With NBA free agency only a little more than two weeks away, fans of teams are becoming more anxious over whether or not LeBron James will sign with their favorite team. So here is an analysis of the top five players of the each of the respective teams rumored as possible LeBron destinations using PER (player efficiency rating) developed by John Hollinger of ESPN.
For these purposes, I am going to assume that Chris Bosh signs with LeBron to go to the Knicks because I do not see LeBron going to the Knicks without Chris Bosh.
Here are the PER numbers of the Cavaliers and four possible contenders for LeBron's services, without identifying the teams:
Team 1: 25.11, 14.89, 13.76, 14.95, 14.64 for a total of 83.35
Team 2: 17.96, 13.82, 16.14, 11.61, 18.69 for a total of 78.22
Team 3: 28.10, 10.74, 14.56, 16.16, 10.26 for a total of 79.82
Team 4: 20.11, 12.32, 11.58, 12.88, 16.28 for a total of 73.17
Team 5: 15.87, 17.33, 9.95, 13.86, 16.18 for a total of 73.19
Of these teams, it appears that team 3 has the best player and team 1 has the most consistent quality. Team 2 has good players, but none that break the 20 level.
One other statistical measurement is EWA or estimated wins added. Here we are with the same teams and players:
Team 1: 17.1, 5.6, 3.8, 2.2, 1.6 for a total of 30.3
Team 2: 7.0, 3.3, 7.4, 1.0, 11.0 for a total of 29.7
Team 3: 24.4, -0.2, 3.0, 5.4, -0.2 for a total of 32.4
Team 4: 14.3, 0.7, 0.9, 2.8, 5.8 for a total of 24.5
Team 5: 4.7, 7.0, -0.6, 2.5, 6.1 for a total of 19.7
By this measure, the greatness of the best player on team 3 shines brightest as he has an EWA that almost equals team 4 and surpasses team 5. Team 2 has the advantage of three quality players.
So, if LeBron's goal is winning first, then team 4 and 5 would seem to have little chance and team 2 is probably out of the running as winning titles requires elite talent and they have very good players, but none that are in the elite category.
So, if the choice is team 1 or team 3, then it boils down to who LeBron thinks would be a better fit as both are excellent options. Team 3 has the better top player, but team 1 has much better depth in its top five.
Team 5 is Cleveland. The reality is that the Cavaliers had some nice role players, but lack a true second elite player. So, Cleveland is the worst choice for winning a title.
Team 4 is the Nets. Brook Lopez is on his way to elite status, and by PER standards, is pretty much there. However, there is just not enough to justify signing with the Nets over the other teams.
Team 2 is the Bulls. The numbers show that the Bulls have three very good players in Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. However, none are at an elite level just yet.
Team 1 could change all of these equations by trading for a player with an expiring contract in 2011 with a PER of 16.53 and an EWA of 7.0 in a rumored deal where the other team is looking to save about $40 million in future salary. However, the numbers above do not reflect that trade.
Team 1 is the Knicks. Chris Bosh is the elite player, but the real surprise is that the remaining Knicks players are all very solid players who should be a quality supporting cast for LeBron and Bosh. The rumored trade above is Eddy Curry and his soon to be expiring contract for Emeka Okafor with his contract that has four more years after the 2011 season.
Team 3 is the Heat. Dwyane Wade is a true superstar. If LeBron wants to play with Dwyane Wade, it would be a truly memorable pairing. The negative is that the Heat have no other players who can be relied upon to support them.
So, if LeBron looked at these numbers, I would recommend the Knicks, only if Chris Bosh agrees to go there as well. The Knicks have the players to win if LeBron and Bosh go there. If they can pull off the trade for Okafor, then the Knicks are instant title contenders just like the Celtics were in 2008.