LeBron Should be Cavalier about his Decision
This is shaping up to be a summer where LeBron’s decision on where to play will go a long way in shaping the landscape of the NBA. Unlike “The Decision”, the impact won’t be as significant because the Golden State Warriors are the league’s most recent dynasty.
Other than opting back in with Cleveland, the teams mentioned the most are the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Miami Heat.
I’m going to throw out Golden State and Boston for two reasons. The main reason being style of play. The offense revolves around Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and that isn’t going to change, not even for The King. Furthermore, when Golden State struggled in the playoffs, it centered around Durant going isolation too much. The Warriors are built for ball movement and as great at Durant is, too much isolation limits the effectiveness of Curry and Klay Thompson. Throughout the entire season, James and the Cavaliers lived mainly off of isolation plays. As good as James was, this puts his teammates in a position to shoot a high number of “shot clock expiration” shots. Curry and Thompson’s effectiveness revolves around good looks at logical times in the offense.
In Boston, the Celtics offense will be based around Kyrie Irving when he gets back. With Irving’s ball-dominant style, how would LeBron fit in? On the surface, they made in work in Cleveland but there’s a reason why Irving isn’t in even Cleveland. With Irving back in the fold and the addition of Gordon Hayward, ball movement will improve so LeBron’s isolation would seemingly jam up the offense. Add in the fact that the Celtics had plenty of success on offense running the ball through Al Horford and you wonder why the Celtics would break up their continuity.
That would leave the 76ers, Rockets, Lakers, Spurs, and Cavaliers.
The 76ers are one of the up and coming teams after years of “Trusting the Process” but the drama hasn’t gone away. Joel Embiid is a trash talking, social media hound who looks like he’s going to struggle to stay healthy throughout his career.
As if Embiid doesn’t do enough to stoke the social media, Bryan Colangelo (now the former President of Team Operations) was removed from his job after his wife had a series of “Burner Accounts” that were used to put team business and opinions out for public consumption.
So who would want to add LeBron James to this environment? James has a history of using social media to voice his displeasure with his teammates.
With the 76ers being so young, it isn’t a good idea to add James to the environment.
On the court, James’ presence could slow down the development of Ben Simmons. The 76ers are trying to develop Simmons as their primary ball handler and though there’s been a lot of conversation about his woeful perimeter shooting, he still needs to learn the intricacies of getting his team in the offense beyond creating it for himself. It’s been much publicized that Simmons and James have a good relationship but from an on-court perspective, it makes very little sense.
Of course, the Rockets would come up with Chris Paul being of the “Banana Boat” crew. On paper, a healthy Paul along with James and James Harden looks like they could compete with the Warriors. However, upon closer look, that might not be the case.
The Rockets’ cap situation is the impediment here. They still have to re-sign Paul and Clint Capela (Restricted Free Agent) along with dealing for James. It’s not an easy feat as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton explains as he looked at the various scenarios that could get James to Houston.
Unless the Cavaliers are crazy enough to take on Ryan Anderson’s contract this seems to be a no-go. If James leaves Cleveland, the Cavaliers front office wouldn’t be willing to take on bad contracts as they would look to start their version of “Trusting the Process” around Kevin Love and whomever they take with the 8th pick in the NBA Draft.
Los Angeles Lakers
This makes little to no sense if you believe that LeBron is looking to sign with a team that can beat the Warriors.
Lonzo Ball isn’t ready from prime time and Brandon Ingram has yet to take a giant leap despite being considered untouchable. The rest of the roster is rather pedestrian especially if the Lakers allow restricted free agent, Julius Randle, walk.
Even if Paul George comes with him, the Lakers roster is far from being a championship roster. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka better have more cards up their sleeves. The addition of James will enable them to make the playoffs, maybe even win a series, but that’s about it.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs might be the most intriguing option. Last season they won 47 games despite not having Kawhi Leonard.
James heading to San Antonio make sense on many levels but the top reason might center around the word ‘desperation’. It’s obvious that the Spurs glory run is set to expire very soon so we can expect coach Gregg Popovich to announce his retirement sooner rather than later. Despite his high level of play, you can say the same about James.
James would fit in rather nicely offensively as long as guys like Danny Green hit their three-pointers. Tony Parker would still be the orchestrator with James and Leonard on the wings. It would make it very tough of defenses to rotate their help in a particular direction and/or player.
But, for the Spurs to win in the West, they would need to make additional changes along with bringing in James. Outside of Dejounte Murray, most of the Spurs talent is north of 30 years old. The Spurs need another young player who can contribute offensively. Even with the brilliance of Pop, they aren’t a Leonard return/James signing away from beating the Warriors.
What a James signing would do is put the Spurs back to being 2nd or 3rd in the West depending on how the Rockets do in the offseason.
This one is baffling. Miami isn’t close in the East no matter what their record says. They don’t have enough scoring and James won’t be in charge as long as Pat Riley is there. The Heat would have to attract a lot more talent or this is nothing more than the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers which isn’t going to get it done in 2018-2019.
The Heat’s ‘defense first’ mantra isn’t going to help James out. There isn’t enough perimeter shooting on the team. At best, the Heat could finish somewhere between 4-6 in the East. At worst, they don’t make the playoffs.
The “James Gang” years (James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh) were fruitful but any remake of this movie would be just as bad as any remake of a classic film.
Believe it or not, this looks like the best place for James. Sure, Dan Gilbert is one of the most undeserving owners to have an all-time great like James but this sets up well for The King.
Kevin Love, the number eight pick, and James is a good start. The key here is whoever the Cavs pick at eight must be productive in his rookie year. In ESPN’s Jonathan Givony’s latest Mock Draft, he has Cleveland selecting Michael Porter Jr. out of Missouri. Injuries sidelined Porter Jr. for most of his freshman year but this will work to Cleveland’s advantage. Porter Jr. would’ve easily been a top-five pick if not for his unscheduled year off.
The only person who can ruin this scenario is Dan Gilbert. It’s no secret that he doesn’t want LeBron there and his immature reaction to LeBron leaving Cleveland goes to show you that he doesn’t deserve to have good things.
Just looked how he managed the Cavaliers after LeBron left. With a bevy on high picks, the Cavs were a woeful franchise going nowhere. It was the polar opposite of what Danny Ainge did with his picks in Boston.
Whether Gilbert likes it or not, LeBron is the Cavaliers not him. That’s why he should do everything possible to ensure that The King is Cavalier about his decision.