Who’s in The LeBron James Sweepstakes This Time?

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    Updated: June 21, 2014
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    The Miami Heat were put together for the expressed reason of winning multiple titles. The now infamous ‘not 1, not 2, not 3’ line was something birthed from hubris, but in reality, that kind of was the expectation. The Heat managed to put together 2 titles in their now seemingly expiring run of their ‘Big 3’ era.

    It was surmised that the Miami Heat would be unstoppable; and at times they did look that way. They came too close for comfort to breaking the all-time consecutive victories record held by the 71-72 Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James won multiple MVPs, Dwyane Wade’s career was extended, and Chris Bosh became a real stretch four.

    There were so many changes this Heat team has endured over its run. The first couple years were figuring out how to use LeBron in their offense, as Wade and LeBron appeared to be a redundancy. Once that got worked out, the defense was tweaked to cover their obvious holes down low. The team slowly added to a treasure chest of talent; adding players like Chris Andersen, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier and Greg Oden. The Heat drafted the few players it had to, and drafted smartly.

    People get so lost in the whole ‘Loaded’ analogy that they forget how well the Heat have been ran since LeBron signed there. Even before LeBron came over, the Heat were poised to stack the odds in their favor. Pat Riley has done a phenomenal job with this roster. But Pat isn’t done yet, and nor should he be.

    The Heat have some choices, hard ones, to make. The Big 3 hold the fate of this franchise in its hands, rightfully so, since Pat Riley gave them that power. He clearly acquiesced to get everyone on the same page and keep egos satisfied. It has worked thus far, and now Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James all get to ride the ‘where are they gonna go?’ roller coaster all over again. However, the most intriguing roller coaster of all is the one LeBron will ride very shortly.

    LeBron James’ next Descision Looms

    LeBron has 29 suitors to his services, but only a couple that make sense. LeBron has always said he wants to win titles and go to the best situation; I was of the mindset that meant either becoming a member of the Los Angeles Clipper or Chicago Bulls. However, LeBron wanted to play with his friends, and that’s what drove his choice to go to Miami. LeBron is no fool; he knows he needs a guy like Wade to increase his chances, a guy who can be given the keys to ‘take over’ if LeBron is unable to do it by himself. That was always the plan. Keeping that in mind, I will start with New York.


    The Big Apple

    Who wouldn’t want to play in the City that Never Sleeps? The bright lights, one of the two largest markets in the US, and one of the greatest sports arenas in the world. You have a deep-pocket owner, a GM with 11 titles, a head coach who was one of the grittiest and smartest players that you wouldn’t expect, and this guy called Carmelo Anthony.

    How it could happen

    It would take LeBron basically saying that he doesn’t want to be in Miami anymore, requesting either a sign and trade to New York, or just telling Miami to deal him there. Miami then could offer Lebron and Bosh for Chandler, Amare, JR Smith, Felton, and Shumpert, along with both 2018 and 2020 first round picks.

    This trade doesn’t net much for Miami here, and they only are interested in Shumpert and possibly Chandler for the short-term. Of course, Wade would probably retire or sign elsewhere if this happened, but if LeBron says ‘hey, I want to go to New York, trade me,’ that’s what it roughly would take.

    How likely is it to happen

    Not very. That’s being generous. New York is a cluster of misfortune, mismanagement, and misunderstanding. Too many ‘mis-es’ for LeBron’s liking. Although the potential is decent, as New York would extricate itself of basically every bad deal besides Bargnani’s, New York’s track record, and lack of any assets after and before the trade kill this notion.


    The Place where it all started – Cleveland

    It’s no secret now that the Cavs covet the return of the King. I can’t deny its possible; the Cavs can offer a fairly attractive package in a trade, and have saved cap space to make it happen.


    How it could happen

    The Cavs can waive Varejao and Gee and have enough space for the max to sign LeBron outright if he uses his Early Termination Option. This assumes the cap is at 63 million, as has been recently projected. If a trade is needed, the Cavs can offer anyone on the roster not named Kyrie Irving. It would look like LeBron for Jarret Jack, Anthony Bennet, Tristan Thompson, Memphis’s 2015 first round pick, and a 2017 first round pick, if I had to guess.


    How likely is it to happen

    That answer lies in the brain of LeBron James. How homesick is he? Is he homesick at all? Does he see Kyrie Irving as being a guy who can help win him more titles? Can the Cavs be trusted to put talent around LeBron this time around? It is hard to say. In my opinion, I think the chance he returns to Ohio is overblown, but only time will tell.


    The City of Lights – Los Angeles

    Courtesy of inflexwetrust.com

    If the Lakers have done one thing right in its management, that’s foresee the remote possibility of signing LeBron James this summer(or next). The Lakers erred by giving Kobe 50 million, however they can still sign one max player outright. The Lakers represent the greatest franchise in NBA history, one of the 5 greatest franchises in American Sports. They have a very rich owner-family, unafraid of the luxury tax as long as they are winning. They have a solid GM. They have one of the 6 best players in the NBA when healthy, in Kobe Bryant. (I remember the days where that 6 was easily a ‘3’. See how things can change?) They have one of the best places to live in the country. They have a massive fanbase that is insufferable at times, but they do love their Lakers.


    How it could happen

    Well, as I mentioned, the Lakers can just sign him for a full max deal, which honestly will take some convincing. LeBron will be taking less than he could make in Miami for a team still ‘lead’ by Kobe Bryant. Would you want to leave your job to go work somewhere else for less money with someone who was convinced they were better than you?(even though they clearly aren’t?) Yeah, me either. But it’s Los Angeles! Hollywood! Great Weather! Celebrities galore! Attractions galore! Right? That is about the extent of the ‘pitch’ here.

    The Lakers don’t have any trade assets beside a next-to-worthless Pau Gasol contract in a sign and trade. They sign LeBron, they hinge on the hope that they can contend with Kobe’s corpse, Nash’s corpse, Sacre, maybe Marshall, maybe Nick Young, maybe Farmar, whoever they can add with the mid-level and/or room exceptions, and maybe…? By the time LeBron could really have a clean slate with the Lakers to build a contender of merit, it would be 2016 when Kobe is gone(LeBron will be pushing 31 by that time), but I digress.


    How likely is it to happen

    I’ve always argued that there is a chance there, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how much. It is no secret that Kobe has respect for LeBron, especially after playing with him in the Olympics. The respect is mutual, and this fan-driven poppycock that LeBron and Kobe have this ‘beef’ or are ‘rivals’ is about as real as a unicorn. Kobe would welcome LeBron, as long as LeBron didn’t try to ‘take’ the Lakers. Which I’m sure LeBron can see that potential headache coming. I know I can.


    Headed to the Chi?

    An argument can be made (quite easily if you happen to be the CAPGOD) that Chicago should have been the destination LeBron chose the first time around. Could you imagine LeBron, Derrick Rose, and Noah? You have two guys who can score, defend, and pass, and one of the greatest passing bigs in the NBA. The Bulls hit a significantly higher three point shooting clip off outlet passes from Joakim Noah than anyone else (or if created by themselves), last season. Adding LeBron to the mix turns a lackluster offense into a potentially dynamic one.


    How it could happen

    All Chicago has to do is use its amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, and find a taker for Dunleavy if the cap is indeed at 63M. They can clear additional space by waiving Murphy and not tendering Shengelia a qualifying offer. If a trade is needed, Chicago has one of the best trade packages in the NBA. A trade for LeBron would be Boozer, and then a pick of Dunleavy/Butler/Gibson, plus the rights to Nikola Mirotic, and a 2015 first round pick (or more). Miami could reset, and get a jumpstart on a rebuild that way.


    How likely is it to happen

    Several months ago, I would’ve said something along the lines of, ‘a chance bigger than you might expect’. However now, with Chicago aggressively pursuing Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony, I think the chance is now less than 5%. Chicago might have foreseen a chance at LeBron, but now I think they have given up on it.


    All in all, LeBron has a long list of suitors, and he will carefully choose the best place for him. I don’t buy into the whole notion that his legacy will take a hit if he changes teams again. Wherever he goes, he will be the best player on that team, and he will lead them, so it’s not like he is a Robert Horry here. In my opinion, the best situation is Chicago, as LeBron instantly makes them favorites. Under Tom Thibodeau, who is a better coach than Erik Spolestra, LeBron could reach even new heights. But as always, we will see what LeBron does. He is a very special player and where he casts his die, the rest of the NBA tends to follow suit in one way or another.

    Follow @_MatthewCAPGOD on Twitter

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