Will LeBron James Sign With the Washington Wizards As a Free Agent?

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent INovember 12, 2009

The 2009-2010 NBA season is barely two weeks old, but the 2010 free agency class is a hot topic for fans and experts alike.

The list of players is nothing short of impressive, and would make any owner salivate at the very thought of signing one of the many superstars that figure to be available come next summer. At the top of that list is the king himself, LeBron James.

It is a foregone conclusion that James will opt out of his contract and test the ravenous waters of free agency, and most certainly end up in New York.

But why not entertain the idea of King James in Washington? Feel free to guffaw at the notion.

If anyone could use the "Chosen One" it's the Wizards, right? Since entering the NBA, LeBron has done nothing but kill the Wizards in the playoffs and allowed DeShawn Stevenson to embarrass himself with absurd hand gestures and smack talk. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?

Let's get down to business and tackle the logistics of LeBron in Washington.

Salary Cap

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The Wizards have been flirting with the salary cap in recent years, and have made some moves to lighten the financial load.

Even so, the Wizards don't have much space to work with next season. They have even less if you assume they will re-sign their key free agents, like Brendan Haywood.

The only way the Wizards can make a move for LeBron is if they find a way to trade away their big contract players, like Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. But doing that would make for a barren wasteland of a team, which LeBron isn't going to find appealing.

Surrounding Cast

The Wizards have a decent group of players that has seen them make the playoffs a handful of times since 2004. LeBron wouldn't fit in with that group for several reasons.

One of the best players the Wizards have is Caron Butler. He doesn't light up the stat sheets with gaudy numbers night in and night out, but he brings a level of intensity and a hard-nosed style of play that sets him apart from other players at the position.

He is also a small forward, which is the position LeBron occupies in Cleveland. Bringing in LeBron means Butler is displaced, which would be motivation to trade him and make space under the cap. Not advisable, but an idea all the same.

The Wizards have Jamison and Arenas, but LeBron would demand more attention than both of them. His presence would mean someone isn't getting theirs and thus the team wouldn't be producing to its capability. The Wizards are built around Arenas, and bringing in LeBron throws that off and makes someone the odd man out.


Flip Saunders had handled his fair share of big names as a head coach in the NBA. He dealt with Kevin Garnett and Latrell Sprewell in Minnesota and Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton in Detroit.

Saunders has a proven record of success in the NBA, even if his teams falter in the playoffs. LeBron could be the player to shift that trend if he should come to Washington.

LeBron is a willing enough defender to adjust to Saunders' philosophy and everyone knows he can score, which only makes the defensive end of things easier. Of all the issues the Wizards would have to overcome to bring LeBron to Washington, coaching is at the bottom of the list.

Management Structure

The Wizards have had some luck with general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Grunfeld is responsible for bringing Arenas to Washington and shipping Kwame Brown to L.A. for Butler. If there is anyone bold enough to pursue LeBron on a mere prayer it is Grunfeld.

In the past, Grunfeld has made some questionable moves as GM. With the Knicks, he traded fan favorites Charles Oakley and John Starks away and brought in Marcus Camby and Latrell Sprewell. In the process, Grunfeld was the target of every Knicks fans' ire. Bold moves, but questionable in retrospect.

The bold but questionable model would fit well with a play for LeBron. He may be responsible for bring in Butler and Arenas, but he could sell them down the river for a shot at LeBron. Who needs team chemistry when the team is LeBron James?

Though that formula hasn't worked for the Cavs. Case in point, Shaq.

Style of Play

The Wizards have never been a defensive team. Coach Saunders has made an effort to restore an emphasis on defense in Washington, but in the process the offense has struggled.

Last season, LeBron made All-NBA Defensive First Team, despite average steal and block totals. He makes big plays at the right times, which is more than the Wizards can say for their defensive maven, DeShawn Stevenson (cue the hand wag in front of the face).

The Wizards seem set on running Saunder's offense, but often get caught up in thinking about what they're doing instead of just doing it. LeBron has a way of making everyone around him better, something sorely missing on the Wizards.

Washington would bend to the will of LeBron and not the other way around. Saunders knows how to mold an offense to a player, or make him function in the existing system.

Additional Perks

LeBron's motivation to come to Washington seems pretty small at this point. New York offers a return home for the King, and Jay-Z, and Madison Square Garden.

Washington offers a bigger market than Cleveland and way less pressure to succeed. New York is one of the grandest stages in the world for sports. LeBron plays well under pressure, but why not take a load off for a few years?

LeBron would certainly have access to the president if he came to Washington, and he could personally shut both DeShawn Stevenson and his right hand (still being waved in front of his face) up.

And the local sports are so much better in Washington than Cleveland. What have the Browns or Indians done that is special in recent years? The Redskins, Capitals and Nationals are national news on a regular basis.

LeBron would put basketball back on the map for the Wizards, but he probably had his fill of rebuilding a franchise in Cleveland.

The Verdict

It is safe to say that the Wizards do not stand as a truly viable option for LeBron come 2010. The Wizards have spent too much on their current roster to allow LeBron to come to Washington.

He would certainly be a spectacle, but it wouldn't put the Wizards or Lebron any closer to a championship.

The odds of LeBron donning a Wizards uniform next season are at least a million-to-one.

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