When the Cavaliers were eliminated from playoff contention by the Celtics, speculation that he would leave the Cavs as a free agent this summer grew. Chicago is the frontrunner to sign “King James”, if you believe the rumors. Supposedly the Knicks, the Nets (though not so much since they got the No. 3 pick), and the Heat are the other favorites. Dallas and LA have been discussed as possible sign-and-trade destinations.
I have one question: LeBron, why not head to Rip City? Admittedly, this is mostly just wishful thinking by a Blazer fan (just like the fans of 28 other teams are hoping he comes and those of one team are hoping he stays). But, I think a compelling case could be made for James to come to Portland in a sign-and-trade.
LeBron, like any good star, says that winning is the most important thing when signing with a team. If he signs with Dallas, he may win for a little bit, but the clock is fast running out on the current Mavs' team. New York and Miami are question marks, and even if they do sign two top players, it takes more then that to win. Sure, Chicago has some good pieces, but I am not sure that inserting James in the lineup (especially if that means taking Luol Deng or others out as part of the deal) makes them a championship favorite. But if James joins Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and others in Portland, they could be favorites for the next 10 years. Portland also has the expiring contracts and young talent that could be intriguing in a sign-and-trade.
Also, LeBron may like the fact that the Blazers' fans are some of the best and most loyal in the NBA, according to many. Plus the team environment is positive, with humble young players and veterans with leadership abilities.
I will dare take it a step further and say Mo Williams should be included. He is a good complementary player for the James’ and Roy’s of the league, but won’t fit in as well on a team that has lost its superstar. A potential trade could look something like this:
G Andre Miller
F/G Martell Webster
C Joel Przybilla
G Rudy Fernandez
F Dante Cunningham
F Victor Claver (Spain)
2010 draft pick
F LeBron James
G Mo Williams
G Sebastian Telfair (who will then be bought out)
Obviously this benefits Portland more, but it is better for the Cavs than losing James for nothing. It gives them a good chance of making it to the playoffs, and helps them prepare for a LeBron-less future. Przybilla and Miller have expiring contracts, but are also valuable contributors, while the other players are talented young ‘guns who could thrive on that team.
Imagine a starting lineup of Oden, Aldridge, James, Roy, and Williams, with Batum, Bayless, Camby, Pendergraph, Howard, and a couple young players and veteran’s minimum guys off the bench. I have a hard time seeing that team not being towards the top for at least the next five years. Not only would the team be extremely talented, but well-balanced as well.
I could write a whole new article about why Portland would be a good fit and how good they would be, but I’ll stop there.
Alas, LeBron as a Blazer is not a perfect plan (and all the non-Blazer fans said amen). Here are some obstacles of a potential James signing by Portland:
1. Lack of salary cap space. I actually don’t think this is too much of a problem. 'Bron can receive about $30 million more by doing a sign-and-trade, so that’s probably the most likely option, and Portland has much better sign-and-trade pieces than New York, Miami, or Chicago.
2. Instability. The uncertainty of GM Kevin Pritchard’s status, as well as Portland’s past injury problems, could be cause for hesitation.
3. Stardom. If James really mostly cares about winning, this shouldn’t matter, but the fact that Portland is one of the smaller NBA cities may hurt. Also, he may not like the fact that Roy, Aldridge, and Oden would likely take some of his stats.
4. As much as it works on paper, there’s always going to be the “these things just don’t happen” factor.
Despite these obstacles, I would like to see any other potential deal that would be better than this for LeBron. And Chris Bosh joining James doesn’t count, Roy is better than Bosh and Aldridge, Oden, Batum, Camby, et al. Are better than anybody who will sign for the vets’ minimum.
P.S. Nike is located in the Portland suburb of Beaverton, and former NBA player Chris Dudley may be the next Governor of Oregon. Not that those would be deciding factors, but they could add to the intrigue.