The Future of The King: Where Will LeBron Rule Next?
With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of elimination from the 2010 playoffs, falling short once again of a second appearance in the NBA Finals during the James era, the entire sports world will soon be wondering what the future holds for King James.
Will Game Six of the 2009-2010 playoffs be James' final game in a Cavaliers uniform?
No one knows, but everyone loves to predict the 2010 landing spot for the two-time league MVP.
In a free agent class that includes names such as Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, and Amar'e Stoudemaire, James stands above them all.
A few months ago, James filed paperwork to switch from No. 23 to No. 6. He wore No. 6 on the Olympic team, and wears it every day at practice. If James decides to switch teams, he can chose any number he wishes. However, permission for a number change is required only if James chooses to stay in Cleveland.
In honor of James' request for a number change, here are the top six most likely destinations for James to land in 2010-2011, and my prediction where James will be playing next season.
Tighten your seat belts...It's time for take-off.
6. Dallas Mavericks
No NBA owner gives off the vibe of wanting to win more than Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but yet the Mavericks have been unable to capture that elusive NBA championship.
Since 2001, when the Mavericks won 53 games through the 2009-2010 season, the Mavs have won an average of 56 games per season and this year was their 10th consecutive season with at least 50 regular season wins. But the Mavs have had only one appearance in the NBA finals (2005-2006), which ended in a 4-2 series loss to the Miami Heat.
Winning in the regular season is not a problem for Dallas, but their regular season success has failed to translate into an NBA championship, and each year Cuban continues to bring in notable players to help Dirk Nowitzki. But once again, the Mavs failed to make it out of the first round for the third time in four seasons.
Heading into the 2010-2011 season, Nowitzki will be owed $21.5 million, but can chose to opt out if he wants to test the free agent market. Jason Kidd isn't going anywhere. Teams aren’t looking to acquire Shawn Marion, who is under contract for four more years. And Caron Butler, who's scheduled to make $10.8 million next season, along with his talent and expiring contract make, could be traded during the summer, but Cuban would be smart to keep him.
Jason Terry and Erik Dampier are owed $23 million, so at least on paper that does not bode well for James coming to Dallas.
However, the chips are in place for the Mavericks to make a run another run at an NBA championship with Nowitzki, who's been the heart and soul of the Mavericks, since he was drafted in 1999.
If Cuban wants Nowitzki to stay in Big D, although it's going to be difficult to sign James, the combination of James and Nowitzki presents a remarkable opportunity for an NBA championship to come to Dallas.
Cuban has been very creative before, now it's time for him to work his magic and put James in a Mavericks uniform next season.
5. San Antonio Spurs
Unlike their Lone Star state counterpart the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs have experienced success over the past 15 years, having won four NBA championship since 1995.
The Spurs don't need LeBron James to bring a championship to this organization, having won 50-plus games since 1999, but if winning a championship is a priority for James, then going to a professional franchise like the Spurs would be his best bet.
With 27-year old Tony Parker, who's been nothing but consistent averaging 16 points, six-assists during the prime of his career, and with two-time NBA MVP Tim Duncan down low, with the addition of James, the Spurs could become the favorites to win it all.
Heading into the 2010-2001 season, Duncan and Tony Parker are the only two players under contract, and although Ginobli might be on the verge of signing a major contract extension, as of now, he's a free agent, as his future with the Spurs is unknown.
So with Duncan getting older (34 year old), and Antonio McDyess reaching the end of his career and also having very little trade value, the Spurs current roster might be the Spurs team that takes the court for the 2010-2011 season.
But as long as Duncan is around, coach Gregg Popovich will be right there as well. If James wants to play for a winner like Pop, the Spurs are the place to be.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
Does LeBron James want to go from trying to turnaround one franchise and head to a team that has only six winning seasons in its entire history, and only two since moving to Los Angeles in 1984?
If James heads to Hollywood to become a member of the Clippers, he'll join a team that has only two players under contract for next season in Chris Kaman, and Baron Davis.
Kaman, who's listed at 7'0 can be provide rebounding and muscle under the basket, and Davis can be the talented point guard James never had the opportunity to play with.
If James comes to Los Angeles, he'll get the chance to play with the first overall pick of the 2009 NBA draft in Blake Griffin, who will be making his NBA debut after missing the entire 2009 season due to surgery that repaired a stress fracture in his left knee.
Leading to the scary possibility for all the other teams in the league, that James and Griffin could become the next dynamic and dominant duo in the NBA for the next decade.
The Clippers can offer James a max contract and the opportunity to play in the big market of Los Angeles alongside Kobe Bryant. Although L.A. is Kobe's town, and many will say the Clippers will always be second class to the Lakers, especially since the Lakers are on the verge of repeating as NBA champions, and with Bryant being only 32 years old, the Lakers will always be one of the elite teams in the league.
James knows if he comes to Los Angeles, he'll have to battle it out with Bryant for being the top dog of the city, but maybe that's a challenge that entices James to become a Clipper.
The Clippers should try and find out.
3. Chicago Bulls
What if LeBron could be like Mike?
James has the opportunity to create his own legacy in Chicago, if he decides to head to the Windy City this summer. Playing alongside Derrick Rose, James and Rose will make a lethal combination, as the Bulls would automatically become one of the favorites to win the NBA championship.
The Bulls don't have the cap space to sign two players to a max contract, but since the Bulls are set at the point guard position, have a reliable big man in Joakim Noah, and role players in Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson, the Bulls are another team with an extremely bright future.
And if James signs with the Bulls, Chicago could be the city where the next great NBA dynasty begins.
In 2008, the Bulls found themselves in the playoffs, and Rose proved that he's one of the elite players in the league. In his couple of seasons in the league, Rose has never had the opportunity to play with a player of James' caliber.
Besides for New York and Los Angeles, Chicago is the third-largest market in the United States and is home to 'His Airness'—James' childhood hero, Michael Jordan
James would be heading to his division rival if he decided to sign with the Bulls, but James simply wants to win a championship. And if that means playing in Chicago and following in the footsteps of Jordan, James would do whatever it takes to get his first NBA championship ring.
2. New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov (who's worth about $9.5 billion dollars) is looking to make a huge splash in his first summer as an NBA owner, and there would be no bigger tsunami than signing LeBron James.
The Nets are coming off their worse season in franchise history, having finished with a 12-70 record, by becoming just the fourth team to lose 70 games in a season.
The Nets will most likely win the NBA lottery, securing the number one overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, where President Rod Thorn would hopefully select Kentucky point guard John Wall with the pick.
Although the Nets had a dreadful 2009 season, the future is extremely bright for this organization, and the Nets should want James to be a part of it.
They have an excellent foundation with a dynamic point guard in Devin Harris and the talented Brook Lopez, who are budding NBA stars. And when the Nets add Wall, this phenom automatically turns the Nets into a playoff contender.
The Nets have plans to move to a new arena in Brooklyn, but plans for the move have been continually stalled and it’s highly doubtful that James is dreaming to play in New Jersey, no matter how talented his supporting cast will be.
Even if James and Wall can become the greatest 1-2 punch since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, New Jersey is not New York, and if James comes to the Tri-state area next season, he'll want to play in the spotlight of New York City, and not in the swamps of New Jersey.
But rumors are that part owner of the Nets, Jay-Z, and James are pretty good friends.
Guess we'll see how close of friends they really are come July 8, 2010.
And by the way, the Nets have the most money of any NBA team to spend this summer, so James might not be alone if he heads to the Garden State next season.
1. New York Knicks
In April of 2008, Donnie Walsh agreed to become president of basketball operations for the Knicks, and immediately recognized the long term plan of the team; decreasing the Knicks' payroll and giving them enough cap space in preparation for the free agent class of 2010, in order to land the biggest fish in the free agent pond, LeBron James.
James would be heading to the biggest sports market in the world and in all likelihood, would be joined by another NBA superstar, since the Knicks are able to sign two players, both to lucrative contracts.
After spending seven seasons in Cleveland in a half-court offensive system, James would be joining head coach Mike D’Antoni, who previously coached James during the Beijing Olympics, to play in his "7 seconds or less" offensive system.
James has always played in a small market, so speculation will arise if James can handle the pressure of playing in the Big Apple. He was booed during Game 5 of the 2009 NBA playoffs, but getting booed in Cleveland is quite different than being booed at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks will call upon James as their savior, and Knick fans hope the re-birth of the Knicks organization would be in full bloom.
Along with rising star Wilson Chandler, and sweet-shooting Danilo Gallinari, James would have a the role players he needed to win an NBA championship.
And did you forget who James favorite baseball team is?
Hope you didn't, cause I certainly remember. He would only be a subway ride away.
LeBron's Landing Spot
Many of you are probably wondering why the Miami Heat aren't on this list
But let's be realistic. Pat Riley's number one goal is to re-sign Dwayne Wade, and if he succeeds, Miami will have enough room to compete for Chris Bosh.
So James and Wade might play together, but it wouldn't be in Miami.
However, it might be in Cleveland, because James isn't going anywhere.
I repeat. James is staying in Cleveland.
James, who was born and raised in Akron and has lived in Ohio his entire life, will be unwilling to bail on his home team in order to make a few more bucks. He’s already the biggest star in the NBA, despite playing in one of the smallest markets in the country.
The Cavaliers have the ability to offer James a max contract, and there would be no reason for James to leave his home state, considering the Cavs can offer James more money and more years than any other team in the league.
When James was drafted in 2003, the City of Cleveland viewed his selection as a turning point in the franchise's history. He'd given the city of Cleveland hope, that one day, an NBA championship would come to the city, but if he leaves, the Cavaliers franchise would never be able to recover.
James is not going to want to leave Cleveland with the taste of defeat in his mouth, especially after failing to make the NBA finals for the second consecutive season.
So if James become the greatest player in NBA history, it's going to happen in Cleveland.
His home, sweet home.