The 2018 offseason is just a few months away and the biggest storyline this summer will be the destination of a certain number 23. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently fighting for their playoff lives in their second-round playoff match-up with the Toronto Raptors. The possibility that James will have his earliest playoff exit since 2010 is at the back of Cavs fans’ minds.
If the Chosen One fails to reach the NBA Finals this year, the possibility that he’ll bolt The Land becomes more probable. If anything can increase James’ desire to stay in Cleveland, it’s either a championship or at least the opportunity to play in the Finals once again.
Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, NBA fans are eagerly awaiting the drama that will unfold once James expectedly opts out of his current deal and becomes a free agent in July.
If each of the league’s 30 teams could make a pitch for James, what are the chances he’ll consider them?
Here’s a look at each of the NBA’s teams as we rank LeBron’s potential landing spots in the offseason. This assumes that all of them will make room for James in order to get under the salary cap, similar to what the Miami Heat did to sign him, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in 2010, as well as the firesale that Jerry West pulled off to acquire both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 1996.
After all, if a GM can get James on his team, wouldn’t they give up almost every player on their roster to make it happen?
This is all in good fun, but don’t be surprised to see more than a handful of teams make a run at King James.
Long Shots – Non-Playoff Teams
30. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have a lot of question marks heading into the offseason with a team that’s one of the worst in the NBA and without a true building block from the current players under contract. De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Zach Randolph, and a 2018 NBA Draft pick don’t actually scream championship contender.
The Kings are rebuilding and James isn’t interested in spending his remaining years in the league on a project.
29. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are one of the many teams that will be on the outside looking in during the LeBron sweepstakes. Their cornerstone center, Marc Gasol, is on the downside of his career and Mike Conley isn’t going to justify that huge contract next season.
Despite having a good shot at the number one pick in the draft, the Grizzlies weren’t close to sniffing the playoffs this year, and James isn’t coming anywhere near Memphis, either.
28. Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., and one of the top picks in the draft will not be enough to entice James to join Dallas. The controversial situation in the Mavericks’ front office is sure to drive James away, too.
Unless Mark Cuban gets his organization in order and makes a deal that blows the King away, this partnership is over before it even starts.
27. Atlanta Hawks
The only advantage that the Atlanta Hawks have over the Kings, the Grizzlies, and the Mavs is that they belong in the East. Otherwise, a core team that consists of Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, and a high first-round pick isn’t going to cut it for James. They have the cap space to work James into this lineup if he chooses to join them, though.
If there’s anything that would’ve interested James, it would be the chance to play for a good coach like Mike Budenholzer, but now even he’s gone.
26. Brooklyn Nets
The future isn’t too bright for the Nets as their losing season won’t be rewarded by a pick in this year’s draft since the Cavs have the rights to it. They’re one of the most hardworking teams in the league, and on many occasions, the Nets weren’t too far from winning ballgames.
But D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson aren’t talented enough for James to work with. Though James may be able to carry them to the 8th seed in the playoffs, the Nets are going nowhere if they even make it.
25. New York Knicks
The Knicks are in rebuilding mode, but boy do they have one of the best young players in the NBA today. Kristaps Porzingis is going to be a top 10 player in the league in the near future. If not for his injury, who knows how much better he could have become as the season progressed?
The only reason New York isn’t one of the top destinations for James is that Porzingis’ injury will keep him out of the lineup until early next year. It’s no secret that James would relish the opportunity to play in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden every night, but without a chance to battle a championship, the Knicks are not going to be at or near the top of James’ wish list.
24. Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon is one of the players that James would be interested to play with on this team. The talented young forward is on the verge of stardom and could breakout by next season. James could help him along if he decides to sign with the Orlando Magic.
But, that’s a big if.
Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier are very good players, but the Magic are far from contending even with James along for the ride. Though they have one of the top five picks in the draft, the Magic are still a player or two away from becoming a playoff squad in the East.
23. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets were close to playing in the postseason, but they were denied by the equally determined Minnesota Timberwolves. They enter the lottery but have very little chance at nabbing one of the top 3 picks.
If they could get James to join them, the Nuggets would be instant contenders. A lineup that features James, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic definitely has big-time potential.
There’s no doubt that the playoff experience James would bring to this team would be invaluable to get them to the second round of the playoffs and perhaps beyond. But, an NBA Finals berth is out of the question, and that’s what will cost them a chance to sign Cleveland’s adopted son.
22. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have the best chance of any of the non-playoff teams to secure the first pick in this year’s draft. If they get DeAndre Ayton with that selection, the Suns will have a young, promising team with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and Marquese Chriss.
If you add James to this team, the Suns could make some noise in the West. They would be good enough to beat most teams on any given night. They’d be a playoff contender right from the start but will probably fall short in the second round of the playoffs, at best. But, can you imagine this team a year after that?
James may not be that patient with this team and it’s doubtful he’ll want to wait another year for them to contend for a title. He wants to win now, and the Suns won’t be able to give him that luxury.
21. Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should have been enough to bring this Detroit Pistons team to the playoffs. If you add James to this frontcourt, they could form one of the best units in recent memory. That’s a big “if,” however, since the Pistons are over the cap and the front office would need to gut their roster to have a chance to sign him.
James would surely relish the opportunity to play with two big men who can protect the rim, but the rest of the roster leaves a lot to be desired. Playoff contention? Sure. Championship contender? Not quite.
Their best chance to get James might be to trade Griffin for a more affordable All-Star that will allow them to build a championship team. Otherwise, James won’t be giving Detroit a look.
Long Shots – Winning Teams
20. Golden State Warriors
Fans are going to be angry at LeBron if he makes this move, but the championship possibilities are endless. ESPN’s Chris Haynes wrote about James giving the Golden State Warriors a chance to make a pitch for him next season. The Warriors would have to make some sacrifices to make this work.
According to Washington Post’s Matt Bonesteel, “Golden State would need Durant to decline his player option and agree to take less than the $25 million he’s making annually. And then they’d need to trade Shaun Livingston and his $8.3 million salary. And then hope that a roster consisting of three future Hall of Famers plus a bunch of league-minimum role players can do the trick.”
Actually, the Warriors might have to give up Klay Thompson too, as he could be the odd man out on this team. That leaves James with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green as All-Star teammates.
Then again, James likely won’t go to the Warriors given how Durant’s legacy took a hit when he left the Thunder for Golden State right after losing to them in the Western Conference Finals.
19. Boston Celtics
A reunion with Kyrie Irving just one year after he left the Cavs? Since Irving and James seem to have made up at the All-Star game, maybe they can form a super team together with the Celtics.
Or, maybe not.
As intriguing as a lineup of James, Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown looks like, this isn’t gonna happen. They’re over the cap so they’d have to get rid of one or two of their core players just to squeeze in the Akron native onto this team.
Plus, James wouldn’t dare let his critics think that he can’t win a championship without Irving. Would the Celtics want him? Of course. But will Kyrie? Not a chance.
18. Portland Trail Blazers
When asked if Damian Lillard is underappreciated, James showed much respect to the Portland Trail Blazers star point guard.
“Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”
"Give me Damian Lillard. I'll show you how appreciated he'll be."@KingJames on if Damian Lillard is appreciated enough 👀 (Via @cavs) pic.twitter.com/q5lhy0vMXp
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 15, 2018
Pairing James with Lillard is like the Cavs leader playing with a different version of Irving. Rather than having Kevin Love as the power forward, it would be Jusuf Nurkic in the spot. The Blazers would look like the Cavs from 2016 somewhat, but C.J. McCollum would be the big difference, giving James two 20-point scoring guards in the backcourt.
But they would have to clear cap space to get James, and his interest in joining them may have wavered (if there was any) after the Blazers were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round last week.
17. Toronto Raptors
The best Eastern Conference team in the 2017-18 regular season, the Toronto Raptors still have questions left unanswered until they beat James and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas are already a solid core for the Raptors, but they aren’t scaring anyone in the Finals. If James were to somehow magically fall into their laps, this would be a phenomenal team.
Alas, James isn’t about to go to join the Raptors just to play for a contender. There are other teams that have better options for him without going north of the border just to win more championships.
16. Utah Jazz
The dark horse team in this year’s playoffs, the Jazz certainly have had the last laugh after all of us wrote them off when Hayward left Utah to play for his old coach in Boston. Utah has the best defense in the league, and the old adage is that defense wins championships.
If James were to decide to move to the West, the Jazz should be on James’ radar. Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell has been spectacular, to say the least. With Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense, the Cavs’ All-Star forward would have the best rim protector that he has ever had in his career.
The Jazz would be instant title-contenders if they can get James to play for their team, but the chances of him considering the Jazz are slim since there are better options for him ahead.
15. Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo has transformed himself into a franchise player, carrying the Pacers to victory night in and night out until going down to seven games to LeBron’s Cavs.
The Pacers need to let go of a few players to get under the cap even more and perhaps add another All-Star player. That third player is going to be crucial to James’ decision, as it could nudge him to play for the Pacers if he thinks that they can win a championship within the next few years.
Until then, James would rather stay as far away from Lance Stephenson as he can!
14. L.A. Clippers
Jerry West is the perfect executive for James. As a board exec with the Clippers, West knows the 14-time All-Star and he knows how to build a championship contender around one transcendent player. He was able to do that with the Los Angeles Lakers and he can do the same with the Clips with James on board.
The Clippers have Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, and possibly DeAndre Jordan. They have a lottery pick, too, but it is unlikely that they’ll get a star from where they’ll be making their pick. However, James has always respected Doc Rivers as a coach and this would be an opportunity for him to finally play for him.
This team nearly made the playoffs, and if James were to come to L.A. via the Clippers, they could be one of the better teams in the West. But would they have enough firepower to beat the Rockets, Spurs, or Warriors? Probably not. But since West has a say in what happens to this team, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he can build a contender next season.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
There are few teams that have as much of an acclaimed trio of superstars as the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, this group may not be together for long with Paul George’s impending free agency looming on the horizon. That leaves Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony to man the fort in OKC, but even Melo could be gone.
Could James fit in where George was slotted in 2017-18?
The two play different games and George is supposedly a better fit for Westbrook’s game than James, but the Thunder still fell to the Jazz in the first round.
James, Westbrook and Anthony look unstoppable on paper. If the Cavaliers All-Star decides to play power forward with his back to the basket more, this group could surprisingly work well together.
This allows Anthony the chance to go back to playing the small forward position again. The only thing that can derail this team from its championship aspirations is Westbrook suddenly wanting the ball in his hands more again as the season progresses alongside James,
The Thunder would be more equipped to battle with the West’s best with this lineup. The only question is how much it will cost their depth.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Wouldn’t Andrew Wiggins feel a sense of victory if LeBron were to join him with the Timberwolves to try and win more championships? After all, it was James’ return to Cleveland that sealed Wiggins’ fate and sent him packing to Minnesota in exchange for Love.
Nevertheless, a team boasting James, Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, and Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be dangerous and a real threat to the NBA’s hierarchy. The only thing that will seriously endanger this partnership is salary cap restrictions. Depending on what kind of contract James demands from the Timberwolves and how much would be left of the roster after squeezing in the all-world forward, it’s unrealistic to expect this to work.
It’s more realistic for the Wolves to trade Butler for a more salary-cap friendly player. They’d still be one of the better ballclubs in the NBA without Butler, but the onus falls on Wiggins to be the defensive stopper once they part ways with the former Chicago Bull.
Potential Surprise Destinations
11. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are rebuilding but they have some nice pieces to work with in Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, and Lauri Markkanen. They also have a shot at one of the top picks in the draft. Would James want to join this group?
Not unless they trade some of their young pieces for some veteran All-Stars. As everyone already knows, James wants to win now, and in order for him to play for the Bulls, they’ll need at least one big time All-Star to play alongside him. One player who could conceivably join him in Chicago is DeMarcus Cousins.
If the Bulls make a play for Cousins with the idea that James will come along for the ride, Chicago could be an interesting destination spot for some veterans who could play for the minimum.
If they have a lineup with a core of James, Markkanen and Cousins, they have a decent chance at winning the East already.
And since James is chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan anyway, why not continue the pursuit in Chicago where His Airness used to play?
The only reason why LeBron wouldn’t want to do this is the fact that Cleveland suffered many painful losses to Jordan’s Bulls in the 80’s and 90’s (and another game-winner when he was with the Wizards in the 2001-02 season, too). If he’s leaving, he may not want to break Cavs hearts too much by going to Chicago, especially when there are still other better options available.
10. Miami Heat
The one team that’s like a second home to James is Miami. He spent four seasons with the Heat franchise when he was learning to become a champion from Dwyane Wade. His departure from South Beach left a bitter taste in Pat Riley’s mouth, but he has since moved on.
In the book titled, “The Soul of Basketball,” ESPN’s Ian Thomsen shared Riley’s thoughts on why James returned to Cleveland.
“While there may have been some carnage always left behind when he made these kinds of moves, in Cleveland and also in Miami, he did the right thing. I just finally came to accept the realization that he and his family said, ‘You’ll never, ever be accepted back in your hometown if you don’t go back to try to win a title. Otherwise someday you’ll go back there and have the scarlet letter on your back. You’ll be the greatest player in the history of mankind, but back there, nobody’s really going to accept you.'”
Could he once again try to make similar roster moves to accommodate James?
Knowing Riley, he’s all about winning championships, and if bringing James back gives him the best chance to win another, he’ll pull the trigger. He needs to do a lot of roster cleaning though.
But, the prospect of teaming up for the third time with his best friend may not be enough to entice him to join the Heat. After all, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, and Hassan Whiteside aren’t exactly championship-level players.
Pencil in Miami as one of the places that James would at least ponder, but Riley needs to make several roster moves to clinch the deal. Oh, and it has yet to be seen if James and Riley are on speaking terms again, too.
9. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are making waves in this year’s playoffs with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday performing like world-beaters on their way to sweeping the Blazers. Let’s not forget Nikola Mirotic as well, who fit in perfectly with the team after coming over from the Bulls.
They had this success without Cousins, who was sidelined for the rest of the season with an ACL injury in January.
The Pelicans are in no position to sign James with Cousins as their free agent unless they work something out to get them under the cap. King James Gospel’s Quenton S. Albertie suggests these summer transactions for New Orleans:
“After re-signing Cousins, to make room for James on the roster, they’d only have to trade some combination of the following players: Jrue Holiday (who will make $25.3 million), Solomon Hill (who will make $12.2 million next season), Omer Asik (who will make $11.2 million next season) and E’Twaun Moore (who will $8.8 million next season).
Seldom used Asik seems to be the only player whose contract they’d have real difficulty moving.”
Asik was traded to the Bulls before the trade deadline, so that leaves Holiday, Hill, and Moore as pieces that the Pelicans can trade away to clear cap space.
As great as Holiday has been playing, what GM wouldn’t want a starting frontcourt of James, Davis, and Cousins? That’s an all-time great frontcourt right there that would challenge the Celtics’ former Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish for the title of top frontcourt trio in history.
James and New Orleans should consider talking in the offseason just to see if they can come up with a deal.
8. Charlotte Hornets
If he doesn’t want to play for Jordan’s former team, how about playing for the team that he currently owns? That might be a challenge for the Hornets, who are over the cap and would need to find trade partners for players with huge contracts on their payroll such as Jeremy Lamb, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller.
Trading three or more of these players would open up the possibility for James to team up with Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, and Dwight Howard. If Malik Monk continues his development into the premier shooting guard they expect him to be, the Hornets could be another viable option for James to consider when he becomes a free agent.
The Hornets will also be taking a good, young player from the deep 2018 draft class that could develop slowly into one of the key players on the team in a few years.
But it’s the Jordan and James pairing that will be the most talked about storyline if the latter plays for the former. Just think about the conversations these two would have on a regular basis. James would learn from the greatest ever, and that could potentially increase his standing among the all-time greats even more.
The thought of seeing these two together on one team is enough to keep a basketball fan awake at night wondering about the possibilities. Good enough to win the East? Ehh. Good enough for reality TV? Absolutely!
7. Washington Wizards
Another possible destination that James may want to consider is Washington.
The John Wall and Bradley Beal backcourt is undeniably one of the top three in the league, and adding James into the lineup would certainly bolster their chances of making it deeper into the playoffs. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris are solid, if not spectacular, big men that James can rely on to provide the necessary inside presence for the Wizards.
Scott Brooks is still one of the best coaches in the league and having another once-in-a-generation player on his roster will give him another shot at making the Finals.
In order to get him to sign on the dotted line, however, the Wizards will need to get rid of some players with huge contracts, namely Otto Porter Jr. and Ian Mahinmi. They will also need a couple of veterans on the bench, preferably those with extensive playoff experience under their belt.
James with Wall and Beal is not exactly the super team that everyone expects but it’s a better team than what many may think.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
James playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo is fantasy basketball at its finest! Having the best forward in the league play with one of the best young forwards is certainly a salivating thought. Can you imagine these two passing alley-oops to one another on a nightly basis? They’d own half of the NBA’s Top 10 Plays of the Day!
Don’t forget, too, that if James signs with Milwaukee, he’ll get to play with good buddy Eric Bledsoe who nearly became his teammate with the Cavs in exchange for Irving last summer. Throw Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker into the mix and you have three talented 6-foot-8 forwards (including James) on the team. That means one or both of these players need to go.
As good as Middleton is, he may be the more expendable player here because of his salary unless the Bucks can play him at the two-guard position instead. Parker needs to be re-signed, but if he asks for a huge contract, the Bucks could do a sign-and-trade with another team that will net them a veteran shooting guard who can keep defenses honest.
Could the Bucks make this work? Of course, they can. Again, just like the other teams, they will need to get rid of several contracts to sign James.
5. Houston Rockets
The chance to play with banana boat buddy Chris Paul is a tempting thought for James. To make it even more enticing, if he signs with the Houston Rockets, he can play with a shooting guard of James Harden’s caliber. If James ever gets three-point shooting of this magnitude from his guards, you can almost guarantee championships are in the cards for this team.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor says that there are only four teams that James is really considering, and the Rockets are one of them. The organization is passionate and committed to bringing a championship back to the city of Houston.
James can make sure that the Rockets have a huge opportunity to win a championship every year. Paul wants nothing but more success for James. During an interview earlier this year, the Rockets playmaker major praise for his good friend.
“This will be ‘Bron’s 15th season and he’s already hit 30,000 [points],” Paul said. “He shows no signs of slowing down. Congrats to him, but we’re going to be saying this again when he gets to 40 [thousand], just remember I said that. He’s gonna get somewhere up there. I think he’ll be number one when it’s all said and done.”
The only thing that will truly keep him from joining the Rockets is the possibility that they could win it all this year even without him. It would be a poor career move for James if he suddenly moves out West to play with a team that just won the championship. And even if the Rockets just reach the Finals, it would be ridiculous for James to follow the same path that Durant paved which resulted in most media outlets, former players, and fans bashing him for his lack of competitiveness.
But if the Rockets underperform in these year’s playoffs, forming a James-Paul-Harden triumvirate isn’t a bad look for the King.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers aren’t denying that they want James to play for them. That’s also true for the entire city of Los Angeles, with the billboards “recruiting” the King becoming the subject of sports headlines during the regular season.
Among all the teams, the Lakers are the most prepared to not just make a pitch to James, but also to another All-Star caliber player. They have the cap space available to sign two veteran players to max contracts
That other player is Paul George. To many NBA fans and the media, the entire Lakers season felt like an audition for James and George to sign up with them in the summer of 2018.
Are Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and possibly George enough to entice James to join the Lakers? Unless they can squeeze in Julius Randle (a restricted free agent) in the mix, the roster still appears lacking in firepower. With James in tow and without Randle, this team could reach the West Semifinals. With Randle, they can battle for the Western Conference Finals at most. It’s still hard to envision this team as a championship contender, though.
Even so, depending on what he and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson agree on, the Lakers will be high on James’ priority list. This is Hollywood after all, and LeBron is all about superstardom.
3. San Antonio Spurs
James and Gregg Popovich have shown much love and respect toward one another over the years. Many have wondered what James’ career would be like if he had a future Hall of Fame coach calling the shots for him on the sidelines. Would he have five championship rings by now instead of three if he had Pop as his coach? Most likely.
With the Kawhi Leonard drama reaching a fever pitch the past month in San Antonio, the stage is set for the Spurs to trade the former MVP candidate somewhere. If James is set on leaving the Cavs, they could do a sign-and-trade with the Spurs to acquire Leonard. Of course, Leonard has to agree to a contract extension with the Cavs to make this work.
The prospect of James and Pop working together is a dream come true, not just for the player himself, but for the fans and the critics, too. We can finally see what James is truly capable of under the supervision of a coach that he respects utterly.
James will also have another All-Star big man in the form of LaMarcus Aldridge on his team. His arrival could also rejuvenate Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who will likely retire next season but might hold that off for a year just to play with LeBron. Let’s not forget that Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol can still play ball with the best of them.
Only two things could hinder James from going to the Spurs.
First, the Spurs’ championship window with this team is small with so many veterans. They probably have a two-year opening in which they have to win as soon as possible or else risk becoming irrelevant against the other Western powerhouses.
Second, going to the West is risky since the league’s best teams reside in that conference. James isn’t a fan of the 1-16 NBA Playoffs seeding that commissioner Adam Silver is proposing probably because it’s easier for him to reach the Finals by hammering down on the weaker East teams.
“I would disagree with that. I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.”
If the Spurs had a better lineup, these wouldn’t be issues that James will have to consider.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Nope, it’s not because of the billboards.
The most likely team to pry James away from the Cavs is the Sixers primarily because of Ben Simmons, or at least James’ relationship with him. He loves Simmons like a younger brother and he sees a lot of himself in the rookie.
James has been watching his career since Simmons’ college days. Now that he’s in the NBA, the Cavs forward feels like a proud older brother who saw his little bro graduate.
Then there’s Joel Embiid, the 7-footer who can play with his back to the basket and shoot from the outside as well. Embiid is an All-Star and figures to be one of the league’s best for a long time.
Both of these players have Hall of Fame written in their futures barring any unforeseen circumstances that will stunt their development.
The supporting cast is as good as any around the league. Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz look to have bright futures, and if they can somehow re-sign J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, and Ersan Ilyasova, the Sixers are loaded with talent across the board (don’t forget the hard-working Robert Covington).
If James wants the opportunity to play for a championship every year, Philadelphia is the place to go to.
One major issue that will keep James from joining this talented squad is how far the Sixers go in this year’s playoffs. If Cleveland somehow faces Philly in the conference finals and they lose, I doubt James will do a Durant move and join the team that beat him. But if the Cavs advance to the Finals by beating the Sixers, James can still join Philly next season with little to no venom coming his way from the fans and the media.
If James wants to leave Cleveland, the Sixers should be his first option.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
If there’s a landing spot that James should go to, all he needs to do is look outside his window. Cleveland loves James like a son and he is just as emotionally invested in the city as they are to him. The Cavs want him back and they are the only team that can sign him to the $205 million super-max contract that he is eligible to receive next season.
Money isn’t the issue as to whether James will return to the Cavaliers next season, but the roster and the coaching situation is.
This year’s playoffs is kind of like an audition for the entire team, especially for the new players in the lineup. After four games in the playoffs, James has been lacking in support from his teammates. Even playoff veteran but Cavs newbie George Hill has been struggling of late.
Love is still capable of All-Star numbers but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent so far during the playoffs. Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson are hard to figure out. At times, however, Hill, Smith, Korver, and Love look like they’re capable of being the reliable supporting cast that James needs, and that’s when they become dangerous.
There’s also the issue of coach Tyronn Lue. Though he’s not the worst coach in the league, he’s also far from being the championship coach that he was in 2016. His decisions have been questionable at best, leading to social media calling for the team to axe him when they were struggling in January and during the first two weeks of March. If the Cavs replace him in the offseason with a better coach, someone that James respects like Mark Jackson or David Fizdale, it will go a long way in convincing the King to return next season.
I mentioned in a previous article the possibility that the Cavs could take Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs without letting go of James. It requires trading the 2018 first-round pick they acquired from the Irving trade to the Spurs. At this point, it’s not a very enticing draft position for the Cavs, but if they can beat the odds and land one of the top three picks in next month’s lottery, the Cleveland could trade it to the Spurs for Leonard.
But, they could also keep that pick if it somehow becomes the number one selection and grab Ayton. He’s a future All-Star and one that James would definitely want to take under his wing next season. Depending on what happens with that pick, James will be watching carefully as he could extend his legacy by mentoring one of the best players to come in the draft in recent years.
James’ best option in the offseason is to stay in Cleveland, but it’s not the only choice. If he ever considers all 30 teams as potential landing spots, you can be sure that each of them will move heaven and earth to accommodate him.