LeBron James: Are the Dallas Mavericks the Best for the King?
By now we've all heard the latest twist in the LeBron James saga.
Last week it was that LeBron wanted to go wherever Chris Paul ended up, assuming he could orchestrate a trade out of New Orleans. This week, it's that LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the Bulls is a "done deal" according to the New York Times, which quoted an anonymous league executive.
While it's not beyond the realm of possibility that LeBron knows where he's going—and Chicago is a popular choice, if that is the case—the Bulls aren't the only ones who have a shot.
The Dallas Mavericks, a team that has been called a "dark, dark horse" by one of Marc Stein's sources, still have a pretty big hand to play for LeBron.
Talent, talent, everywhere
From a basketball point of view, the Bulls are probably the best choice. After all, Derrick Rose is going to be the next Isaiah Thomas and Joakim Noah is Bill Russell with a ponytail.
At least that's what we've been led to believe.
But the Mavericks aren't slouches in the talent department either. They have Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Rodrigue Beaubois, plus an assortment of assorted swingman talent.
Sure, they don't have a superb shooting guard (though draft pick Dominique Jones could provide an instant upgrade at the position) or their center locked up (Erick Dampier would be shipped out to get LeBron, and Haywood is up in the air), but they've got two Hall of Famers playing at a high level. With LeBron and his skill set, every one on the team would get better.
Chris Bosh would be a great weapon next to LeBron. But looking at Bosh's resume, what exactly has he done as far as team success?
He certainly hasn't advanced past the first round. He has missed the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference no less, five of his seven seasons. Even a sub-.500 team can make it to the playoffs in the East.
Sure, Bosh hasn't had the best team, but for all of his talk about how he's a player "you can build a franchise around," the Raptors have been built around him and have done jack squat.
Bosh has said he "isn't a sidekick."
Well, what would he be to LeBron? He certainly isn't better than LeBron, and LeBron won't and shouldn't be deferring to him in crunch time. What happens when those egos start to clash?
Then you have Dirk, who only cares about winning. He talks about leaving money on the table to help the Mavs, about not caring who does the scoring as long as they win. And he's backed that notion up.
Dirk and Kidd have also both been to the finals, and they've made deep playoff runs with teams that had no business making it that far.
Look at the Bulls vs. Mavericks defensively as well.
With the Bulls, LeBron would be guarding the other team's best shooter every night. With the Mavs, Shawn Marion would be there to take some of the defensive pressure off LeBron, leaving him free to create offensively.
When the smoke clears
The Bulls, assuming they get LeBron and Bosh, would have exactly seven players under contract: Rose, Noah, James, Bosh, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and Luol Deng.
That's a decent group, but there's no true shooting guard either and absolutely no depth.
Those seven players put the Bulls at about $55 million, $1 million less than the salary cap. So the Bulls would have to fill out their roster with whatever talent will play for a veteran minimum contract.
Then what happens starting in 2011-12, when Noah's rookie contract is over (and Rose's the next year)?
The Mavs would get rid of Dampier (but with a chance to get him back), but they could hold on to Haywood and still have Dirk and Kidd. Sure, they might possibly lose Beaubois or Butler, but they have Marion, Terry, and others who are already locked in as a team.
The Bulls are going to be gutted if they sign Bosh and James. The Mavs, on the other hand, have superior talent to Bosh in Dirk, plus more players that have experience playing together.
All about those greenbacks
The Mavericks, due to them being over the cap, would have to bring LeBron over in a sign and trade, which is a huge plus for them. That means Cleveland would sign LeBron to a bigger deal and then send LeBron to the Mavs.
The Cavs would get something (better than nothing, of course) like Erick Dampier (instant savings of $13 million) and maybe someone like Beaubois or Caron Butler to build for the future.
The Bulls can do a sign-and-trade, but it's much more tricky for them. They would have to send Luol Deng (who's not worth half of his salary) as well as someone like Johnson or Gibson.
But that move would give them even less players on the roster, and the same amount of cap space to fill it out with.
So the Bulls can sign LeBron straight up for four years, $96 million, or the Mavs can get him for five-years $125 million, since technically the Cavs are "re-signing" LeBron.
With the massive changes about to go down with the collective bargaining agreement, that's no small sum.
You can debate basketball all you want, and the Bulls to have a legit claim to an on-the-court advantage when comparing these two sides (though not so much as we once thought, eh?).
But the Mavs have a clear advantage when it comes to the front office. Sometimes that's all it takes.
Does LeBron want to play for Jerry Reinsdorf, the man who was so cheap that he broke up the Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson combo after three straight titles, including a 72-10 season? A man who once said, "I don't care if he goes 82 and f#@king 0, Phil Jackson isn't coming back"?
Or does he want to play for Mark Cuban, famous for good player relationships and spending the cash to surround his team with talent and the very latest in player amenities?
Despite his flaws, no one can deny that Cuban will spend every dollar he has to win a title. Can the same be said for Reinsdorf?
What happens down the road, with Bosh and James winning a few rings, and people wanting raises? Will Reinsdorf blow it up? He already blew up a team with the greatest player, sidekick, and coach in NBA history.
A "dark, dark horse" ?
While the Bulls have emerged as favorites for LeBron, and with good reason, saying it's a "done deal" doesn't take into account a lot of things. A team like the Dallas Mavericks is in the position to win right now, and it has an owner and a structure that is conducive to future success as well.
LeBron and the Cavs are a broken record. The Knicks and Nets are years away from being competitive. The Clippers are cursed and terribly run. In Miami, LeBron will be playing sidekick to D-Wade, and who else do the Heat have?
I've covered the Bulls above, so that leaves one other team—a team that is ready to win, and a town that would welcome LeBron.
I close with the words to a song that has been climbing the charts, "C'mon LeBron, put your Maverick jersey on... "
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