LeBron James has just wrapped up his 11th season in the NBA. It was one of his most productive seasons in his career. An MVP candidate (possibly the award winner) that set multiple NBA records that may never be accomplished by any other player in NBA history. It unfortunately ended with a sweep of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Now fans, media, and the rest of the league is waiting to see what the King’s next move will be. A familar setting from that 2010 offseason when James took his talents to the Miami Heat where he won 2 championships. His next decision could shake up the league and create a new NBA power house. One of the most intriguing careers in professional basketball history is about to write a new chapter in his legacy. The question remains, will this be the right decision? Will it be the last?
Case made for the Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James shocked the world when he decided to return to Cleveland in 2014. Since then, he has taken them to 4 NBA Finals appearances, one of which they won. Cleveland provides plenty of reasons why James would consider staying. One, his family. Akron is where he was born and raised. His family seems to adore the area. I personally believe they will have a big impact in his next decision. Two, the freedom with front office. The Cavs have seen the best 4 years in the franchise history. The front office doesn’t want to lose him again. They may play all their cards and let LeBron have full say of the team. That includes players, coaches, and potential front office moves. Three, a max contract. LeBron could agree on a whopping 240 million dollar contract this summer with Cleveland. Due to the Larry Bird rule, only the Cavs can offer that sum of money. It would almost guarantee he would end his career in Cleveland.
Case against the Cavs
One name: Dan Gilbert. In 2014, Gilbert made his best move as the owner of the Cavaliers. Confronting LeBron James and apologizing for remarks he made after LeBron left for Miami. The apology resulted in LeBron’s return to Cleveland. After the Cavs won the 2016 championship, Gilbert seemed to take on a Jerry Jones like persona. A massive power trip which led to the 2017 offseason mess. He doesn’t resign David Griffin for general manager and angered Kyrie Irving to the point he demanded a trade. It turned into a bad domino effect that resulted in a rough 2017-18 season for the Cavaliers. Yes, they made it to the Finals but the lack of roster talent resulted in the sweep. James knows the situation better than any player in the league. Gilbert may have once again scared him away. And if so, how does Gilbert turn this team around? The last attempt was poor. Cleveland’s only chance at retaining James is in Dan Gilbert’s hands. Scary.
The case for the Houston Rockets
Houston provides plenty of reason for LeBron James to sign. He would play along side his buddy Chris Paul, MVP candidate James Harden, and a squad with plenty of depth (even though I imagine some players would have to go for salary cap space). Mike D’Antoni coaches an aggressive defensive playbook, that was a factor in taking the Western Conference Finals against Golden State to 7 games. There is also speculation that if LeBron goes to Houston, so will Carmelo Anthony. Paul, Harden, James, and Melo on the same team?! If that’s the case, Warriors wouldn’t be automatic favorites in the west anymore.
Case against the Rockets
I see James Harden having a problem with LeBron stealing his thunder. There was a time Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were on the same team. But that was different. All three were drafted into that situation. Since then, Harden has made a name for himself in Houston. If LeBron comes in and takes full control of the locker room, it would result in a distraction. Not all superstars will work well together. Houston is a player away from contending for a title. As crazy as it sounds, it may not be LeBron James. Unless they’re willinng to move on from Harden.
Case for the Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers are hands down one of the best franchises in NBA history. Currently, the team is young and has the funds to make a big splash in free agency this summer. Plenty of speculation that hometown kid Paul George will be signing with the team. The endorsement opportunities, Paul George, a young core, and the city of Los Angeles make it a sexy destination for LeBron James. It would make the Lakers relevant again for the first time since the Kobe era.
Case against the Lakers
Hypothetically, lets say Paul George does sign with Los Angeles. Both George and James agree to max contract deals. Keep in mind George is injury prone. Is a team with those two, Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball, and some key young roll players enough to beat Golden State? LeBron knows he only has so many seasons left in him. He has proven he can carry an inconsistent, decent team to the finals. But going up against Golden State in the conference finals with an inexperienced team and the chance to be playing without Paul George maybe a bad investment. Sure, LA can attract more talent the following year. But how much longer is LeBron willing to wait? Obviously not long. There’s a chance he could become a Laker, but the franchise better have a strong plan and fast.
Case for the Philadelphia 76ers
Philly stopped being the Cleveland Browns of the NBA is started being similar to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The new power house that is on the rise. Consistently getting top 3 picks in the draft started becoming worth it once it all came together. Now throw LeBron in the mix with what they have now. Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Saric, and a bench full of veterans. A combination that could take the league by storm.
Case against the 76ers
Too young and too hurt. Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz have already had one serious injury in their career. Embiid and Simmons missed their rookie seasons. Fultz almost had the same fate. LeBron doesn’t want a scenerio like the 2015 Finals where the supporting cast was plagued with injuries. The front office issues may not help their case too, but I think with the right hire they can fix that. LeBron would have to take the responsibility in helping prepare this young team for Boston and Golden State. I would be surprised if LeBron has anymore patience left after this past season.
Case for the Boston Celtics
Boston could be the dark horse to land LeBron James. They went into the playoffs with out their two best players and were win away from making the NBA Finals. A team that is stacked with some of the best young talent in the league. Brad Stevens is hands down one of the best coaches in the league and would be the best coach LeBron would have in his career. It may require a sign and trade but Boston would be a lock for the Finals the next few years.
Case against the Celtics
Stating the obvious, Kyrie Irving may have an issue with LeBron joining Boston. Even though James didn’t want Irving traded, the Boston point guard wanted to be “the man” of an organization. Which resulted in Irving being traded. He doesn’t want to be overshadowed by LeBron again. I can see a scenerio where James agrees to a sign and trade, and Kyrie returns to Cleveland. Gordon Hayward and Kevin Love’s name may end up in the conversation as well. Does it really matter if LeBron has Kyrie or not? No. But you need to take in consideration that the team is young with Horford and Rozier being their only valuable veterans. In order to beat a team like the Warriors, you need more experience that matches us well against them. Veteran leadership is key to winning the NBA Finals.
Case for the Miami Heat
There is a chance James takes his talents back to South Beach. The Dwayne Wade experience in Cleveland was short lived. You know LeBron would want to reunite with his best friend. If Miami’s front office plays their cards right, they could trade to get more cap space to add more talent to the roster along side LeBron. It would be a sweet reunion for fans and would put the team in Finals talks once again.
Case against the Heat
Pat Riley was really salty about LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Riley tends to be hard headed. I think he would definitely take James back but he would remind him who runs the show. Riley would have to pull a Dan Gilbert and apologize for everything that was said. But would LeBron really want to go through that again knowing there could still be tension later? Its hard to say. On top of that, Wade isn’t the player he was the last time James was a member of the Heat. Miami would have to blow up the roster to give him the right help. All in all, it sounds a little risky if you’re LeBron James.
Case for the Golden State Warriors
The scenario no one but Golden State fans want to think about. A roster that is already stacked with talent and has won 3 of the last 4 Finals. Everyone knows that if LeBron joins them that he will win at least 3 more rings. The real question is would Golden State agree to a sign and trade with Cleveland? If it guaranteed LeBron James to play along side with Curry and Durant, I think they would pull the trigger on it. The NBA’s worst nightmare.
Case against the Warriors
LeBron James would tarnish his legacy. Fans would never forget he opted to go to the other team because he felt he couldn’t beat them. It would look like a cop out. He wouldn’t look any better than Kevin Durant when he made his decision to sign with Golden State. James would earn more rings and less respect. It would hurt his reputation so bad it would be hard to say if he is the best player of all time. It is an all around bad idea.
Case for temporary retirement
It isn’t very likely LeBron James would retire right now. But for a second let’s play with the idea. He is able to play basketball, but his body took a bigger toll this year. He could tell the league he is retiring for a year, which would give the Cavs and others time to improve their rosters. The 2019 free agency class is bigger than this year’s. LeBron could opt to join that class and help make a superstar team. A fresh LeBron with a new improved team? They would at least make four Finals appearances.
Case against retiring
I don’t know the man personally, but people that follow his career can tell you he is a family and business man. If he took a year off and enjoyed the time away from the court, he may never come back. If you could find a way to take advantage of other opportunities and see your kids more, why wouldn’t you? He might get tempted to never suit up again.