On Friday Lebron James can pick up his $36.5 million player option for next year to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers. If he doesn’t, and it is looking more and more like he won’t, he will become a free agent on July 1st. The second King James becomes a free agent the NBA offseason will turn into a frenzy that will be more fun to watch than the finals(minus JR Smith forgetting the score). The biggest question that no one seems to know the answer to is, where will Lebron take his talents this go round.
We all remember the infamous decision special on ESPN, where Lebron sat down and broke the hearts of every person in Ohio by declaring he would be taking his talents to South Beach. Eventually, he won back the city of Cleveland by bringing them a championship, which they had been waiting over 50 years for. As much as Cleveland will try to make a push to keep Lebron, Cavalier fans can’t get their hopes up too much. This past year Lebron had arguably his worst supporting cast since his first finals run, and I don’t think that Cleveland will be able to improve the team enough to be able to retain King James.
What makes this year different for Lebron?
The King is 33, he’s coming off one of his best seasons, and he had to work the hardest he ever has to make the finals, carrying his team and playing 48 minutes a game at times. He’s tired and growing older, but he is still the best player in the world, yet he only has three rings and a 3-5 finals record to show for it. Lebron needs to go to a team that gives him the best chance of winning another championship, not because he is ring chasing, but because the world deserves to see him on a team that has a formidable roster. In my opinion, unless the Cavs come out hot in free agency, they are not that team.
So this leads to the question: What Team is the Best Fit for Lebron James?
The popular take for the past year or so has been Lebron to LA, so let’s start by looking at the Lakers as an option. LA would be a good fit for his family, seeing as he has two houses there already and it offers some great schools for his kids to continue their basketball careers it would make sense if he chose the purple and gold. Basketball-wise the Lakers have some good young pieces, but I don’t think future stars are enough to lure him in. What makes the Lakers a player in this fight is there cap space. They have enough cap space to sign two players to max contracts this offseason, so if they could land a player like Paul George it would help their pitch for Lebron. Even if they can land PG13, I believe they would need one more piece to be a good fit for the King. Kawhi Leonard has expressed that he wants to be traded to the Lakers, and if they could figure out a way to get him, it would make LA a prime spot for James. I don’t see the Spurs trading Kawhi to LA because it would create the makings of another superteam in the western conference. I also am not sold on Paul George heading to LA, I think this season may have given him enough hope to stay in OKC and try to make that “superteam” dream workout. So I think that the Lakers team as it is now would not be a good fit for Lebron, he would be in a similar situation to last season where he has to carry the load, and the bench would not be able to contribute when he is sitting. But if the Lakers can somehow land Paul George and trade for Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers could be a good fit for the King.
Could Lebron trust the process and join two of the brightest young stars in the league? I think he could, and Vegas has the 76ers with the fourth best odds of landing him. Now for the question of how he would fit into the lineup, there is some doubt. The biggest thing that I think stands in the way of Philly landing Lebron is the similarities in his game to Ben Simmons. Simmons plays the point technically, and Lebron plays small forward, but they have similar playing styles, and Lebron takes the ball up the court a lot. I think this could create some controversy or internal issues if one of them feels they are not getting the ball enough, and realistically Simmons would be the one who would have to take a back seat. That being said I think this team would be very dangerous if they could figure out how to balance these two players. With Simmons at the point, Redick at the 2(unless he leaves for free agency in which case they should try Fultz here), Lebron at the 3, Saric at the 4, and Embiid at center. Bolstering a solid bench with Robert Covington, TJ McConnell, Zhaire Smith, Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson, I think the 76ers would be favorites to win the east. Philadelphia’s ability to land Lebron comes down to this: if Lebron wants to buy into the process, they will need to be able to figure out how to make this team work harmoniously in able to perform at the highest level they would be capable of. If they can convince Lebron to come to Philly, I think they may be the best fit, basketball-wise, for him.
The Houston Rockets were seen as a possible destination for James, but it looks as if it would be almost impossible for them to acquire him. It would almost certainly have to be a sign and trade, and the pieces they would give up would hurt their bench depth mightily. I am going to count out the Rockets because of this, even though it would be fun to watch CP3, Harden, and Lebron tear it up. Houston needs to focus on re-signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela, they should not waste their time in the Lebron frenzy.
The Celtics and the Spurs are two other teams that have a shot of landing LBJ. Let’s start with Boston. This would also have to be a sign and trade, and Boston would most likely have to give up a first round pick and either Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving, plus another role player. This is why I don’t see Boston as a fit for Lebron, simply on the fact that he would be left with mostly young talent and Al Horford surrounding him, which I don’t think he wants at this point in his career. As for the Spurs, it would be a very hard time to try and land Lebron. They would have to unload a few players and hope that a few others opt out of their contracts. Also with Kawhi wanting to leave San Antonio doesn’t look as attractive for Lebron. So sorry to all those Spurs fans out there but acquiring Lebron James doesn’t look like it’s in your future.
Finally the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oh yeah, the team that he has spent most of his career playing for. Most people seem to have already counted out the Cavs from retaining Lebron, and I can see why they have. Just based off of last year and how hard James had to work to just make it out of the east doesn’t give Cavs fans a lot of hope for keeping their beloved star. But I’m not counting out the wonderful city of Cleveland just yet. I think that if the Cavs can clear up enough cap space and sign Paul George, Lebron may find it in his heart to stay. Better yet if they can find the cap space to sign CP3 instead of PG13, I think that would give Lebron a bigger reason to stay(banana boat forever). But I don’t really see Cleveland doing either of those things, and this leaves them with the same team as last year, plus Collin Sexton. Is that enough to make Lebron pick up his option and stay at least one more year? Only time will tell.
Strap in folks, the summer of NBA offseason frenzy is about to begin, and the Lebron James has the reigns in his hands. What he decides to do may change the landscape of the league next year.