For a few days I've been promising a column regarding the future of LeBron James and the impending free agency period. The reason some have what we'll call "interest" in this column is my ideas, which are rather unconventional. See, I don't see James in a New York Knicks uniform next year, but I don't see him in a Chicago Bulls uniform either.
I also see no merit in the current inundation of media coverage surrounding this issue. SportsCenter updates on the 10-minute mark are providing us with no real information, just the speculation of so-called "experts," who claim to hold insider information regarding the fate of the most beloved Cleveland athlete since Omar Vizquel.
Only LeBron knows where he will play next year. In fact, the only thing I am willing to say for certain is that the James gang will milk free agency to the very end. James loves the attention that comes with being the most coveted player in sports history and I expect him to visit at least ten NBA cities, giving all interested parties the chance to pitch their plan to him and every thirsty fan base a chance to dream.
While LeBron makes his tour around the league, Cavalier die-hards will wait on the edge of their seats, hoping the man who is supposed to put an end to a miserable half-century of sports history doesn't abandon them mid-quest. If LeBron does leave, his legacy in Cleveland will not be the one we all thought it would.
Instead of being remembered as the savior, he will be remembered as the man who promised to make the city party like Las Vegas. And he will be remembered as the man who failed. His legacy in Cleveland will not be as the greatest athlete, greatest clutch performer or even greatest Cavalier (Mark Price, Z). Instead it will be as the hometown kid who promised salvation--and never delivered.
Without further ado, the list.
Where LeBron will not play next season:
New York Knicks
- Realize this: LeBron, even with Chris Bosh or Dwayne Wade, will be several years short of winning a championship in New York. They have no bench, and can't build one in one offseason. See the Boston Celtics, LA Lakers, Orlando Magic, Cavaliers: all four teams took years to build a real, deep bench. He does not want to wait until his 10th NBA season for a legitimate chance to win his first title and that is exactly how long it will take (3 years) before the Knicks are a realistic contender.
- LeBron doesn't need the New York Knicks---the New York Knicks need LeBron James
- See New York Knicks. Even with the possible addition of John Wall through the draft, the team is young, has no permanent home and no bench.
- LeBron and Dwayne Wade will not play together next season. Here's why: Both players play best when the offense goes through them. They are used to starting with the ball in their hands and letting the other players capitalize on the attention paid to them by the defense. Wade is a point guard--there is no way you are taking the ball from him. Some will say LBJ gives up the ball to play with Wade, I disagree. His effectiveness on offense is not getting set-up by another player, but setting up the other players himself.
- Miami has a better bench but they aren't good enough.
- Chicago presents a complicated situation. One one hand, LeBron has a unique opportunity to play with a potential hall-of-famer in Derrick Rose and one of the games' best young big man in Joakim Noah. The Bulls also have a deep bench and good resources, coupled with big market allure. On the other, Rose is another player who needs the ball to run the offense and you have to wonder how that works with James.
- The bigger problem, and the ultimate reason why James does not go to the Bulls in July is the shadow of Michael Jordan. James can win 5 titles in Chicago and still be considered inferior. He will never be the greatest player in Bulls history; if he joined any of 25 other teams and won one championship he would be the greatest they had ever seen, and be remembered that way for years.
- This one is simple. Despite the disappointment this season and the big questions around the franchise, there is no better situation for LeBron James. His family, friends and loyalty lies in Cleveland. In addition, returning to the Cavaliers provides him the opportunity to makeup for this years' failures.
- James signs and Dirk Nowitzki re-ups and Dallas is an instant contender with a deep bench. Dirk is a second superstar level player who will have no trouble taking big shots in big games, but doesn't need the ball in his hands on every possession to succeed. For James and Nowitzki, each gives the other a teammate who won't disappear come playoff time--as both are so used to seeing in their supporting cast.
- Dallas would have to clear cap space to make this happen. Possible sign and trade.
- I love Portland because they are young, energetic and very talented. Brandon Roy is a second big-shot player, but can play off the ball when necessary. LaMarcus Aldridge provides the solid, youthful inside presence to compliment the James. Greg Oden, if healthy, is a bonus. Yes, Portland is a small market and out west (a disadvantage since the eastern TV market is dominant), but if winning is most important they will not be overlooked.
- Portland would also have to clear cap space to make this happen.
- The Los Angeles market is big enough for LeBron and Kobe Bryant--especially as Kobe enters the second half of his career. The Clippers provide young talent in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, as well as the veteran presence of Baron Davis. LeBron would have the opportunity to succeed with the same kind of young big-man, young guard packages that he has in Chicago and Portland. The only question becomes the willingness to work with Donald Sterling, who is something along the lines of the Al Davis of the NBA.
- Kevin Durant would have to play the 2. The Thunder would have to clear some cap space. Yes, this is slightly complicated. However, that would leave a lineup looking something like this:
SG -- Kevin Durant
SF -- LeBron James
PF -- Jeff Green
C -- Nick Collison
- Now, I am certainly a Cavaliers fan and I would love to see LeBron James re-sign with Cleveland. However, this lineup absolutely captivates me. With that combination of young talent, the Thunder could win the next 3 NBA championships. No joke.