Disclaimer: This is all just a thinking outside the box article, so no need to tell me that the ideas are dumb or that im an idiot for not thinking exactly like the ESPN crew wants me to. And i use the salary cap rules very roughly, but its the best of my knowledge, so thanks for reading and happy holidays.
We know the drill, we've heard the rumors and we know LeBron's options:
1. Sign a max deal with Cleveland.
2. Sign a max deal with New Jersey.
3. Sign a max deal with the New York.
But what if it doesn't have to be so set in stone? LeBron has stated consistently that he wants to go to a contender team that has another proven star in a big basketball market.
This being said, I've looked at the payrolls of the NBA teams and come up with three new places for LeBron in 2010—all of which will have sufficient cap space, stars on the roster, and in good NBA markets.
For those who are not familiar with the NBA salary cap rules and regulations, I'll briefly discuss a few regulations I am following when making my analysis.
The NBA salary cap for the 2008/2009 season is $58.68 million—so i'll use this number
Mid-Level Exception Player: Teams are allowed to sign one Mid-Level Exception Player even if it puts them over the salary cap limit. The Mid-Level exception is set at $5,585,000.
Rookie Exceptions: Teams are allowed to sign 1st round draft picks regardless if it puts them over the salary cap limit.
Larry Bird Exception:Teams are allowed to resign players who have played on their team for three consecutive teams regardless of salary cap limit. This promotes team concepts.
The highest paid player receives $24,751,934 , so I will use this number for LeBron's max deal.
1. Atlanta Hawks
Total Payroll in 2010: $22,485,701
- Josh Smith - $11,600,000
- Al Horford - $5,444,857 (team option)
- Acie Law - $2,940,844 (team option)
- Maurice Evans - $2,500,000 (player option)
Payroll left to work with: $36,194,299
Payroll left after signing LeBron: $11,442,365
Atlanta is a playoff team and when these guys develop and grow in the next season or two could easily be a contender team--exactly what LeBron wants to go to.
While $11 mill. isn't a lot of left over cash to fill up seven or eight extra roster spots, the exceptions could come into play in this situation.
Using the Larry Bird Exception, the Hawks could resign Joe Johnson without any penalty for going over the cap--adding another proven star to the roster.
Johnson's contract in 2009 is worth $14,976,754, which probably wouldn't increase too terribly much for the next season. Johnson has made it clear he likes the atmosphere in Atlanta, and adding LeBron to the roster would immediately push the Hawks out of the 7th or 8th seed in the East into the top spot.
Seriously, take a second to envision a starting line of Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Al Horford and Josh Smith !?!
You could use some of the remaining cash to resign Flip Murray at point, or take the Mid Level Player Exception and convince Delante West follow his back court mate to Atlanta.
A move to the Hawks eliminates the chance for LeBron to play with Chris Bosh because Atlanta already has two young studs in the post (Horford and JSmith).
Another worry is that Joe Johnson left a great situation in Phoenix because he wasn't getting the amount of shots he deserves. I know LeBron spreads the love to his teammates, but know telling how Joe Johnson would react if his shots decreased.
With a team like this, they would need a point guard. The lack of excess spending budget would prevent them from picking up one of the bigger named PG in free agency in 2010 (Tony Parker, TJ Ford).
Atlanta is arguably the biggest city in the south and is home to many celebrities, athletes and rappers.
For those that think LeBron would go to NJ because of Jay Z's influence, the hip hop scene glorifies ATL, and I think it could be a very enticing city for LeBron to spread his wings.
2. Miami Heat
Total Payroll in 2010: $34,520,339
- Dwyane Wade - $17,149,243 (player option)
- Michael Beasley - $4,962,240 (team option)
- Marcus Banks - $4,752,000
- James Jones - $4,640,000 (team option)
- Daequan Cook - $2,169,856 (team option)
- Mario Chalmers - $847,000 (team option)
Payroll left to work with: $24,159,661
Payroll left after signing LeBron: $0
Okay, so they are left with $0 cap space to work with, but as earlier, the exceptions will come into play.
My first move is to use the Larry Bird Exception to resign Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright, putting the team number up to nine roster players.
Add in the 1st Round draft pick exception that's 10 players.
Next I would refuse to pick up the Team Option on James Jones contract and/or Daequan Cook's contract. Jones' $4.6 million dollar opening could easily be spread around to sign three or four younger guys to deals.
Realistically, you wouldn't need to sign anyone big during the free agency with this team, other than LeBron. Sign a few young guys to lower deals and let them get burn in the fourth quarter.
Let this starting line up sink in: 1. Mario Chalmers 2. Dwyane Wade 3. LeBron James 4. Michael Beasley 5. Udonis Haslem.
I think that LeBron and Wade (the way he played in the Olympics) would be reminiscent of the Jordan / Pippen era.
The make up of this team is strangely similar to the mid 90's Bulls squad.
Who could stop a team like this?!?
The LeBron signing eats up the remainder of their cap space, which is a huge problem. If any of the things stated above don't go through, or players resign elsewhere, then the Heat could be looking at trouble.
Who knows if LeBron and DWade could even co-exist? They played well together in the Olympics, but Dwade could get very tired of sharing his throne with "The King."
Miami is a big market.... just not necessarily the best for athletes. With distractions at every turn, it could pose some problems for LeBron or any member of that team.
However, Miami is another place frequently spoken about by Rappers. The night life, clubs, and constant barrage of celebrities would be a big draw for LeBron. The beach, boats, and 80's style strip are also bonuses.
Lil Wayne said it best, "Gangsters don't die...they get chubby and move to Miami."
If LeBron is looking for a place to "get chubby" and settle down with a few championships, Miami might be the place.
3. Detroit Pistons
Total Payroll in 2010: $15,875,463
- Tayshaun Prince - $11,148,760
- Rodney Stuckey - $2,767,126 (team option)
- Arron Afflalo - $1,959,577 (team option)
Payroll left to work with: $42,804,537
Payroll left after signing LeBron: $18,052,603
Tons of leftover cap space to sign a big name. Chris Bosh is the first to come to mind, however his contract is around $15 mil and he would expect a higher contract—depleting the cap space completely.
The first move would be to re-sign Richard Hamilton and Amir Johnson using the Larry Bird Exception and not have it count against your cap room.
The starting line would look like: 1 Rodney Stuckey 2. Richard Hamilton 3. LeBron James 4. Tayshaun prince 5. Amir Johnson.
With a starting line like that, they might not need another block buster signing.
They could extend Jason Maxiell's contract through 2010, let Kwame Brown, Allen Iverson, and Rasheed Wallace walk into free agency in 2009.
The Pistons could use the $18 mil to snag players like Josh Howard ($10 mil) or Steve Nash if he would agree to a pay cut.
LeBron to Detroit seems a little unreal. After the way he tore through the Pistons in the playoffs, It would be tough to imagine that none of the players or coaches on the Pistons don't have bad blood with LeBron.
It would also be tough to think LeBron would leave his home town team for an Eastern Conference rival.
There isn't enough money here to sign a big time free agent like Bosh, and that might now sit well with LeBron. He has said that he wants to sign with a contender and while the Pistons have performed well in the past, they are falling behind in the head of the East year by year.
Detroit as a city is declining greatly due to the economic depression and the recent bailout talks for the auto industry. However, the support for basketball has been phenomenal in recent years.
Detroit is a title town, that cherishes its players. LeBron might enjoy this winning attitude and mindset of the town.
While Detroit doesn't have as many celebrity ties and as big of a market, its a city that knows how to win and has produced many great basketball players over the years.
Once again, thanks for reading. Any comments, I'd love to hear them.