The moment of truth is here.
LeBron James, after years of suspense, will finally reveal his destination for the 2010-2011 NBA season Thursday night from Greenwich, CT at 9:00 p.m. on national television.
As we inch closer to the hour of LeBron, three teams seem to be logical landing spots for The King. Cleveland, Miami, and New York all have alluring arguments to sway James.
Cleveland, of course, is his home team and has been the reported favorite all along by most media. The Cavs won 61 games this past regular season and would still be a threat to contend with James despite their postseason shortcomings in recent years.
However, James was unable to persuade Chris Bosh to Cleveland via a sign-and-trade and the Cavs have minimal flexibility due to salary cap constraints. If James returns to Cleveland, the team will be very similar to the one that fell to the Celtics in the playoffs with the exception of a departed Shaquille O’Neal.
Bosh and Dwyane Wade have chosen to join forces in Miami and can make a compelling case for James to showcase his expansive eyewear collection on South Beach. Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports reported that Wade, Bosh, and James had a conference call to finalize their plans and that could be a tip off that Miami is the common denominator.
Pat Riley is a legendary coach and would have no qualms with usurping Erik Spoelstra’s position as he did with Stan Van Gundy’s in 2006 when a championship was within reach.
There are significant drawbacks for James in Miami, though. First, Wade and James are dynamic dribble drive players that need shooters to adequately space the floor. Without distance shooters, teams could opt to double team off of Wade or James, leaving one of them open three-point shots which are neither star's strength.
Miami would desperately need a sharp shooter such as Mike Miller or Ray Allen to make the supposed “Dream Team” work. The mid-level exception would have to appease either player because Miami would be capped out after signing three max players.
Further, Miami will always be Wade’s team. He won a title there by himself and no matter how many championships James won there, they would be cheapened by the fact that James couldn’t win one as the conclusive lead guy.
It’s similar to Alex Rodriguez playing next to Derek Jeter in New York, but winning titles is far more significant for a great player in the NBA than any other sport because one immortal player can have such a dramatic impact on the result. Ted Williams' and Dan Marino’s legacies aren’t diminished by the lack of a championship, LeBron’s would be.
New York is the lone team left in the process. Coming to terms with Amar’e Stoudemire on Monday, the Knicks secured one of the two elite power forwards on the market which may be a prerequisite for any team James considers.
In addition, the Knicks already have Danilo Gallinari in place who is the best perimeter shooter on an existing roster of anyone who is in contention for James’ services. Gallinari, 21, is the centerpiece of a young corps in New York including Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas.
After signing James, the Knicks would also have room for a third max player next season or could utilize the extra cap space this offseason with trades. Either way, New York has maneuverability to improve the roster further once James agrees to take his entourage to Madison Square Garden.
New York is not fullproof for James, though. Stoudemire is a serious injury concern given his microfracture surgery to his knee in 2005 and detached retina in 2009. He’s such a risk, in fact, that insurance would not cover his contract. Even if he stays healthy, Stoudemire is known as a poor defender and is an inferior rebounder to his predecessor, David Lee.
Even if Stoudemire stays healthy, the Knicks still need to address holes at center and point guard. A defensive minded interior player and tenacious rebounder would complement Stoudemire well, but centers are hard to come by in this day and age.
Although Douglas showed flashes last season, the Knicks would be wise to bring in a more experienced point guard if they truly want to win immediately. James could fill the need for a ball-handler and distributor himself though.
Chicago is deemed dead since it didn’t land Bosh or Stoudemire and also has the Michael Jordan complex working to its detriment. The Bulls also lack perimeter shooting. Beyond that, Derrick Rose isn’t said to be enthralled with the idea of playing with James.
New Jersey is doomed by the fact that they have to play in Newark for at least the next two years. If they were in Brooklyn right now, the Nets might have been James’ preferred choice.
New Jersey and Chicago can still add either David Lee or Carlos Boozer, but they don’t have the star appeal of Bosh or Stoudemire.