The LeBron James sweepstakes appears to have four finalists. At least, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.
“I’ve consistently heard from multiple league sources that LeBron currently has only four teams on his list: the Cavaliers, Lakers, Rockets, and 76ers,” O’Connor wrote in an article breaking down the Spurs and their closing window.
O’Connor is an NBA insider, but of course this claim is unproven. Whether or not this is the actual four — or if he even has four teams he is considering — is unknown. But lets run with it anyway.
What are the chances he goes to each of the aformentioned teams? How will he fit in?
Do the Cavs have the best chance of retaining James? Well, that all depends. The team made radical changes at the trade deadline and they appear to be working out — for the most part.
But the moves don’t suddenly catapult Cleveland to being an NBA Finals favorite. In fact, stuck well behind the Raptors and Celtics in the East, they still aren’t even favorites to make the Finals. Of course, with James, anything is possible and the roster of cohesive supporting players helps. As does the Brooklyn Nets pick they have next season (acquired in the bizarre trade of Kyrie Irving last summer). But is that enough to keep James happy?
The general concensus is, as he chases Michael Jordan into the sunset of his career, the only things he is missing is longevity and more titles. If he makes a move next offseason, he will better his chances of winning another championship.
The Lakers have been the subject of James rumors for quite some time. He has a house in L.A. and that’s where most of his business interests take him. The Lakers have the cap room to pay a max contract to James (more on that later) and to surround him with young talent like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. It’s a decent fit, but not quite a sure contender. James would likely need to invest some time with the Lakers, and help them build a roster that works around him to ensure he can get his fourth ring.
But heading west, in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, George Mikan and other greats does seem like a very reasonable move for James next season.
But, if he wants to beat the Warriors, Houston is the place to go. Already the best threat to upset Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, James’ role on a roster that boasts James Harden — this year’s MVP front-runner — his Banana Boat buddy Chris Paul and a carefully chosen roster of role players could be perfection. He could play off the ball, play some power forward and rely on others to do the heavy lifting in the scoring column.
The issue is salary. Houston will start the 2018-19 season millions and millions of dollars over the threshhold. A bevy of trades would need to take place to make room for James. Or, the team would need to ink him under the league minimim — a sure signal that James is colluding to win and not respecting the open market. Fans and the NBA Player’s Union would not approve of this move.
Philly could be the most fun option of the quartet. James and Ben Simmons already share a connection. Joel Embiid, if healthy, is an All-Star for years to come and the Sixers have a handful of great role players to flank James with — like Dario Saric and Robert Covington. They also have a potential lottery pick in the upcoming draft, the yet to play Markelle Fultz (who could learn from having James in his locker room) and a ton of cap space not only to sign James to a max deal, but also to mold a roster around him.
Arguments for: The Sixers will be adding one of the three best players ever to play the game at 33-years-old, still at the back end of his prime. Arguments against: James will inevitably drop off, and will command control over nearly everything in the basketball operations office — and could undermine the future of The Process so many were so patient for.