Lakers over Magic in seven.
Okay, having gotten that out of the way, I've been meaning to address something that has been irritating the heck out of me this entire season.
As the impending free agency of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James threatens to overshadow anything this season has to offer, pundits across the media spectrum continue to analyze and over analyze on which team James will suit up for next season.
Apparently, at least according to most experts, the team that is the odds on favorite to procure the services of Mr James are indeed his current employer, the Cavs. In the experts quest to display their hoops intellect I keep hearing two overriding factors which suggest that LeBron would be better off remaining in Cleveland than leaving for the bright lights and big city of say Manhattan, Chicago or even (gasp) Brooklyn.
Firstly, it has been suggested that James would leave entirely too much money on the table if he were to bolt from Ohio, as the Cavs could offer him a higher salary than any other team.
Yeah, whatever. See Shaquille O'Neal. But more on that later.
Secondly, I keep hearing the most idiotic reason why James could never consider either New York or New Jersey as viable options and that is because of the weakness of those teams' rosters.
Aside from James, the Cavs starters are Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Antwan Jamison and you pick - JJ Hickson, Anderson Varejo, Shaquille O Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Williams is a decent NBA point guard who hasn't nearly played up to the expectations the Cavs had of him when they managed to pry him from the Milwaukee Bucks. Compare Williams' stats of 15 ppg and 5 apg to New Jersey's Devin Harris' 17 & 7 for four-hundred thousand per year less.
Some other numbers to consider: Anthony Parker 7 ppg - 2 apg/ Courtney Lee 12 ppg - 2 apg. Jamison 19 & 9/ Yi Jianlian 12 & 7 (Jianlian is eleven years younger). Lastly, you have to combine two, any two of Cleveland's centers to match or surpass the Nets' Brook Lopez stats of 19 ppg and 9 rpg at $2.2 million. Compared to Varejo's salary of $6.3 million, Shaq's $21 million and the $600 K they're paying Ilgauskas after whatever else they paid him at the start of the season Lopez is vastly unerpaid and yet more effective right now than anyone on the Cavs roster.
Even the Knicks, who don't have the coaching woes Nets' players are having to endure this season, seem to have players with more potential impact than the Cavs.
Personally, in a pickup game pitting, Williams, Parker, Hickson and Varejo against Knickerbockers Wilson Chandler, Al Harrington, Danilo Gallinari and David Lee I'd put my money on MSG boys every time.
The truth is, without LeBron, the Cavs are just as much bottom feeders in the East as the Knicks and Nets. Add James to either New York or New Jersey and they are instantly contenders in the Eastern Conference. Such is the talent of LeBron James.
Do you know who were the other starters for the Cavs during the 2006-07 season when they made it to the NBA Finals? Daniel Gibson, Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlovic and Ilgauskas. Other stalwarts for that roster were Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes. Not exactly Championship pedigree, yet they managed to get by a Washington Wizard team that had a pre-injury Gibert Arenas, the aformentioned Jamison and Caron Butler as well as a Piston team that featured Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber.
So the thought that the Knicks and Nets don't have enough talent to entice LeBron is absurd. In fact, I'm pretty sure that James and any D-League roster could get out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Finally, while it's true that Cleveland could offer LeBron the most dollars in salary, the team that presents the opportunity for LeBron to make the most money over the next ten years is the New Jersey (soon to be) Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets will have an owner with bottomless pockets, a new arena in what will essentially be their own community in Brooklyn and ties to the hip-hop industry that give LeBron cross marketing opportunities that he could never sniff in any other market including Manhattan, Chicago and Miami.
Any clothing/apparrel partnership with rap music mogul and good friend Jay Z will almost certainly push James into the realm of the Jordan Brand.
At the point when James begins ro rival Jordan in apparrel and shoe sales as well as having a stake in future business enterprises with Jay Z, how difficult do you think it will be to get any player he wants to come play with him in the Big Apple? It is difficult to fathom the type of currency a marraige between Brooklyn and LeBron could generate. Seriously, we could be talking billions of dollars here.
Bron Bron in Brooklyn buys a boatload of banners.
Try saying that fast three times.