LAbron? Trust the Process? LeBrockets? Stay Home?
Here we are, 33-year old LeBron James is about to make arguably his most prominent decision he has made in years. LeBron’s decision is simpler than it seems. The contenders to land him are the Rockets, the Sixers, the Cavs and the Lakers. In my eyes, LeBron will listen to the Rockets and Sixers but they are not legitimate landing spots. The Rockets would have to clear massive cap space in order to sign LeBron and retain Chris Paul. That involves getting rid of key rotation players such as Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela. The Rockets would also most likely have to let Clint Capela walk in order to bring in LeBron. The Rockets have financial issues and do not provide an attractive lifestyle to LeBron. LeBron would only venture to Houston if Chris Paul could do some serious convincing. It was also reported that LeBron “does not like Houston as a city.” Houston is a no go. Next is Philly. Philadelphia is linked to LeBron because of two reasons. LeBron and Ben Simmons share the same agent and Philadelphia is in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think LeBron chooses Philly mainly because it does not fit for his family, they don’t even contain the most talent in the East and he have to share the ball with Ben Simmons. Now here is where things get interesting, Cleveland or Los Angeles? LeBron owns housing in both and is familiar with both communities which gives both these teams a leg up on Philly and Houston. The past few days the media has gravitated to the fact that LeBron will be heading to LA next year. I agree with them however, it may not be this upcoming season. The Lakers currently are doing all they can to put together a trade package to acquire All-NBA Forward Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers must complete this trade rather soon in order to land LeBron this season. The Spurs would be more hesitant to trade Kawhi to the Lakers after a LeBron commitment because of the challenge it would present the Spurs in conference. LeBron is set to announce his decision on July 3rd, which gives the Lakers a little under a week to finalize a deal. Landing Kawhi Leonard would clinch a LeBron signing and a complete franchise turnaround. Kawhi Leonard has communicated with LeBron and has expressed an interest in playing with LeBron. LeBron has also been in talks with other free agents all summer so I think he is planning on leaving Cleveland, really it is just a matter of time. I still think there is a chance LeBron remains with the Cavaliers for one more season. It is very unlikely considering prior to free agency, Dan Gilbert has made several attention-grabbing comments. Gilbert has stated that LeBron leaving would “allow him to get his team back.” LeBron and the Cavs also are not planning on meeting during free agency, shedding more light on the disconnect LeBron and Dan Gilbert have. Alongside these comments, in recent weeks rumors have surfaced that LeBron James Jr. (LeBron’s son) has committed to Sierra Canyon, a premier high school in LA. If this is true, this is a large factor in LeBron’s possible departure from Cleveland. LeBron’s wife also wants to venture out West and is not too fond of Cleveland. LeBron has made it clear that his family does impact his decision on where he chooses to go. However, I think that there is a possibility that the Kawhi trade does not go through with the Lakers. If this trade does not go through, LeBron can return to Cleveland for one more year. His son, after all, is a rising 8th grader and would not be attending Sierra Canyon until the following year. So, if the Kawhi trade does not happen, LeBron goes back to Cleveland for a year, Paul George resigns with the Thunder on a one year deal and then Kawhi, LeBron, and Paul George are all free agents at the same time next year and have the freedom to all go to the Lakers. Unless the Cavs land one or two marquee all-stars, they will not be able to convince LeBron to stay in a rising younger eastern conference. Thus far this offseason, the Cavs have drafted Collin Sexton and picked up Kendrick Perkins option. Both those players did not play at all last season. The Cavs have not done anything to change LeBron’s decision to leave and virtually does not impact LeBron’s decision at all. If LeBron returns he will be playing with essentially the same time from last year. The current Cavs team will continue to test LeBron and require him to continue to drop 40-point triple doubles to even compete. The Cavs and Lakers offer very different things to LeBron. The Cavs are in a cap crunch. The Lakers have way more breathing room because they have young assets that they can trade and a large amount of cap space they have. The Cavs however, are paying George Hill 19 million, JR Smith 15 million, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson each over 20 million. The Lakers have Luol Deng being paid 18 million, which is a terrible contract but after that, the Lakers’ second highest paid player is 20-year-old young developing Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. The one downside LeBron faces when joining the Lakers is that now he is in the Western Conference. The Western conference contains, of course, the Warriors and their big 4, Harden’s Rockets, Westbrook’s Thunder, San Antonio, Butler and Towns’ Timberwolves and Anthony Davis’ Pelicans. A truly star-studded conference. Although the West is “harder” LeBron would be able to have pressure alleviated off him at 34-years old. He would not have to play 82 games a season and carry a lackluster team that repeatedly missed wide open shots or even play with players who cannot remember the score of an NBA Finals game. LeBron at age 33 does not need to be expending energy on meaningless games in Sacramento and Orlando in order to will his team to a 4th seed. No one will care about a close win in Sacramento. When people evaluate legacy, they evaluate the playoffs, regular season averages, and accomplishments. Triple-doubles in close games vs. a weak Kings team does nothing for LeBron long term. LeBron has a way out of Cleveland, he delivered on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland, he has given back to the city and most of all he gave Cleveland all he could. I believe LeBron has done some recruiting on the side and is going to bring in other free agents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Chris Paul or Kawhi Leonard. This is LeBron’s perfect opportunity. Los Angeles provides him with the further build his brand away from basketball, enjoy the weather, make his family happy, and ultimately chase championships. But all in all, I firmly believe LeBron will end up in purple and gold, it really is just a matter of when.