After the Cavaliers unexpected early exit of the playoffs, one thing became abundantly clear: Lebron isn't going to win as long as he's a Cavalier.
While the Cavs will do whatever it takes to keep Lebron, they've acted like that girlfriend who could tell that you're about to dump her, so she does anything and everything she can to make things work, but in the process she just ends up smothering you. While you do like the extra "action" you're getting, and you can appreciate the nice deeds, her insecurity is annoying (not to mention kind of pathetic), and the two of you are fundamentally flawed as a couple, and now, it's almost impossible to reconcile because there are aspects of both of you that make it so you won't ever be able to coincide together AND have a good thing going.
Cleveland doesn't have enough young talent, they don't have enough cap space to sign both Lebron and the kind of #2 that he really needs to get the Cavs over the top, etc., while Lebron doesn't appear to have the patented "MJ: do-whatever-it-takes-to-win", or "the cold-blooded, soul-crushing, demoralizing factor where in a tight game, you know there's nothing you can do; my team is going to score and win the game" abilities.
Not to mention, if Cleveland was to "start over" per se, Lebron makes them too good to get anyone decent in the lottery, and Cleveland hasn't proven that they can find gems in the draft, i.e. most of their roster has been accumulated through free agency and trades.
Miami on the other hand is a bad fit too. Yes, they do have DWade and Michael Beasley, but almost everything else is coming off the books next year.
They will be a bunch of scrubs, a decent developing role player, and DWade and Lebron. And Bill Simmons put it best when he said "he [Lebron] doesn't want to be perceived as riding someone else's coattails", when referring to him paired up with DWade, who has already won a championship and thus, proven himself. And even if Lebron were to go to Miami, any team with a good front line would kill them. Miami is going to be fundamentally flawed until a) they can lure a good, big 4 or 5 in free agency, a la Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh, etc, or Wade is going to have leave or get injured for most of a season so the Heat can lose enough games to get some good pieces in the draft.
While this team will certainly get me scoffed at, (and probably deservedly so), hear me out anyways. From a player ONLY standpoint, the Grizzlies should be a player.
They have a young roster with a ton of talent. If Randolph has started caring again, isn't a cancer,and tries to be a decent teammate, like he has for this whole year, the Grizzlies would automatically become a championship contender with Lebron. They would have a very good and underrated point guard in Mike Conley Jr., one of the best front lines in all of basketball - probably the only one that can match up with the Lakers' front line, a lottery pick this year in a talented draft, some cap space, and some nice trade pieces in Rudy Gay and Marko Jaric's expiring contract.
They won't have a ton of cap space, so they WOULD end up having to pay some tax, but Lebron is more than worth what they'd have to pay in salary. As far as Memphis being in a small market goes, in today's 24-hour, instant access, watch live TV online, you don't have to be in a major market, like New York or LA anymore to become an international icon. If he can do it in Cleveland, he can do it in Memphis.
Small, crappy market; not a lot of flash or pizazz. There are a lot of unknowns about this roster. I do believe that from a talent perspective, Zac Randolph could be the second best player on a championship team, but from a chemistry and personal perspective, it's hit or miss with him, and he's missed a lot more than he's hit in his career.
Also, Memphis has an ultra-cheap owner who probably isn't going to pay the luxury tax for anyone, even Lebron.
Another young, talented team with cap space, just looking for a superstar to put them over the top.
Al Jefferson is one of, if not the best post player in the NBA, Lebron would almost certainly convince Ricky Rubio to come over from Spain to play with him, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and still enough cap space to get one more solid player.
On top of all that, they still have the 4th pick in the draft to add to this roster. There's little you could say to convince me that a starting 5 of Rubio, Lebron, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson, with the bench being Flynn, and either Cousins or Favors + a true 2-guard that they sign in free agency with their extra cap space isn't going to be a contender for years to come.
It's in Minnesota; it's a bad market, Rubio is unproven and playing in Spain. Al Jefferson can't stay healthy for an entire season. Plus, there's no true 2-guard on the roster for next year, which they could really use with a player like Lebron.
This is an obvious choice. There's a core with this team that already has solid playoff experience, so he's not rebuilding a new team.
It's got a score-first point guard in Derrick Rose, which for a player with Lebron's passing ability is a good thing. Players like Noah can defend the rim and rebound, while Heinrich is a solid defender and contributor as well. Plus, they would now have a solid trade piece in Luol Deng for another decent player or players to contribute.
What makes this so much more enticing than the other two is not the roster, but the market it's in. Michael Jordan already proved that Chicago is more than capable of delivering iconic status, and he could defer to Rose if he's off.
I still look at this team and think it's still not a title contender. It's shallow after losing so many contracts from this season, there's little front line scoring available, and there aren't any great shooters on this team either, which is almost a must for a team with Lebron's passing abilities.
If he starts coming up short with a player like Rose as his number 2, he's going to go from being viewed as a great player to a player with a ton of athleticism and talent, but one who just won't ever be able to win the big one.
This is the team with the perfect build for a player like Lebron. Every player seems to be capable of scoring.
Can you imagine a one-two-punch of Durant-Lebron? Durant can score from any point on the floor, and Lebron can get him the ball in any position he wants, while scoring as much or as little as he feels like. If Durant is having any problems shooting, Lebron can give it to Russel Westbrook or Jeff Green. You thought this was a dangerous team now, just wait 'til they get Lebron.
Even though Oklahoma City is a small market, Lebron can do something like sign a 3-year deal, win a couple championships and move on to bigger and better things, like after the Knicks or Nets have accrued a little talent.
I know this is a redundant theme, but it's still just as true as it was for the other teams, Oklahoma City is not the place to immortalize one's self.
Also, after this season, Durant may be viewed in the same light as DWade in that he might be too good right now, and Lebron isn't going to want to be viewed as the guy who road "someone else's coattails". They've got almost the perfect roster for a player like Lebron, but it's shortcomings will ultimately hold it back.
This is the most obvious no-brainer to me. I know that this is getting a lot of talk and hype right now, but it's for good reason.
IMO, this team makes the playoffs with Blake Griffin. All it has is young talent; if they could only get a good coach. Think about them, they have one of the fifteen best centers in the league, maybe top ten in Chris Kaman, one of the premier young, athletic power forwards in Blake Griffin, a sharp shooting, tough minded Eric Gordon, and if they can resign Steve Blake, a solid point guard.
They will certainly try to trade Baron Davis, but it seems unlikely with his atrocious contract, but you never know. They did get rid of Zac Randolph, who was viewed as untradable at one point. This team's in an international city, they've always played second fiddle to the Lakers, now they have their shot to take California by storm.
They will add another piece with the 8th pick in this year's draft. There's little downside to this team. They should have a nice inside outside game with Griffin/Kaman and Gordon/Davis/Lebron combo. They will be able to score, rebound and defend with this roster. This team could win the next 3 championships with Lebron. Because they're the Clippers shouldn't keep Lebron from going there. The Clippers will be a good team.
If they don't do well, Lebron will be playing in Kobe's shadow. The Clippers have a dirt cheap owner, who hasn't been good to the fans since buying the team.
If Griffin doesn't return to form, or just plain isn't as good as expected, this team goes from being a contender to a 6/7/8 seed in the playoffs, even with Lebron. Last, but certainly not least, the Clippers might actually be cursed.