(Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
It’s no secret that Lebron James is looking for a change of scenery this summer. Lebron has a strenuous relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. It’s rumored that he has been touring prep schools in Los Angeles and Philadelphia for his kids to attend. While the Sixers and the Lakers would be great destinations for the King, I’ve been wondering where the best place for Lebron to go would be.
I broke down all thirty teams into separate tiers based on where Lebron is likely to go. From the ‘hell no’s’ to the ‘go buy your jerseys’, I’ll be breaking down why, and how, every team could or could not convince Lebron to bring his talents.
The teams on these lists are in alphabetical order.
No Chance to Make the Finals
Atlanta is another team in rebuild mode. Mike Budenholzer is (probably) a good coach when given talent. Building around a core of Dennis Schroeder, Taurean Prince and John Collins is not ideal for Lebron.
This is the only “bad” team I could see Lebron go to for fun. It won’t happen, but playing for Jay-Z’s team in New York would be kind of dope.
You think Lebron rules over coaches like Ty Lue and David Blatt? Put him with Fred Hoiberg. Plus, they’re rebuilding too.
Wesley Matthews still can’t stay healthy and Harrison Barnes is your fourth or fifth best player on a championship team. Dennis Smith Jr. is intriguing but not enough to lure Lebron.
Memphis is pushing the rebuild button. Marc Gasol is likely on his way out and that leaves a core of Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and… Plus the Western Conference is not a place he’s going to be willing to go without legitimate talent around him.
Speaking of a lack of talent, the Phoenix Suns everybody! Sure, Josh Jackson is a rookie and Devin Booker has some room to grow. Unless some of the other young guys (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss) make the leap people expected, the Suns will continue to be what they are.
Kyrie Irving is in Boston, which means Lebron is not going to Boston. Whether it’s because of Gordon Hayward’s injury or not, Boston is Kyrie’s team now. Lebron won’t want to go into that situation. Plus, a large part of the fan base can’t stand him and their roster is loaded with talented wings.
It’s awful to say, but until Chris Bosh’s contract comes off Miami’s books in 2019, this team is a bit hamstrung. Hassan Whiteside is the third best player on a championship and Miami doesn’t have a second. Lebron would have to bring another superstar with him, which would clear the roster out. Plus, that first press conference with Pat Riley would be a bit icy for South Beach.
Minnesota is exactly where it wants to be. Would they give up Andrew Wiggins for Lebron James? Sure. But Lebron isn’t going to play 40 minutes a night for Tom Thibodeau.
This is Russell Westbrook’s team. Paul George is about to leave town. Carmelo Anthony isn’t built for today’s NBA. The team is in Oklahoma City. Not happening.
Portland is a weird city with a weird basketball team. Lebron doesn’t fit into that weirdness. It’s nothing against Portland, I love their team, and the city for that matter. Late career Lebron is looking for power and influence as much as he is money. Portland isn’t it.
Toronto is another team that is on it’s own island. They play in a different country than everyone else, and they are more of a homegrown team. Signing a big free agent doesn’t fall in line with that. Plus, they already have the edge on Cleveland as it is this season.
Another weird team in a less weird city. Do John Wall and Bradley Beal get along? Is Otto Porter Jr. there to stay? Is Scotty Brooks a good coach? The world may never know. And Lebron won’t be finding out either.
Traditionally Bad Organization
Somehow the Pelicans front office will mess up the Anthony Davis situation. They’ll either wait too long to trade him or let him walk. Either way, until they start showing they know how to make smart decisions (like the Boogie trade), Lebron won’t be picking up that phone call.
It’s kind of sad. Lebron and the Knicks should fit together well. Kristaps Porzingis is a unicorn. James Dolan has ensured the rest of the roster is so bad, Lebron won’t look this way.
Remember when the Magic started this season by beating Cleveland and San Antonio? Good times. Remember when Rob Hennigan lost his job because of a whiteboard? Lebron James remembers.
On top of not being good enough to compete right away, Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadivé could still be calling random bloggers for advice. Run Lebron. Don’t let De’Aaron Fox and those dope City jerseys lure you into that trap.
A ‘meh’ team with no discernible future and the greatest player to ever do it running the team? Nah. Lebron has better things to do than live in that shadow.
Detroit is a more northern version of Cleveland. Even Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond can’t convince Lebron to go there.
“But it’s in LA!” True, but so are the Lakers. Never forget that Lebron gets to choose his next home city as well as the team he plays for. No one is telling him no.
Utah is a great organization, has great talent and a great coach. It’s a great mix of youth and experience and has a need for a legit wing player. The catch? It’s in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sorry Jazz fans. At least you still have Donovan Mitchell.
This list is in order of least likely to most likely destinations for Lebron. Every NBA team has a $99.093 million salary cap number this season, so it won’t rise much more than that next season. The teams also have a $119.266 million tax level. Let the debate begin!
Golden State has $128 million committed to next season. Andre Iguodala is due $16 million, but outside of that, the Warriors would have to clear out one of their stars. Lebron would be worth it to dump, say, Iguodala and Klay Thompson’s $19 million, but I doubt the Warriors would mess up their chemistry. Lebron also definitely doesn’t want to join the enemy. It’s an unlikely scenario, but if a championship is Lebron’s motive, there’s no better place to get one.
Denver seems like it shouldn’t belong on this list, but bear with me. They have Nikola Jokic on a $1.6 million team option next year, along with most of their young talent on rookie deals. Paul Millsap makes the most per year at $29.2 million, with the next closest being Mason Plumlee at $12.9 million. With only $106 million committed next season, the Nuggets wouldn’t have to move too much to sign Lebron. Mike Malone is at least a decent to good coach, and Dwayne Wade took a meeting with them in 2016. Again, not a likely scenario, but to rule Denver out is a mistake.
The only rational is Giannis. And Giannis could be the pull enough for Lebron to go to Milwaukee. A starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdan, Khris Middleton, Lebron and Giannis. How’s that for a death lineup? That team is running the East, no questions asked. You can say that about most teams in the East if they add Lebron, though. The Bucks are in a great cap situation, with $103 million committed, so they could move a couple low level contracts to get within range. It’s not impossible.
Ah, the top 5. That doesn’t mean the odds are in these teams favor. San Antonio hurt it’s chances with the way it’s handling Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich is a huge selling point, especially for someone who revers him as much as Lebron. Lebron and Kawhi on the wings with LaMarcus Aldridge down low is deadly. San Antonio only has $98 million committed next season and could put a strong offer out for Lebron this offseason.
Cleveland’s chances keep plummeting. The latest story, about coach Tyrone Lue’s health, is hurting Cleveland’s chances. I hope Lue finds the balance he needs in his life, but related to Lebron, it doesn’t bode well. Lebron is going to have every team available to him in free agency. Returning to cold, wet Cleveland with Dan Gilbert sounds less than appealing. Still, Cleveland can offer a larger contract next season than anyone else. Lebron could also sign another one year deal and wait until next season. Stranger things have happened.
Houston is actually a kind of great situation for Lebron. They owe Ryan Anderson $20.4 million next season. If Lebron announced his intent to sign with them, they would dump that contract to re-sign Chris Paul and sign Lebron. The Rockets only owe $78 million next season, so they have a lot of room to play as far as acquiring free agents. Clint Capela is only owed $3.4 million, which is a huge help. Add in the fact that Houston is without state tax, like Dallas and San Antonio, and they can make a real pitch to Lebron’s camp.
I can’t decide between the final two teams so I’ll file all my thoughts under…
Which twosome would you rather have next season: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid or Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball? I’d take Simmons and Embiid but Ball and Ingram aren’t a bad option either. Lebron would rather be in Los Angeles, but Philadelphia isn’t exactly a small market. Los Angeles would need more than Lebron, but Lebron and Magic Johnson would definitely bring in more talent. Philadelphia has a less stable front office, as strange as that sounds, which would lead me to lean toward LA. Los Angeles only has $34 million committed next season, and Philadelphia only has $43 million. It’s the battle of two up-and-coming heavyweights and it should get interesting. If Lebron is looking for another championship (or two) he’ll sign with Philadelphia. If he’s looking to expand his career outside basketball, he’ll sign with Los Angeles.