Long has it been rumored that LeBron will leave the Miami Heat this summer in a quest for a younger, more championship caliber team. That seemed impossible to find this season as his Heat marched through the playoffs, but it all took a U-turn when the Heat lost to the Spurs in 5 games this past NBA Finals. Here we will break down some early possible (and hypothetical) destinations for King James.
*Featured image via fansshare.com
**Editor’s note: The “How he gets there” section of the Cleveland Cavaliers section has been changed. It was, originally, a sign and trade, but has been changed due to some deeper research. Apologies.
The first option that comes to mind when you think of LeBron jumping ship is Cleveland. A return to native Ohio would do wonders for his reputation as well as give him a sense of hometown pride. By far the most rumored post-Miami destination for LeBron, a Cleveland return would be a heartwarming story that many sports fans would love to see.
In fact, it would probably be the best option for his career and his legacy. Cleveland would be shipping nothing to Miami for LeBron’s services. LeBron would be paired with fellow star Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick in the draft, and a solid bench. That would be a scary starting lineup as well a scary second unit, with names like Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack.
How he gets there: Cleveland declines team options on Varajao, Gee, and Hopson, LeBron Opts out, sign max deal
This leaves Miami in shambles, while turning Cleveland into an immediate contender. By declining those team options, the Cavs are left with just $32,044,677 on the books for next season. That is enough cap space to sign LeBron to a super max, sign the number one overall pick, sign Irving to a max extension, and maybe sign 1-2 rotational players on cheap deals this offseason.
Miami gets screwed here, of course, just as Cleveland did the first go round. If LeBron truly does value returning to Cleveland over anything else, than this deal could easily happen and shoot the Cavs back to the top of the conference.
A movie like storyline this would be.
James goes to the one place that he can tear down the constant banter of him being not as good as the one and only Michael Jordan – Chicago.
James would pair with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, forming a scary big three in Chicago. He would also be able to (hopefully) revive the career of the now-lost Carlos Boozer. Those four in the starting lineup would probably produce more than the Miami big three, as the Chicago version would have balance, an all star point guard, and an all star big man.
One problem arises, though, as to how they would fare without all the players they ship off.
How he gets there: Sign and trade Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic for LeBron James
Trading starters Butler and Dunleavy as well as the heart of the bench in Taj Gibson and Tony Snell compounded with the shipping off of Mirotic’s rights would leave Chicago in ruins. The only players on the roster would be Ronnie Brewer, James, Noah, Rose, and Boozer.
They would hold on to their two first round picks, though, of which they could use on quality role players to build a bench around. They would need some very devoted guys to come in on cheap deals to chase a ring. The scenario is not impossible, but highly difficult to manage correctly.
The Heat would likely hold onto their elite eastern conference powerhouse status, as this trade would bring in a deadeye shooter (Dunleavy), two hyperathletic forwards to replace LBJ (Snell and Butler), a monster in the paint (Gibson), and a big guy who can shoot and has a lot of untapped potential (Mirotic).
This is probably the best offer the Heat could get in a sign and trade deal, and I’m sure there would be mutual interest between James and the Chicago organization. Whether LeBron feels convinced enough that he demands a sign and trade is a different story.
Los Angeles Lakers
Their is one reason James would be interested in going to the Lakers.
The opportunity to play for the storied Lakers franchise as well as team up with Kobe Bryant, the best Laker guard of all time, is tempting to any player. Just look at guys like Jodie Meeks and Nick Young, who have fallen in love with playing for the purple and gold, despite struggling to win games for the team.
James would join an elite class of alumni if he were to join the Lakers. Neither the Heat or Cavaliers have that kind of rich history. In fact, the most dominant part of each team’s history has been James’ presence on the team.
So of course, James would have to consider playing alongside Kobe and trying to get him his sixth ring as well as trying to get himself his third.
How he gets there: Opt out, sign max deal
This option is also attractive because this is one of the few teams listed who can truly offer LeBron his full max deal. With just a handful of players under contract next year, the Lakers could sign LeBron to a max, then work around him and Kobe’s deals to surround them with quality players.
Also, the acquisition of Steve Nash would perhaps finally become useful, as Nash would mesh nicely with a Kobe and James duo.
The lineup would truly be a work of art, but the Lakers brass could likely get it done. As much as we all would hate seeing James in purple and gold, it would definitely be one for the history books.
This would only be possible if James demanded a trade to Houston, but we should not rule that out.
James may now realize that his supporting cast of all stars is no longer the top combination. The allure of the young James Harden and the towering Dwight Howard may be too tempting for James, who is hungry for titles right now in the prime of his career.
The fact that Harden and Howard are so much younger than Wade and Bosh really does matter. James does not have much more time to win titles, and teaming up with a avengers like bunch could perhaps solidify his career and give him a place to settle down, knowing that his shooting guard’s knees won’t give out or his big man won’t chuck up threes for ages.
How he gets there: Sign and trade to Houston for Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, and 2014 25th overall pick
Now, this all sounds great until Miami hears what they get back in return. Sure Lin and Asik are quality contributors and would keep the Heat in the playoffs, they are not James. Chander Parsons, no matter how ridiculously efficient he is, is not LeBron James. Motiejunas and whoever they pick at #25 is not anything close to LeBron James.
You could say the same for every proposed deal, yes, but in the Chicago deal, the Heat get back surefire contribution and star power. This deal lacks both.
So, Houston and James are likely to interested in each other, but if the Heat aren’t willing to ship him off for next to nothing in star comparison, this deal will never happen.
So here is the sleeper of all picks. But listen up, because it makes a lot of sense.
Sure, the Hornets don’t have the talent that Chicago or Houston have, and they can’t offer the money the Lakers can, but they have one X factor that is sure to draw interest for LeBron. This is the opportunity to play for the almighty Michael Jordan.
Jordan has already done wonders for this Hornets squad, drawing free agent Al Jefferson to Charlotte.
James, instead of attempting to tear down the comparisons between him and Jordan by going to Chicago, could easily go and join forces with Jordan, building a dynasty WITH the best player ever, rather than building one to compete with him.
This would be truly one for the ages, seeing LeBron and Jordan on the same sideline, working together. Everyone always wants to talk about who is better, but a joining of forces could make for a better rep for James as well as an amazing sports story.
How he gets there: Opt out, sign slightly less than max deal
As said before, Charlotte has money to play with, but not enough to give LeBron his supermax deal. The draw of Jordan may have unmeasurable affects, though.
San Antonio Spurs
This one is perhaps ludicrous, but bear with me.
Let’s say Timmy Duncan hangs it up, and Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw follow suit or go elsewhere. Suddenly, San Antonio has the cap space to offer LeBron the full max deal. Crazy, right?
Well, not really. LeBron has seen the power of Popovich and the Spurs. What if he wants to join their ranks? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?
The Spurs, even if Duncan retires, will be far from lost, as Tony Parker remains young and Kawhi Leonard has proven to be a star. Coupled with strong play from Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Danny Green, plus the possible return of Manu Ginobli, the Spurs are easily a contender next season.
Throw LeBron into Pop’s system? Please, it would be carnage for other teams. A lineup of Parker, Green, Leonard, James, and Splitter would be a force to be reckoned with out west and swing the power from minor imbalance to complete takeover in the conference battle, favoring the west.
The craziest part of all this is just how possible it really is.
How he gets there: Tim Duncan retires, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw walk (highly unlikely), LeBron takes max deal
Of course, Miami must be listed here.
Everyone secretly hopes, for the sake of drama, that James bolts for a different jersey. But, in reality, that may not be his best option.
While younger stars, different cities, storied franchises, and legendary owners all sound great, none are proven successes like the Heat have been. Sure, they lost to the Spurs this past Finals, but did they not just win two in a row before?
This is not the downfall of their dynasty, but perhaps a quick fix. A reboot.
The Heat, Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade, and the city of Miami have given James what he so desperately wanted – rings. Is it time for him to abandon them in a chase for another?
So, what do you think? Where is the best destination for King James? Is it somewhere not listed here? Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.