This just in, LeBron James will become a free agent on July 1st. Even those that despise LeBron (*cough* Lakers fans) are waiting to see what he decides to do. Not because they care; but rather because they are intrigued to find out if his decision causes a shift in the balance of power in the NBA. Think about this for a second: two of the five best players in the NBA (James and Wade) will be free agents this summer. What this means is that we could potentially have two teams rise from the ashes and become instant title contenders. Some have speculated that they might end up together, but I beg to differ.
Although Kobe Bryant is still a phenomenal player, he has a few years left as one of the top dogs. Wade and LeBron though are relatively the same age; hence once Kobe retires, these guys could potentially decide the next few titles. Intriguing isn’t it? With that said, what teams could potentially be interesting for the league MVP? Instead of handpicking a few teams with cap room, let’s see how he fits with every team in the league.
Quick FYI: every time you see expiring contract in the list below, it means the contract expires July 1st 2011 (meaning next year).
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron for Jamal Crawford (under salary cap rules, this only works if Joe Johnson does not re-sign).
Why this could happen: A nucleus of Mike Bibby, Josh Smith, Al Horford and LeBron James isn’t bad.
Why it couldn’t happen: The move makes the Hawks possibly a second round or conference finals contender; but there is no way that this Hawks teams contends for a title.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Paul Pierce (expiring contract).
Why it could happen: This one is a bit interesting. The team that ended LeBron’s playoff run two of the past three years could be a potential destination for him. He would be able to play with aging stars such as Garnett and Allen (if he re-signs) thus making them the ultimate powerhouse of the East. Combine that with the fact he would play alongside Rondo (who is locked up for another five years); you can see that the team would be set up to contend for the short term and then would have the flexibility to sign free agents in the summer of 2011.
Why it couldn’t happen: LeBron said he is all about winning. Although signing with the Celtics would scratch the itch in the short run (perhaps they win a title or two), but that aging roster would probably discourage him from going there. After seeing Wade win a title in Miami and then fail to win a first round series the rest of his career, that thought has to linger in the back of his mind.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron for Stephen Jackson and Tyson Chandler.
Why it could happen: Playing for Michael Jordan.
Why it couldn’t happen: Playing for Michael Jordan has yet to pay off for anyone.
How it could happen: Chicago has necessary cap room to sign LeBron James.
Why it could happen: A big market, a squad featuring Derrick Rose (aka Officer Rick Rose aka “Everyday I’m Hustling”), Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. If LeBron was able to make the Conference Finals with Delonte West as his starting point guard one year and Mo Williams the year after, what do you think he will do with Officer Rose?
Why it couldn’t happen: Although getting LeBron James would make the Bulls a contender for the East’s crown; it would not give them the conference outright. Bulls would still need a legit low post scorer. Nonetheless, Chicago is still a potential destination.
How it could happen: James re-signs for a max contract with the Cavaliers.
Why it could happen: Home is where the heart is. Although the Cavs organization has expected to compete for a title in these past two years but failed to reach the Finals, the team still has some fairly good pieces that could eventually get them over the hump.
Why it couldn’t happen: The Cavs are a great regular season team but seem destined to fail in the postseason. The inability to get consistent low post scoring and to take away a team’s primary scoring option (Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett) are the issues the Cavs face. These problems can be rectified through trades but the team’s track record in trades is less than stellar right now.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Erick Dampier and Caron Butler (Dampier’s contract is not guaranteed, hence Cavs can waive him afterwards and not have his salary count towards the salary cap).
Why it could happen: Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry. Now imagine LeBron James playing with them. Nothing more needed to add.
Why it couldn’t happen: I struggle to find a solid reason here. If anything, I can only think of more reasons this should happen. Dirk Nowitzki is still an elite player in the NBA and desperately needs to play with another superstar. He has watched Tim Duncan, Kobe & Shaq and Kobe & Pau just take control of the Western Conference for the past decade while his teams always came up short. You can argue that even when the Mavericks made the Finals, their roster lacked something. But add James to the mix and the equation changes. Dirk might very well be the best power forward in the NBA; now picture him next to the reigning league MVP. That’s a real scary combination. Keep in mind though, Dirk Diggler probably has about three or four great years left.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen (K-Mart is an expiring contract).
Why it could happen: Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James is a solid three headed monster. They would create tons of chaos for opposing teams and be extremely exciting.
Why it couldn’t happen: Denver would no longer have any semblance of size to compete in the tough big man oriented Western Conference. Secondly, if you think the Nuggets have chemistry issues now with Billups, Melo and JR Smith (I still refuse to call him Earl) all wanting to shoot the ball, what do you think happens when LeBron James comes to town, snatches all the shots, spotlight and groupies? If you think that Rocky Balboa getting the U.S.S.R. to implode was bad (Rocky IV), wait until you see what happens if King James were to ever wear a Nuggets uniform.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Tayshaun Prince (expiring contract).
Why it could happen: Pistons GM Joe Dumars finds pictures and video footage of LeBron James having sex with a dude and threatens to release it to press. Nike then proceeds to confiscate the tapes and pictures and gives it back to LeBron’s people. So the only thing left for Dumars to do is bribe some tranny to sleep with LeBron, tape it all and then blackmail James. As ludicrous as this sounds, it’s the only way he goes to Detroit.
Why it won’t happen: Nobody’s lining up to play with Stuckey, Hamilton, Gordon, Villanueva and Maxiell. Just so we’re clear, if LeBron James were to sign with Detroit, the team wouldn’t have any semblance of cap room for at least three years.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Andris Biendrins and Vladimir Radmanovic (expiring contract).
Why it could happen: The chance to play with Stephen Curry and Anthony Randolph in a possibly high tempo offense (if Don Nelson returns) could possibly appeal to LeBron James. This team has some young talent to work with.
Why it couldn’t happen: LeBron James is hoping to win a championship soon, not battle for a playoff spot; and sadly that’s what the Warriors would be doing. So he probably says: “Don’t call us, and we won’t call you”.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Kevin Martin, Jared Jeffries (expiring contract) and Kyle Lowry.
Why it could happen: The idea of playing with Yao Ming, Trevor Ariza, Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier is definitely intriguing. Think about it, two years ago a Rockets squad that had Ron Artest on their team (he has since been replaced by Trevor Ariza) took the Lakers to seven games (the only test the Lakers faced that whole postseason) in the second round of the playoffs.
Why it couldn’t happen: You have a better chance of seeing Kanye West take Taylor Swift out on a date than Yao Ming has a chance of ever being healthy for a full NBA season.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy (both have expiring contracts).
Why it could happen: Larry Bird promises to go into a Hot Tub Time Machine and bring back the 1986 version of himself to play with LeBron in Indiana.
Why it won’t happen: As presently constructed, the Pacers have absolutely nothing to interest James to sign with their team.
How it could happen: Clippers have the required cap room to sign LeBron James outright.
Why it could happen: The Clippers could potentially sign the Akron superstar to a free agent deal and have him play with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin. That’s a pretty scary combination right now when you consider the idea that LeBron was able to get to the Finals with Eric Snow as his point guard a few years ago. Imagine him playing alongside a motivated Baron Davis.
Why it won’t happen: In NBA 2K, this move would make perfect sense. In the real world? Not so much. The Clippers do not want to win. They keep bringing in second and third tier stars just to keep the fans a bit happy and let them think that their team might finally be good. They do it every year. So bringing LeBron James to the Clippers would rejuvenate the franchise, sell tickets and garner some media attention. However, the team would never invest into building a true contender and plus there’s the whole cursed franchise thing. LeBron James would probably sign the contract, and then blow his ACL, MCL and PCL while getting a lap dance at a reputable strip joint.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest or Lamar Odom.
Why it could happen: NBA executives just realized that this deal actually makes some semblance of sense and all became terrified. The team’s starting five would be Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. The league would oblige the Lakers to only play three players at a time out of fairness for the remainder of the NBA. For those thinking that these guys wouldn’t be able to coexist, I have two words for you: TEAM USA. For all of LeBron gifts, swagger and supreme confidence; even he knew when to defer to Kobe in the Olympics. We forget that Kobe accepted the role of defensive stopper for that team and allowed Melo, Wade and LBJ to be the team’s main scoring options throughout the tournament. Kobe only truly asserted himself when needed in the final against Spain. So yes, the Mamba, You Got Paued and the King could all play together. Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss just got excited and stained their pants without the help of Viagra.
Why it couldn’t happen: For two reasons:
1. LeBron James probably does not want to ride Kobe’s coattails to a title, it would probably diminish his own legacy.
2. David Stern would never allow this to happen. Such a move probably decides the next five championships and adds an additional seven quality years to Kobe’s career because he no longer has to carry the weight every night.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies would have to let Rudy Gay leave in free agency).
Why it could happen: LeBron James has yet to play with a stud low post player. Indeed, James and Randolph would lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs and have a solid chance of getting one of the top four seeds in the West and possibly upsetting a team or two.
Why it won’t happen: Memphis won’t be contending for titles any time soon. No way LeBron James leaves the Cavaliers to go to a similar or worse situation.
How it could happen: The Miami Heat have the required cap room to sign both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Why it could happen: Two of the best five players in the NBA on the same team is a great selling point. For years, Wade and LeBron have both done the heavy lifting all by themselves, because they lacked quality teammates. In this scenario, they actually get to rely on one another and take turns carrying the team; but always do it collectively.
Why it won’t happen: Both players need the ball in their hands to be successful; which means one of them would have to take a backseat. In addition, the 2008 and 2009 NBA Finals have featured the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic; with all three teams having all-star caliber big men (Garnett, Gasol and Howard). Consequently, in order to have a shot at the crown, the Heat would need to add a great big man (think Chris Bosh) to their roster in order to truly compete for a championship. What are the odds that one of these players takes a pay cut? The bills still need to keep getting paid, even for NBA players, so don’t bet on this scenario happening.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for a potentially injured Michael Redd (expiring contract).
How it could happen: Herb Kohl sells the team to LeBron James for about $6 million dollars and David Stern allows LeBron to be a player/owner. James is able to play in Milwaukee and sell out the place and attract free agents such as Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson by promising them shares of the team.
Why this won’t happen: Kohl won’t sell and Stern would never accept this.
How it could happen: The Timberwolves have the required cap space to sign LeBron James to a free agent contract.
Why it could happen: The prospect of playing with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson could be quite intriguing. In addition, signing James could get Ricky Rubio to leave Barcelona and join the team. The team would have a core of Corey Brewer, Johnny Flynn, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love as well as the chance to add some quality second tier free agents.
Why it couldn’t happen: Ultimately, this team does not contend for a title and LeBron James probably remembers how the franchise treated Kevin Garnett.
How it could happen: The Nets have the cap space to sign LeBron James to a free agent contract and could possibly add a second tier free agent (think Joe Johnson).
Why it could happen: A lineup of Devin Harris, Joe Johnson (unless some other team is stupid enough to give JJ more than $12 million per year when it’s clear that he’s not a franchise player), LeBron James and Brook Lopez (sounds like a hot Latina that should be on Days Of Our Lives) is pretty solid. Add the 3# pick from the NBA Draft to the team and they are in business. Still not convinced? Just remember that their new Russian billionaire owner is ready to spend every penny possible to build a huge contender in New Jersey.
Why it couldn’t happen: Although the Nets would have some solid pieces and good nucleus, the team is just too young to compete in the playoffs. To win in the playoffs you need playoff tested veterans with mental toughness. Other than LBJ, do any of the players listed above inspire any sense of confidence when you picture them going up against Boston or Orland in the playoffs? Exactly.
How it could happen: Deal #1 - Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Peja Stojakovic (expiring contract) and James Posey
Deal#2 – Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Emeka Okafor, Darren Collison and Julian Wright.
Why it could happen: LeBron James would get the opportunity to play with two potential All-Stars. No longer would he have to run the offense and create everything for his team; he would have Chris Paul to lead the fastbreak and feed him alley oops. In the halfcourt offense, the Hornets would turn to David West to score in the post and off pick and rolls. If you think that Magic to Worthy was awesome, this might perhaps be the best point guard swingman combo in league history.
Why it couldn’t happen: I struggle to find a good reason for this one. I gave it some more thought and really couldn’t come up with anything. Maybe LBJ hates jazz and thus dislikes the idea of playing in Nawlins.
How it could happen: The Knicks have the cap room required to sign two guys to a max contract.
Why it could happen: The NBA needs for the Knicks to rise from the ashes and once again become a powerhouse. New York is home to some of the best fans in the world and also the media capital of the world. If LeBron James truly wishes to be a global icon, this is the place where it could happen. Although the team does not actually have a roster right now; LeBron James and another young superstar might take the city as well as the rest of the league by storm. The Knicks have proven in the past that they are willing to spend the money on mediocrity; which means that they would be more than likely to be willing to double their efforts to build a winner.
Please take note though: If you have seen the ESPN documentary on Reggie Miller’s rivalry with the Knicks, even though Miller failed to win a title, his performances against the Knicks have turned him into a legend although he hasn’t really accomplished much in his career (seriously, his claim to fame is a few clutch shots versus the Knicks and taking Jordan to seven games; does that sound like a Hall of Fame resume?). Think about that for a second; if LeBron James wins a championship in New York, he will literally be immortal. We hear about Willis Reed, Dave DeBuscherre and Walt “Clyde” Frazier more than we hear about Wilt Chamberlain……..Put that into perspective, that’s what New York can do for you.
Why it couldn’t happen: LeBron James faces a lot of scrutiny amongst his peers and NBA fans because the media has chosen to anoint him as the NBA’s king despite his lack of championship hardware. If James can’t win in New York, everyone will be there to see him fail on the big stage and direct an insane amount of criticism his way. Remember how the Knicks tore down Ewing during the 1999 championship run? Fans and the media alike all wanted for him to sit out the playoffs because they felt as though he was slowing the team down. Forget the fact that there was no way that the Knicks were beating the Spurs without Ewing, he was the guy that held that team together. Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell were more talented, but they were not leaders. But that’s New York for you; the city vilifies you like no other. And if James were to fail in NY, he would be the ultimate villain.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Nick Collison (expiring contract).
Why it could happen: James would be able to play with an MVP candidate (Durant) and a supremely gifted point guard on his way to stardom (Westbrook). Add Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka to that equation and we have a team contending for the Western Conference crown.
Why it couldn’t happen: Durant and LeBron James would both have to play out of position at time and might struggle for the role of team alpha dog. In addition, both players would probably fight for shots (think the 2001 version of Kobe and Shaq before they patched things up) and one player would probably end up overshadowing the other leading to one of them get shipped out of town.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Vince Carter and Brandon Bass or Vince Carter and Mickel Pietrus.
Why it could happen: Dwight Howard might be a limited offensive player, but he has never played with another player that attracted double teams. For the first time in his career, he would get a steady dose of single coverage. In addition, the Magic would have a superior athlete (James) able to create shots for himself and for his teammates. Keep in mind, the Magic would still keep their firepower from three point range. This team sound familiar to you? It’s because you’ve seen it before as a former NBA champion in the form of the 2006 Miami Heat and 2002 Los Angeles Lakers. An unstoppable perimeter player in the form of LeBron James (Wade in 2006 and Bryant in 2002), a dominant post player named Dwight Howard (Shaquille O’Neal in 2006 and 2002), a hybrid stretch small/power forward in Rashard Lewis (Antoine Walker in 2006 and Robert Horry in 2002), a rugged defender and shooter in the form of Matt Banres (James Posey in 2006 and Rick Fox in 2002) and an at times trigger happy point guard in Jameer Nelson (Jason Williams in 2006 and Derek Fisher in 2002). This team would be named The Blueprint because they would be built to Takeover (that was a smooth Jay-Z reference right? Thank you thank you you’re far too kind).
Why it couldn’t happen: I can’t find any logical reason in which LeBron wouldn’t strongly consider going to Orlando.
How it could happen: Cavs and sign and trade LeBron James for Andre Iguodala and Jason Kapono or Samuel Dalembert and Jason Kapono.
Why it could happen: LeBron James gets drunk one night and is real desperate for a Philly Cheese Steak. He hops onto his G4 and lands in Philly at 4 am with every restaurant closed. The one spot he finds is owned by a dude named Sal, that forces Bron to sign a contract stating he will sign with the Sixers if he sells him a Philly cheese steak. Being completely drunk and out of whack, Bron signs the contract.
Why it won’t happen: Even with Ohio State star Evan Turner probably Philadelphia bound, the team does not have enough cap space to attract other potential free agents and has few trading chips.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa.
Why it could happen: If Amare remains in Phoenix, this could definitely be a move to consider. A core of Nash, Bron, Stoudemire, Lopez, Hill, Dragic, Dudley and Frye is pretty solid. Such a move would alleviate some of the playmaking responsibilities that Nash has; and the in addition the Suns would finally have someone to match up with the likes of Carmelo, Wade, Nowitzki and Kobe basket for basket.
Why it couldn’t happen: We marvel at Steve Nash’s ability to continue to play at a high level at his age, but the truth is he has to slow down at some point. And that point is coming within the next two or three years. That’s an awfully small window.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Andre Miller and Greg Oden.
Why it could happen: The Blazers have the players, the youth and the hard nosed coach. LeBron James would play alongside Brandon Roy which would be a nightmare for most teams. Both players would be able to create for one another and for their teammates as well. James would finally have a legitimate second scoring option playing with him that he could trust to come through in the playoffs. Also, LaMarcus Aldridge’s ability to score in the post and in pick and rolls make him a great complimentary player alongside Roy and James.
Why it couldn’t happen: Roy’s injury history have to creep up in the back of your mind. Even though he is not as injury prone as Yao Ming, you can’t help but fear that Roy will always be one play away from missing an entire season. If such were to happen, LeBron is right back to square one.
How it could happen: The Kings have the required cap space to sign LeBron James to a free agent contract.
Why it could happen: A young up and coming team with Tyreke Evans to play alongside.
Why it couldn’t happen: This team isn’t close to competing soon for the Western Conference crown. Consequently, he would be worse off in Sacramento than in Cleveland. No dice.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess.
Why it could happen: A pact with the devil…….in this case the devil is named Gregg Poppovich.
Why it couldn’t happen: The Spurs aging roster will probably discourage LBJ from even taking a look at the Spurs.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu.
Why it could happen: LeBron James suddenly realizes he loves hockey and that being in Toronto would allow him to watch and discuss hockey 24/7.
Why it won’t happen: The roster is a mess (Bargnani and Turkoglu are both making the same amount of money at about $10 million per year for basically being oversized shooting forwards that don’t rebound) and the team won’t have any cap room to bring in other free agents. In addition, the team is softer than John Amaechi at a playboy party (does anyone remember when Pierce dunked on Bosh, threw him to the ground and starred him down? NONE of the Raptors players stood up for their star player) and James already took shots at Raptors players for not playing hard.
How it could happen: Cavs sign and trade LeBron James for Andrei Kirilenko (expiring contract) and Ronnie Price.
Why it could happen: Although this scenario is somewhat improbable, the Jazz could potentially re-sign Carlos Boozer and then have him play alongside LeBron James and Deron Williams. If this move happens, the Jazz automatically become the Lakers #1 competition in the West. A team that always plays hard and disciplined would now have two of the best playmakers (scoring and passing) in the entire NBA going to war with the likes of Mehmet Okur, Paul Millsap, Wes Matthews and C.J Miles. If this were to happen, it would come down to the Lakers and Jazz; and then everyone else. I almost wet myself. Check that, I did wet myself.
Why it won’t happen: Cavs fans have a very vivid memory of the last time Carlos Boozer was a free agent. In case you’re not familiar with the situation; the Cavaliers had a team option to terminate Boozer’s contract (who was a second round pick and therefore making peanuts) back in 2004. The Cavs exercised that option with the intention of re-signing him to a larger contract to reward him for his phenomenal play with a six year $39 million dollar contract. However, once word leaked that his contract had been terminated, the Jazz swooped in and offered Boozer a six year $70 million dollar contract. Although Boozer had left Duke to join the NBA after his junior year, he could still do math. He left Cleveland high and dry and went to Utah. The Cavs said they had reached a verbal agreement with Boozer prior to terminating his contract (against NBA rules) that he reneged on. The lesson? Don’t trust Boozer when it comes to free agency.
How it could happen: If the Wizards do not pick up the team option on Josh Howard’s contract, they would have the cap room to offer one max contract to LeBron James and another big contract (close to max) to another free agent.
Why it could happen: LeBron James will have to give serious consideration to Washington. The Wizards just won the draft lottery and will probably select John Wall from Kentucky to play alongside Gilbert Arenas. In addition, the Wizards would have enough cap room to fit in LeBron and another super star free agent (think Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire). That would be an extremely talented team that would be loaded at four positions.
Why it couldn’t happen: There’s just something wrong with imagining LeBron James in a Wizards jersey given his playoff history with the team. This would be the equivalent of seeing Chris Webber play for the Los Angeles Lakers, or Patrick Ewing playing for the Miami Heat. The explanation isn’t necessarily a good one; but some guys you just can’t picture in certain jerseys.
So where do you think LeBron James is headed?