Really. He is.
If James and Co. are unable to lock down a third-straight NBA title in 2013-14, then James could ride that low into free agency—where he should look to sign elsewhere.
Should James leave if the Heat lose?
About a month ago, James told reporters at Miami's media day that he doesn't want to talk about free agency just yet (via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports). That's the best thing for him to say while gearing up for the grind of another season, but it also brings about the questions of his loyalties to the Heat.
Think about it. James could have easily said, "I'm not going anywhere" or "I want to stay in Miami." He didn't say those things. All he said was that he didn't want to talk about free agency.
It goes without saying that a number of teams will line up to coax James into signing with them. Before paying for draft picks, here are the 10 teams projected to have more than $20 million in cap room that could potentially sign him (h/t to Eliot Shorr of Parks/NJ.com).
|Philadelphia 76ers||$41 million|
|Charlotte Bobcats||$34 million|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||$32 million|
|Dallas Mavericks||$37 million|
|Detroit Pistons||$23 million|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$50 million|
|Orlando Magic||$36 million|
|Phoenix Suns||$34 million|
|Sacramento Kings||$32 million|
|Utah Jazz||$55 million|
With so many teams with the necessary cap space to sign him, the competition for James should heat up quickly. In my opinion, the best fit for James if he leaves Miami would be Cleveland. He's already familiar with the city and the team, and the Cavaliers finally have the pieces in place to win a championship with James and Kyrie Irving leading the charge.
Only a loss in the NBA Finals would prompt James to relocate, however.
James would be smart to look to sign somewhere else. Having already won two championships in Miami, James should look to build up another team into an NBA champion. This would further bolster his already glowing legacy.
Aside from his years in Cleveland—years that came so close to Finals championships—James can move onto another team and be the missing piece to a championship. This would essentially make James the NBA Finals magnet, attracting championships wherever he goes.
On the right team, this is truly possible.
If James decides to leave, is Cleveland the best option?
The Cavaliers could use one more star to turn their young roster into legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference. James and Irving would form a formidable duo and could challenge the top teams in the East.
If the Heat can win again this year, though, expect James to stay in an effort to go for four-straight titles. Something like that would be an even bigger legacy booster than winning titles with two separate teams.
James clearly has options after the 2013-14 season, but moving on to another team if the Heat don't win their third-straight title would be the best career choice. There are questions surrounding Miami moving forward in regards to Dwyane Wade's health, and if they can't win this year, they might not be able to win again for a few years.
James has the ability to turn other teams around the NBA winners. He should jump at the chance if it presents itself.