Partners in Crime: Who Should LeBron James Pair with in 2010?
Everyone keeps debating where LeBron James should go and what team would give him the best opportunity to win a championship within the coming few NBA seasons.
However, perhaps it is not where he decides to play next season, but who he decides to play with that will count the most.
As many news outlets have recently reported, James and the other superstars of this NBA free agent class (namely Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and possibly Amar'e Stoudemire) will hold something of a summit to discuss where they all might choose to sign next season.
In a perfect world, a team like the Knicks can convince James, Wade, and Bosh to take discounts and all sign together (the three superstars would then theoretically go to a shoe company and make the money they lost in some kind of mega endorsement deal). It would be a Big Three that would make the Boston Celtics' 2008 "Big Three" look like a high school recreational team.
Too bad it will never happen, as the three superstars probably won't take that kind of paycut and it would be too much money for any team out there to commit to just three players, even with the supposed discount.
The best case scenario would be for James to pair up with one of these remaining superstars and form an impressive dynamic duo that could dominate the NBA with the right complimentary pieces.
So, the question remains, if James wants to win now, which of these superstars should he pair up with to get him to the promised land?
Read on to find out...
LeBron James - A Quick Glance
So far throughout his career, LeBron James has proven to be one of the two best players in the NBA.
The only thing keeping him from grabbing the top spot from his adversary Kobe Bryant is that, unlike Bryant, James doesn't have a ring.
In Cleveland, the front office has tried to get him a sidekick worthy of running with "The King."
They tried Mo Williams, who has proven to be a solid but streaky point guard who shows up some nights, but cannot be counted on to deliver on a consistent basis.
Then it was Shaquille O'Neal, who, while he was probably an upgrade over Zydrunas Ilgauskas, was exposed for being over the hill and too slow, as he no longer commands a double team. He can be controlled by a physical center such as Kendrick Perkins or Dwight Howard, and while he won't lose a game for you, he's probably not going to win it either.
Finally, at the trade deadline this past season, the Cavaliers brought Antawn Jamison into the mix. But that experiment also failed when he proved he couldn't handle longer forwards on the defensive end of the floor, as a diminished Kevin Garnett ran circles around the undersized power forward.
In short, James probably hasn't had the necessary help he has needed to win a title in Cleveland.
James is a driver who finishes strong and demands to be fouled by his opponents for fear of an earth shattering dunk that could either change the momentum of the game or cement a team's fate all-together. He is a very good defender who can make the highlight reel blocks while also shutting down a team's dynamic scorer (see Paul Pierce in this year's Eastern Conference Semifinals), and he has improved his long range shot to a respectable level.
In other words, he can do most everything.
Unfortunately, in the NBA, it has been proven time and time again that, no matter how good a superstar is, he can't win without at least a second near superstar as his wingman.
So, without further ado, of the other four players on the free agent class considered to be superstars, these are how well they fit together with "The King."
1. Chris Bosh
James, teamed with the versatile power forward Chris Bosh, could give the rest of the NBA fits deciding whether to fall in and double team Bosh on the post, or whether to extend and cover James on the perimeter.
Either way, the opposition is in trouble.
Bosh, who played with the Toronto Raptors last season, averaged 24 points, close to 11 rebounds, and one block per contest in 2009-2010.
One thing that doomed the Cleveland Cavaliers was that, when put up against teams like the Boston Celtics (2008 and 2010) and the Orlando Magic (2009), their big men couldn't stand up to their opponents. Guys like Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard owned the glass, either overpowering the Cavs prior to O'Neal's arrival or just going around the lumbering behemoth this past season.
If James was on the same team as Bosh, he would finally have a big man who could control the paint, consistently grab 10 rebounds per game, and give whatever team they play for an effective inside-out combination that would be incredibly difficult to guard.
To make this marriage perfect, James would either have to refine his three point jump shot or the team would have to get a role player possibly with the Mid-Level Exception to stretch the floor, as the only concern would be doubling Bosh by collapsing into the lane, thus restricting James' driving opportunities.
However, if there is a consistent three-point threat on the perimeter, the opponent would be at the mercy of James and Bosh.
Whether or not that three-point area is filled, it's a minor detail. Put Bosh and James on the same squad together and they will go far...possibly grabbing that NBA title that both players so desperately want and need.
2. Dwyane Wade
Following their participation in Team USA's run to Olympic Gold in 2008, it has been apparent that Dwyane Wade and James would make a great pair.
They have chemistry, and they play well with one another.
Wade, who played for the Miami Heat this season, averaged just over 33 points, just under seven assists, and about five and a half rebounds a game last season.
The only problem with Wade and James teaming up together is that, even though they are probably the two best players available, they would fill a similar need for a team and the team would still presumably lack a dominant inside presence to control the boards and to suck defenders into the paint from the perimeter.
However, that doesn't mean that this duo couldn't make some serious noise.
These are two playmakers that can handle the ball, create their own scoring opportunities and can also find their wingman on the perimeter.
In short, they're both very well rounded and do-it-all kind of players, and with their unique skill sets, even though they both fill similar roles on the court, they would be able to play nicely off of one another.
A concern would be who the alpha dog would be, as both players fill similar roles and they both do what they do extremely well.
However, given that both players seem eager to win and unselfish, it is a fair bet to assume that these two players would find a way to share the ball and the spotlight if they were to play together.
3. Amar'e Stoudemire
This is where the pairings start to get a little less perfect.
Bosh and James complement each other perfectly, and James and Wade have proven to have remarkable chemistry with one another.
Amar'e Stoudemire, who played for the Phoenix Suns this season, is a dynamic offensive power forward who is challenged defensively and can sometimes vanish on the boards.
In the 2009-2010 season, Stoudemire averaged 23.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and a block per game.
There is no doubt that Stoudemire will get you points--he is one of the better offensive big men in the NBA, and he has proven that he can play up tempo with Steve Nash.
However, he is a liability defensively, and, at times, he is not the dominating rebounding force that he needs to be.
In the playoffs this season, Stoudemire has averaged about six and a half boards a game, at times looking nonexistent on the glass, particularly in the conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
This is precisely the reason that Bosh gets a big nod of approval over Stoudemire.
While Bosh may score a little less than Stoudemire, he is whole package, giving his team rebounding ability and decent defense to go along with the 20 points a game.
That being said, being Stoudemire's teammate isn't a bad thing. In an offensive league, Stoudemire is a matchup problem for many opponents, and there is no question that a team featuring both James and Stoudemire would be a nightmare for pretty much every opponent.
Leaving either James or Stoudemire single covered is a very risky proposition, and it would be guaranteed to happen if these two were on the same squad together.
While Stoudemire may not feature the complete game that Bosh or Wade do, he is still a dynamic force that would undoubtedly boost whatever team that he plays for...particularly a team with James at his side.
4. Joe Johnson
Of the four big time superstars that could pair up with James to form a dynamic duo, Joe Johnson would be the least appealing--by far.
Johnson, who donned the Atlanta Hawks jersey last season, is essentially a poor man's Dwyane Wade.
He averaged 21.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.6 rebounds a game.
Wade, on the other hand, averaged close to 12 more points, one more assist and one more rebound a game than Johnson, and that's a huge difference.
Perhaps the only advantage that Johnson would have on Wade would be his better three-point shooting, but it's not like that completely sways this argument, as Wade can still do so many other things better than Johnson.
Johnson is a dynamic player who will benefit just about every team that he signs on with.
However, as these playoffs may have begun to expose, Johnson may be the classic regular season guy who has a remarkable regular season and then flames out during the postseason.
While he had a solid series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he was nonexistent against the bigger, more physical Orlando Magic, and he and his team crumbled when the spotlight was brightest.
All of these factors combine to show that, unlike Wade who is a stellar player and has a preestablished chemistry with James, Johnson is not the dynamic player that can complement James and propel him, and the team, to the next level of competing consistently for NBA titles.
So there you have it, of the four other bone fide superstars on the free agent market, Chris Bosh is the best player for LeBron James and whatever team is willing to sign two of these stars.
However, there are still other compelling options out there, and this is a scenario that may not even happen.
All we can do is wait and see, as The King will undoubtedly dictate where all of these dominos fall as we approach the NBA's looming free agency period.