeBron James does end up leaving Cleveland, there cannot be a negative reaction from the Cleveland fan base. This man has singlehandedly made your team relevant for the past decade and decided to return to win a championship for his city (which he accomplished). From a basketball perspective, there is simply no reason for him to stay in Cleveland. The current team that has been assembled by Dan Gilbert is clearly not meant to win championships. It is a rebuilding team with a lot of young talent. It was through LeBron’s sole effort that he was even able to bring this team to the finals, nearly losing in both the 1st round against the Indiana Pacers and the ECF against the Boston Celtics. If he ends up in Cleveland, it would solely be due to the fact that he loves his city and he’d want to avoid having to move his family to a new city. Staying would be disappointing because it’d also mean that LeBron would end his last few years on a team that has little chance to contend. Home is where the Heart is, and for better or for worse, LeBron’s home has always been Cleveland.
4. Boston Celtics
As purely a Basketball move, this would be the best decision LeBron could make. Teaming up with an exceptional coach like Brad Stevens, along with having a bounty of YOUNG talent around him will both help him compete now and in the latter years of his career. I do not believe Kyrie would mind playing with LeBron again if that meant he would win a title for his city and he was still able to maintain his leading role on the team. Currently, Boston does not have the cap space necessary to sign a player like LeBron James to their roster. Therefore, in order to make this move successful, Boston would have no choice but to trade some of their core pieces in order to land the King in the Garden. One option would be having LeBron Opt-in and then forcing a trade by the Cavaliers to the Celtics. This would likely cause the Celtics to lose at least one of their three main stars (Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving) and then trading another asset as well (picks or role players like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris). This is unlikely, as the Celtics did very well in the playoffs this year with injuries to their two best players. If they remain healthy, they might not even need LeBron to compete in the NBA finals. Yet, if we know anything about GM Danny Ainge, we know that he is willing to pull the trigger for super stars if the price is right. Therefore, if the Cavs were to offer a trade for LeBron for just Gordon Hayward and a future pick, I doubt they would refuse the offer.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
There are many people convinced that LeBron moving to Philly would be his best option. Looking at Philly’s roster,, LeBron would be paired with two great stars in Joel Embid and Ben Simmons. Along with these two stars they’d have multiple role players like Dario Saric and Robert Covington that help spread the floor and will create the space needed for these three super stars to thrive. Philly will be able to sign LeBron without potentially losing any major pieces. The only piece they may lose is Reddick, who will have to decide whether he wants to take less money in order to contend for a championship or sign with a potentially weaker team to make a higher salary. Even if they do lose Reddick, the 76ers have enough 3-point shooters to combat the loss and could potentially add another free agent in the summer to fill that void. The last major plus for Philadelphia is that since they are in the east, the only real competition they have is the Boston Celtics- with LeBron on this team Philly will always have the advantage in a best of 7 series. In spite of all of these positive aspects, why is it that Philly is only 3rd on the list?
First of all- the style of Philly will be affected with the introduction of LeBron. Currently, Philly is extremely team oriented and is not focused on one person holding the basketball. Most of there players aside from their two stars create scoring opportunities off the ball. Even Simmons himself does not take that many dribbles and will quickly either drive to the rim or feed the ball to one of his teammates. LeBron has had the ball in his hands for his entire basketball career. Even in high school at St. Mary- St. Vincent’s, LeBron has never played on a team being the second or third ball dominant player. Therefore what will happen is that either Embid or Simmons will have to take a less impactful role in the offense and since Simmons will only take Lay-ups, it is quite possible that his role will be incredibly diminished in the offense. Another major issue that I have with this team is that it is extremely young and while talented has a lot to learn before becoming legitimate contenders. This was clearly demonstrated in the Second Round Series against the Celtics. Both team were young, but Philly clearly had more Talent than the injury ridden Celtics. So why did they lose the series? Simply put, they were not ready or prepared for the big moments that the playoffs present. From Ben Simmons only scoring 1 point in Game 2 , to the 4thquarter turnovers that cost them game 3, to Embid not being able to finish inside at the end of Game 5 costing them the series. Simply stated, they have a bit to go until they are true championship contenders against Golden State even with LeBron on the team. And while Brett Brown is a good Coach, he has not yet proven himself, as an Elite Coach, and has never had to manage a superstar like LeBron James on his roster. If they were to make it work, the ceiling for this team is ridiculous and they could win multiple championships. But it would be a he Gamble that LeBron would have to take, and this is also ignoring the fact that both Embid and Simmons have a bad history with Injuries. The question that LeBron would have to ask himself is whether he trusts not only the process, but this teams ability to take the next step as championship contenders.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have a great chance to land LeBron but not because of the reasons that certain people claim. Many people argue that by joining the Lakers it would transform his legacy and would help him in his battle to become the Greatest Player of all time. While it is true that the Lakers Franchise is home to many of the Greatest Stars that the League has ever seen, this fact is essentially meaningless in LeBron’s Decision. In the eyes of LeBron he is the greatest player of all time and wherever he goes by winning a championship in another city will demonstrate his dominance in multiple franchises. The next reason that people argue is that the Lakers have a big market and will help LeBron’s Brand. Again, aside from the Knicks and Celtics they are probably one of the biggest Franchises, but LeBron can brand himself wherever he goes. Essentially since he is the greatest player, he could end up in Orlando and his brand would still be relatively unaffected. The REAL reason LeBron Would Join the Lakers are two simple reasons. The first reason is Life style. LeBron and his family have homes in only two cities, L.A. and Cleveland. Knowing that it is going to be a multiple year deal and the fact that LeBron is a devoted father to his three kids he would not want to force his family to move and start over in completely new environment. In LA he does have multiple connections and it would have a relatively less transitional headache for his family. The second reason that LeBron would join the Lakers would be based on their ability to compete for a championship. While there current roster is not very Promising, under the Leadership of Magic Johnson, the Lakers have the ability to sign LeBron, Paul George, And Khawi Leonard on this team. If they are able to make this happen, the Lakers turn into automatic Championship contenders. Not only will they have three guys that can score at will, but will have three of the best defenders in the game. This team could easily challenge the Warriors and while it would be a transition, all three of the stars are Vets and would be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to Contend for a championship. The biggest thing that will deter LeBron from joining the Lakers are the of the court controversies that the team has recently dealt with. From the Delangelo Russell Nick young Debacle, to the entire drama surrounding the Ball family, LeBron seriously does not want to have any distractions from him winning a championship. Also this is all based on whether the Lakers are able to attain these other superstars. If they are unable to create a promising team, then the lakers will simply have no chance in this sweepstakes. But considering that both Khawhi and Paul George has shown interest in the team, and the amount of Cap space they have to sign these players, I would assume that they will be able to make a splash in Free Agency.
1. Houston Rockets
The King will join forces with both Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston. In comparing all of the teams I simply asked one simple question. Which team can help LeBron both enhance his legacy, and give him the best chance at winning a title? The Clear winner in this conversation was Houston. Imagine three incredible smart veteran NBA Super Stars all with a chip on their shoulders. Surround that team with amazing shooters and an elite level coach and you have a team that could compete against the warrior’s. One issue many people have with this team is that they see it as three ball dominant players having to share. But honestly I do not think it will be a problem simply because Harden, LeBron, and Paul are all very intelligent basketball minds and will be willing to feed each other and create plays for one another. Furthermore, With D’Antoni as a head coach he has the will to keep all of these superstars in check and create an offense that can easily compete against the warriors. The only real issue that I have issue that I have with this signing is that they will most likely have to let go of Clint Capella. While it may seem like a major loss, the way the NBA is played right now a player like Capella is a utility that can be utilized at certain points but can be a liability if kept to long on the court. When playing against the warriors he would end up being both an offensive liability. While he does help their defense LeBron can definitely help fill the defensive void that his absence would cause. The second major issue is that it is not really the most ideal situation for his entire family. Despite this, I just do not think there is a better basketball option for him and ultimately his family can end up creating a temporary move for this new adventure similar to how they had to move when LeBron left to Miami. While I do not know what Is going on in Lebrons Head I do know winning is his most important priority, and if he wants to win now then Houston is in reality his best option.