LeBron James' Best Bet Is to Stick with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Miami Heat

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

Jun 21 2012; Miami, FL, USA;  Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6), Chris Bosh (1) and Dwyane Wade (3) against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the third quarter of game five in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the power to hand-pick his next NBA destination, LeBron James won't find a better situation than his current post alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.

It's hard to gauge the value of greener grass when James' feet are currently planted in the white sands of South Beach. It's harder still to imagine him unearthing a scenario more desirable than sharing the floor with a pair of perennial All-Stars who have tweaked their games to better complement his own.

"Wade moved off the ball. Bosh moved off the block," Beckley Mason of TriangleOffense.com wrote. "It wasn't easy, and it wasn't immediate, and they aren't finished. ... The more they play together, the more they can mold their games to best complement each other."

James has an escape clause built into his current contract, as do Wade and Bosh. All three can exercise early termination options this summer and test free agency if they so choose.

The weight of the basketball world falls on all three sets of shoulders. The eyes of hoop heads across the globe are fixed on James alone, though, eager to see if The Decision: Part Two winds up being the summer's biggest blockbuster.

Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the first quarter in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The should-he-stay-or-should-he-go questions are being raised for a reason.

Despite his best effort (28.2 points on 57.1 percent shooting), the Heat's bid for a three-peat and the NBA immortality that comes along with it was undone by the finely tuned system of the San Antonio Spurs. James was far and away the best player in the series, but his one-man band couldn't match the decibel levels of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's orchestra.

It wasn't even close.

Like his first Finals showdown with the Spurs in 2007, James' supporting cast prevented the game's top heavyweight from having even a puncher's chance.

Before, he couldn't get enough out of his then-Cleveland Cavaliers teammates like Drew Gooden (12.8 points for the series) and Daniel Gibson (10.8). This time, James was doomed by Wade's lack of consistency (43.8 percent shooting) and Bosh's passive play (10.2 shots per game).

Everyone placed the failure of this series on that of his teammates. Everyone, that is, except for James himself.

"I'm not disappointed in any of my teammates," James told reporters, via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

That's not to suggest that he failed to recognize the need for improvement. He has read the writing on the wall just like everyone else.

"Obviously we would need to get better from every facet, every position," he said, via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra react on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Cr

In other words, James is now reliant on Heat team president Pat Riley to build something of substance around him. History says that's a favorable position to be in.

Creativity is needed, but creativity is Riley's specialty. He was the architect behind the initial Big Three design, heavily investing in established stars and rounding out the roster with impactful role players.

With no one other than reserve guard Norris Cole holding a guaranteed contract for 2014-15, the executive could find himself working with a nearly clean slate.

The Heat need help, and Riley could have the vision needed to find that assistance.

Now, scan the rest of the NBA landscape, and find a more favorable landing spot for James.

On second thought, don't waste the time. As Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix explained, those greener pastures do not exist:

The Lakers have Kobe Bryant and a boatload of cap space, but play in the brutal Western Conference. The Knicks don't have the room to sign anyone until 2015. Houston would have to get real creative in dumping some big contracts and you won't find too many teams willing to help the Rockets out. Cleveland is a romantic notion-- LeBron returns...and he is bringing Bosh with him! -- but the Cavaliers have been dysfunctional since James departed. 

Somehow, that part of the narrative has far too often gone overlooked.

Even if James has reasons to examine his options, where will he find the motivation to take his talents away from South Beach? The answer is simple—he won't:

"Where is he going to go that is as good or better than Miami?" a source close to James told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. "The San Antonio Spurs? The Chicago Bulls? The Los Angeles Clippers? Where is he [realistically] going to go?"

The Heat can offer him a ready-made contender.

This was arguably the most disappointing season of the Big Three era, and Miami finished three wins shy of a third consecutive championship. The Heat have won 71.8 percent of their regular-season games since James' arrival. They have secured a pair of world titles and become just the league's third franchise to have ever booked four straight NBA Finals trips.

Grass doesn't grow any greener than that.

That's why there's such a calm within the franchise despite the manufactured chaos around it.

"I know everyone wants to know and the whole speculation thing. I think everybody is going to make it work out," Bosh said, via Spears. "We have a chance to continue to play at a high level."

Even if James could find that chance elsewhere, that might not be all that he discovers outside of Miami.

The vitriol he encountered after leaving Cleveland could return. It might be even worse than before.

This is the group he chose to go to war with. Leaving it behind could reopen him to the criticism that his place in basketball annals could be that of a hired gun.

James has history with the Heat, relationships with everyone in the franchise and a fondness for Miami. All of that will factor into a decision he's said he hasn't yet made.

"I love Miami. My family loves it," he said, via CBS Sports' Matt Moore. "But obviously right now that's not even what I'm thinking about. ... When I get to that point, I'll deal with it."

Some might view that uncertainty as an omen, but really it's the same tune James has carried all season. He told reporters at training camp he would not discuss his future plans, and he's kept to that promise.

He's done his part. He's said what needed to be said. He's asked for more help, because the need for that assistance has never been more obvious.

Now, the challenge for Riley and his staff is to crunch enough numbers to make those improvements a reality. It won't be easy, but the Heat already have a head start in this race.

There are basketball reasons, family reasons, economic reasons (no state income tax) and quality-of-life reasons (climate, culture, nightlife) for him to stay. He won't find that combination of incentives elsewhere.

So, while Heat fans are still getting over that crushing Finals defeat, they can rest easily knowing that their pitch to James sounds stronger than any he might hear on the open market.

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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