In the fourth quarter of what could have been LeBron James's last game as a Cavalier, while the King stood at the free throw line, Celtics fans erupted in a cheer yelling, "New York Knicks." Celtics fans were wrong in doing so. When I say wrong, I'm not criticizing getting in James's head, but they are wrong in the team they chanted.
In the speculation of LeBron hitting free agency, there are three realistic teams LeBron would leave Cleveland to play for. These teams are the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets, and the Chicago Bulls.
Although it is no secret that LeBron loves New York and New York loves LeBron, the key factor in LeBron's decision will be his chances to win. The sad realization Knicks fans need to face is that this factor is exactly why LeBron James will not play for the Knicks.
LeBron and the Cavaliers were eliminated this postseason with a stacked roster that included Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Delonte West, Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson Varejao, Leon Powe, Jamario Moon, JJ Hickson etc. The depth of this roster shows that LeBron, though he is the best player in the league, cannot win alone.
Let's take a look at the supporting cast the three teams in the LeBron James sweepstakes can offer with 1) their current roster, 2) their picks in this year's draft, and 3) the money they have to spend.
The Chicago Bulls clearly have the best current roster, and it shows since they made the playoffs. Notable players on the roster include Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Kirk Hinrich.
In Rose, the Bulls have one of the best point guards in the league. The front court consists of Noah, who averaged a double double this season and he is complemented by Gibson, who averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his rookie season. The starting lineup would consist of Rose, James, Noah, Gibson, and either Hinrich or Deng. Whichever played doesn't make the starting five will be the sixth man.
The current New Jersey Nets roster offers two great players, with a couple other players that could play significant roles.
Right now the Nets are led by Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. Lopez is a 7-footer who can score, pull down rebounds, and block shots. Harris can score and distribute the ball while Lee can also score and thrived when he played for the Magic. Yi Jianlian and Terrence Williams also played well this season for the Nets.
In my opinion, although the Knicks had more success this season than the Nets, I think their current roster offers the least talent. The notable players on their roster include Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, and Bill Walker.
Gallinari and Chandler show the most upside out of the four players as they each averaged 15 points a game. Walker has shown he can score and Douglas had a satisfactory season but as a point guard he needs to raise his assists numbers.
The second factor of building a sufficient supporting cast is looking at this years draft picks. Unless the lottery has an unexpected outcome, the Nets hold picks No. 1, 27, and 31, the Bulls hold No. 17, and the Knicks have picks 38 and 39.
The Nets will most likely draft John Wall, and can get notable players with their remaining picks. With this pick the Nets can start Wall at point guard and either move Harris to play shooting guard or trade him for a player that fits the team's needs. The Bulls could also draft an impact played with their mid-first round pick, while the Knicks have the worst chances of improving immediately through this year's draft.
One thing these three teams have in common is they all have the ability to sign a max free agent. The Bulls have the money to sign one but the Nets and Knicks have the money to sign two free agents to max contracts.
Let's assume the Nets sign LBJ. They would have Wall at the point, LeBron playing small forward, Lopez at center, they'd need a power forward, and have could play Harris or Lee at shooting guard. Possible free agents to fill the power forward void could be Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudamire.
Now let's assume the Knicks sign LeBron. They would have a starting lineup of Douglas, a void at shooting guard, LeBron, Chandler/Galinari, and a void at center. If the Knicks were to re-sign David Lee I don't think they would have the cap space to sign a shooting guard such as Joe Johnson. However, if they could then they could have a Lee at center and Johnson in the backcourt with Douglas.
Another possibility would be for the Knicks to sign one of the bigs I mentioned for the Nets to sign and the Knicks could start Bill Walker at shooting guard.
All in all, if LeBron leaves the Cavaliers, the Knicks offer a great location, but he could find a better supporting cast in Chicago or New Jersey. The Clippers and Heat have also been mentioned as possible suitors.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the New Jersey Nets to play with Wall, Lopez, and Harris.
Dwyane Wade goes to the Chicago Bulls.
Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson go to the New York Knicks.