Roundtable Report: Top Writer's Debate LeBron's Big Choice This Summer

Chad RidgewayCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2010

We've gathered the biggest names on Bleacher Report to discuss the biggest name in the NBA. All contributor's are top ten NBA writers for Bleacher Report. Click their names to find out more about them and their impressive bodies of work.

Four Questions Regarding LeBron James' Free Agency This Summer

1) Does winning a championship this season help or hurt Cleveland's chances of retaining LeBron this summer? 

Kevin Roberts (#2 NBA Top Writer, Featured Columnist, 716 Articles): I’m beginning to think he’s gone, either way. The guy is historically all about putting on a show and having everything be about him. That’s not a slight on him, but more, really just the truth.

If he wins in Cleveland, he’ll skip town for the money and fame in a bigger market, being able to sleep easy after bringing his hometown team a title.

And if he doesn’t win, he’ll probably figure that this was his (and Cleveland’s) golden chance to grab a title in Cleveland.

He’s not going to sign a long-term deal and go into the next few years with an aging Shaq and Antawn Jamison with the “chance” of winning. I think he’d much rather get bigger money and a bigger stage, and try his luck with the Bulls, Heat, or Knicks.

Taylor Smith (#3 NBA Top Writer, Analyst, 133 Articles): I think it helps their chances. If they win it this year, I think he’ll want to ride it out for all it’s worth. If he wants to one day be considered the greatest player to ever play, he’s going to have to win multiple championships. There really isn’t another team with cap space this summer that presents a better opportunity for him to continue to win than the Cavaliers would. I think if they win it all, he’ll be back.

Tom Delamater (#4 NBA Top Writer, Featured Columnist, 56 Articles): Hubie Brown said earlier this year on TNT that if the Cavs win the title, LeBron would most likely stay, and I’m inclined to agree. The reason? As Brown said, the drive to repeat would keep him in Cleveland. When you win, you want to see if you can do it again.

Bryan Toporek (#6 NBA Top Writer, Featured Columnist, 73 Articles): If the Cavs win the title this year, I think that only cements James in Cleveland long-term. He’ll have Mo Williams and Jamison around him for the next few years. Who knows what Shaq and Z are going to do after the season, but if either play next season, they’ll conceivably sign for much cheaper. And from the looks of it, LeBron really ‘effin loves being from Cleveland. He puts Drew Carey to shame. He’s already got the media presence in Cleveland – why not challenge Jordan’s dominance with his hometown team?

Robert Kleeman (#7 NBA Top Writer, Featured Columnist, 195 Articles): If the Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals and lose, he would have to consider whether another franchise in another city could construct a roster that would get there again and finish the job. A team with James and Chris Bosh plus minimum salary players would not challenge the L.A. Lakers or other East title hopefuls.
If he wins, with much of Cleveland’s core players still in their prime, he can re-sign with his hometown squad (sort of—Akron is an hour away) and contend for the rest of his prime.
Would he walk away from a proven champion to wade through the New Jersey swamp or flounder under James Dolan’s miserable stewardship?
“Hey LeBron, it’s Donnie Walsh. I want you to you to leave your trophy-winning ways behind to come play alongside Eddy Curry!”
Who could refuse such an offer?

Ryan Lester (#9 NBA Top Writer, Featured Columnist, 1,092 Articles): Personally I don’t think it matters. If he wins one, then he’ll want to win another. If he doesn’t he won’t be fulfilled. I just think in the end Cleveland has shown LeBron enough to make him stay.

2) Will LeBron give every team with cap room the opportunity to wine and dine him, or will he not even bother to hear pitches from the Clippers, Timberwolves, etc?

Kevin Roberts: He’s not as arrogant as he’s made out to be, but he’s also not an idiot. Minnesota and L.A. (Clippers) can forget about it. Count Milwaukee, Philly, and so many others on that list of teams that James probably won’t even return a call to.

He already has a good idea of what he wants to do, in my opinion.

I think New York is the biggest stage, while Chicago would be nice (Michael Jordan played there and is his idol), and Miami is a slight possibility if Wade sticks there, and then they can bring in Amare’ or someone else to pound inside.

I mean, if Chris Bosh won’t take money to stay in Toronto, why would James take any amount of money to go to a bad market that isn’t built to win anytime soon?

Again, it’s likely going to come down to a return to Cleveland, or he’ll go to Chicago, New York, or Miami.

Taylor Smith: The teams (other than Cleveland) that I think LeBron would consider signing with are New York, Miami, the LA Clippers, and Chicago. The Kings, Timberwolves, Nets, and Wizards have absolutely no shot in my opinion. The allure for the Knicks is that he would likely be teaming with another top-tier free agent in an attempt to resurrect one of the league’s storied franchises. He would also be able to team with another superstar in Miami, so the prospects are similar there. The Clippers have a very appealing young core to potentially surround him with, and obviously there’s the hype involved in playing in Los Angeles. Chicago also offers a good core of talent, as well as a very large media market.

So, there are several places I could actually envision him entertaining offers from.

Tom Delamater: I think LeBron will listen to anybody as a courtesy, but not seriously. He has already said that winning is the key. If he lets anyone court him seriously, it will be a big winner, or a potential one. Atlanta is intriguing, because they have tons of talent and a solid center in Al Horford. Believe it or not, Memphis is attractive for the same reason, with Gasol and Randolph in there. But seriously, why go either place, if you can do as well or better by staying in Cleveland? Regardless, if I’m LeBron, I don’t try to do anything without a talented big man.

Bryan Toporek: If the Cavs don’t win the title, especially if LeBron plays out of his mind in the series that they lose, I’d believe that LeBron would give teams some real looks. (Funny you mention the Clippers…if their owner wasn’t a racist dirtbag, they have a great young core that would fit LeBron’s skill set extremely well.)

And hey, why not take a few weeks to hear some offers, eat some nice steaks, and have everyone tell you how great you are? There’s one thing I do believe – I don’t think any of the three major free agents sign within the first three weeks of July, unless it’s with their own teams.

Robert Kleeman: I doubt he has any idea what he wants to do this summer. How could he know in February where he wants to be this October?
If he wants to win a championship as much as he says he does, he will never listen to pitches from perennial losers. Would you join a Minnesota franchise that employed Kevin Garnett for 12 years and failed to field a contender?
Would you play for Donald Sterling, a cheapskate owner fighting a discrimination lawsuit?
With the Cavs still in the hunt for home court advantage throughout the playoffs and ownership willing to spend to acquire Antawn Jamison, James should think more about staying put.

Ryan Lester: LeBron is a busy man. He’ll likely hear what a few teams have to say, but he’s dug one franchise out of the garbage. I doubt he’d want to do it again.

3) Will there be a more vilified athlete in the world than LeBron James in Cleveland if he leaves the Cavs?

Kevin Roberts: I would hope James doesn’t take a beating for doing what is best for his career. Cleveland as a whole should consider themselves lucky to have ever had him, and if he leaves, their management is the only one to blame for not being able to keep him.

The guy has been in the league for seven years now, and just NOW this team is truly a title contender? They made it before despite weak talent, but they’re just not really adding support to James.

People need to realize that James has actually been doing a lot of this by himself, and if he can’t win this year, it just may be the final straw.

On the other hand, those who view James as their team’s savior have every right to be disappointed or heart-broken. But to condemn him for leaving for bigger and better things, well that’d just be wrong.

Taylor Smith: Likely not, considering all the circumstances. Unlike A-Rod in Texas (where they basically wanted to kick him out of town), LeBron would essentially be abandoning his home town. The fans love him, and the team’s management would bend over backwards for him. If he left (especially without winning a title first), it would be one of the biggest stomach punches to a fan base and a franchise in the history of American team sports. The Cavaliers as a franchise would likely plummet in the standings, and would be completely devastated. They’d have to watch a guy from their area, one of the most talented basketball players ever, win in another team’s colors.

So yes, they’d hate him.

Tom Delamater: Tiger, maybe. If LeBron leaves, however, it will break the hearts of fans in Cleveland, no two ways about it. If they don’t win the title and he leaves, fans will curse their luck, again. But if they win and he bolts, forget it. He might as well sell that mansion he built for himself.

Bryan Toporek: Um… speaking as a Philadelphian, Donovan McNabb may already be that vilified in Philly, and he hasn’t even left the team yet. (Sigh.) I’d guess Favre and Packers fans would be close… are Red Sox fans still mad at Johnny Damon, now that he’s won a World Series with the Yankees? But no, LeBron leaving Cleveland would be a whole new level of kick in the crotch, especially since he’s the hometown hero. (And if he leaves without a championship… Cleveland may burn his house down. I’ve heard that from a reliable source… a college friend in Cleveland.)

Robert Kleeman: He will not be vilified if the Cavaliers fail to win a title, and he leaves for the right reasons.  You should know what I mean by “right reasons.”
Any non basketball-related motives will be apparent even if he attempts to shroud them in a wall of rhetoric.
A 24-hour television station is not reason enough to abandon ship. If he chooses lavish perks at the expense of an adequate supporting cast, he will deserve every boo a Clevelander sends his way.

Ryan Lester: Certainly. Shaq left Orlando and we got over it. That’s just the nature of the game right now. He’ll be vilified, but it will be short-lived. There are enough bad people in sports that will take the heat (i.e. Michael Vick, Donte Stallworth, etc.).

4) If you had to bet your paycheck, what jersey will LeBron James be wearing on opening night next season?

Kevin Roberts: I’m calling New York. It’s Madison Square Garden, the Knicks aren’t going anywhere, the money will be tops, and there really is no bigger stage.

The Knicks have a good coach that would bring the best out of James as a passer and play-maker, and his offense would help make his teammates better.

They also have the cap to give him a ton of money, as well as another big guy (Wade, Bosh, or Stoudemire), and they have a ton of young guys to work with, as well.

Stage? Check. Money? Check. Coaching? Check. Offense? Check.

James loves James, and as big as he already is, a move to New York would make him (by far) the biggest and most important player in the league.

Taylor Smith: I think he’ll be in a Cavaliers jersey, and I don’t have much doubt about it. I don’t think he has it in him to bail on that city in such a devastating fashion. He wants to win championships, and he wants to win them in Cleveland. However, I do think that he’ll sign a fairly short contract (perhaps three years or so), so that he’d be able to test the waters again in his prime should things not work out. I think he’ll be tempted by other potential situations (perhaps teaming with Dwyane Wade somewhere), but ultimately he’ll stick with Cleveland.

Tom Delamater: Cleveland. I picked them to win this year, still think they will, and as a result think he’ll be back. Plus, the Cavs can offer the most money. Besides, why leave unless it’s for L.A. or New York, and I don’t see those as viable options—for entirely different reasons. If they acquire another exceptional center to fill the eventual void left by Z and Shaq, I think he’ll play out his career in a Cavs uniform.

Bryan Toporek: Thank God I don’t earn that much money. I’d bet Cleveland, even if I earned six figures. (See you in 2030.) That Jamison trade might have been the nail in the coffin for Cleveland retaining ‘Bron. And Shaq was a huuuuge move in the offseason. Shaq’s championship pedigree mentoring LeBron only lead to the King’s best season ever.

If the Cavs win the title, I’d guess LeBron wants to come back and go for five more with his home team. If they lose, he’s still got Williams, Varejao, Hickson, and Jamison ready and waiting for a championship run next year.

Robert Kleeman: Can I bet some of his paycheck? I’m a teacher for crying out loud.
He will re-sign with Cleveland for a number of reasons.
No one can offer him more money over the life of a contract. Money still talks.
The idea that he needs to bolt for Manhattan to reach his endorsement potential is preposterous. I love New York City, but too many analysts are overselling the value of playing there.
His legacy will not be enhanced by a mere change of address. He needs to win championships to justify the praise heaped on him. Can Walsh put together a roster on the fly more equipped to win four playoff rounds than the current edition of the Cavaliers?
Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge showed that a front office could indeed turn a lottery loser into a champion in one massive summer overhaul. Ainge, however, had A LOT more tradable assets than Walsh, or Rod Thorn. He had to surrender Al Jefferson, four other contributors, two primo draft picks, and the rights to Jeff Green to nab Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
The Celtics already employed a Hall of Fame-bound small forward in Paul Pierce, an All-Star point guard in Rajon Rondo, and a bruising center in Kendrick Perkins. Tony Allen, Leon Powe, and Brian Scalabrine were also roster mainstays.
The Knicks and Nets would need to recruit more supporting cast pieces than they could afford. Two of the four players under contract with New York beyond this season—Wilson Chandler and Curry—will repel free agents.
If Walsh cannot snatch up two max players and re-sign David Lee at the higher price he will command, that leaves Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas as the only viable trade chips/impact players.
I keep reading on this site that Walsh will gladly trade any players James does not want. Someone has to agree to take them!
Imagine this phone call: “Donnie here. LeBron says he doesn’t want to play with Eddy Curry or Wilson Chandler. I’m going to need you to take them off my hands, so we can sign the best player available this summer instead of you.”
Right. Guess we should start planning a championship parade through Times Square.
Cavs management has done nothing but grant all of his requests and worship him. James’ throne is Quicken Loans Arena. I do not expect that to change this summer.

Ryan Lester: He’ll be rocking the Cavs jersey. He’s global. He doesn’t need to go anywhere else to get exposure.

Five of the top six writers on Bleacher Report think that LeBron will resign in Cleveland. What do you think? Leave your comments below.

And check out Ryan Lester's Fantasy Hoops Roundtable on this same topic featuring writers from outside the Bleacher Report community!


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