With the most hyped free-agent class ever quickly approaching, everyone has their two cents on where LeBron James is going to sign this summer. The standard east-coast reporting has played an obvious role, with writers reporting New York and New Jersey pose a serious threat to signing LeBron. South Beach is calling, and The Clips could have a new owner throwing dollars all over. Then right there in the middle of everything is Cleveland and Chicago. Here is a breakdown on how teams stand in the race to sign LeBron:
New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris, Brooke Lopez, and the #3 draft pick could serve as a solid core of players to entice LeBron. Brooke Lopez shows potentially elite talent and Devin Harris should benefit from playing under Avery Johnson, a former point guard in the league. Depending on who they get in the draft - they should be praying Evan Turner falls to them - they could round out a strong nucleus moving forward. Of course, this new Russian billionaire doesn't hurt. Anytime you have an owner that wants to win rings instead of run a business you have a strong chance of success. However although enticing, I don't see LeBron signing with the Nets this summer. They almost had the worst record ever last year and LeBron wants rings not a glimpse of hope.
The reasons to sign with the Heat are obvious. South Beach, Pat Riley, Cap Space. The Heat are in a strong financial position this summer and have the ability to pair Dwayne Wade with a max free agent to the roster. However, I see them signing someone other than LeBron. D-Wade and The King sounds great, but I strongly believe both want to lead separate teams. Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, and Amar'e are all strong candidates to sign with Miami. Boozer lives in Miami, Chris Bosh needs to defrost after Toronto, and Amar'e was linked throughout the trade deadline this past season to Miami. All could potentially help Miami get back to the NBA Finals since their drought after the title, however all is uncertain as of right now who Miami will land.
New York Knicks
The Knicks have a solid coach in place, however their current roster is shady at best. The players under contract this season are Eddie Curry - who would be stupid not to exercise his $11 M player option - Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas. Others players such as JR Giddens, Bill Walker (Who the...), and Sergio Rodriguez all either have qualifying offers or team options. The tremendous amount of cap space is a positive for the Knicks, but I don't see LeBron taking a chance on signing with New York with that roster. He is worried about beating the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, and scrambling a team together isn't going to get that done. Also, the Knicks don't even have a first round pick this year, and traded away more of their future this past trade deadline. Ultimately, I see New York ending up signing Joe Johnson and Amar'e. Just a guess.
You knew the Bulls were serious about going after major free agents this summer when they dealt John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas at the trade deadline. Both players contributed to their playoff teams, most notably Salmons. Acquiring expiring contracts put the Bulls in a favorable financial position, and are a team with lots of potential to sign big free agent.
I believe Chicago poses the biggest threat to sign LeBron James away from Cleveland. They have six players under contract this coming season: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, and James Johnson. That is a team that will grab The King's eye. Derrick Rose may the the league's best PG at the end of this next season (debate me if you want) and that is exactly what LeBron needs. Also, a sign-and-trade involving Chris Bosh is certainly possible. Keep an eye out for that.
The obvious favorite to sign LeBron this summer is the team that drafted him out of high school, the Cleveland Cavaliers. They can offer him the most money out of any team because of the CBA and I mean come on, the kids from Akron. They cleaned house after the loss to Boston and are hoping to put a coach in place that LeBron would play for. However, their roster has shown major flaws and with the rumors of Mo Williams and Delonte West maybe leaving town, what pieces does Cleveland really have? Jamison? Varejao? Shaq? Their roster is definitely a question mark, and may be the reason as to why LeBron doesn't come back.
Let me know what you think. Debates are always welcomed.