The King’s Next Castle: Where Could LeBron Go This Summer?
The Golden State Warriors are NBA Champions for the third time in four years after completing a 4-game sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and now Cleveland and LeBron are left with one major question: Will LeBron stay or go? And if he leaves where will he go? Today, we’ll take a look at the Vegas odds for where LeBron could head in free agency and how well he’d fit in with those teams given what his different motives could be.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-4)
The LeBron to LA rumors have been going around since last summer and for good reason. The Lakers are the only team with a fairly easy path to enough cap room for two max-level free agents, meaning LeBron could team up in LA with another star like Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard if the Spurs are open to trading him. The main hangup is the makeup of the rest of the Lakers’ roster. There are plenty of young, exciting pieces on the Lakers like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma but LeBron hasn’t appeared too fond of playing alongside a bunch of younger players (see: having the Cavaliers trade away Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love upon his return). The Lakers also play in the Western Conference, meaning LeBron would have to go through the Warriors and Houston Rockets just to make the NBA Finals.
On the other hand, the Lakers have more to offer off-the-court than any other team LeBron will be considering. LeBron already owns 2 homes in LA and the city offers an ideal location for him to grow his media company, Uninterrupted. He’d also be able to learn how to expand his business acumen from Magic Johnson. He wants to be a billionaire and Magic’s mentorship could help him get there.
Philadelphia 76ers (11-5)
In terms of upside the 76ers likely offer LeBron his best option among the favorites. Behind Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, arguably two of the NBA’s best 20 players, Philly won 52 games. At ages 21 and 24, respectively, they both have a lot of room to grow and improve as players but their second round loss to the Celtics (another young team with just as much, if not more, promise) showed that they likely need a third star to ascend to the championship contender level. Enter LeBron James, who would instantly make them favorites in the Eastern Conference. That big 3 could be devastating but it’s not without its potential flaws. LeBron would take the ball away from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid which might stunt their development. It would likely be a bigger issue for Simmons because of his inability to shoot. The floor could become cramped due to Simmons’ limitations without the ball in his hands and over his career LeBron has played his best when surrounded by shooters. That being said, great players tend to work those fit issues out and the 76ers’ talent and overall flexibility would provide LeBron with an excellent shot at a championship in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Houston Rockets (5-2)
Houston plausibly provides LeBron with his best shot at a championship as he would be able to join his Banana Boat friend Chris Paul and likely MVP James Harden. The main issue in this scenario would be creating cap space for LeBron, who almost certainly will be looking for a max contract. Creating that space would require them to trade Ryan Anderson or let Clint Capela and/or Trevor Ariza walk in free agency. Any team gets better by adding LeBron James but acquiring him would likely mean the Rockets losing some of their identity from a team that was one game away from knocking off Golden State. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how serious the Rockets and LeBron James are about pursuing each other.
Cleveland Cavaliers (5-1)
Given questions around his fits with other teams and obvious history with Cleveland, LeBron returning to Cleveland can’t be ruled out. If the Cavaliers can retool their roster and add another star, with trade pieces like Kevin Love and the number 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, they’ll have a chance to be right back in the Finals with LeBron. James would also get the chance to end his career with his hometown team. Whether he stays or leaves, he’s achieved his goal of bringing a title to Cleveland.
San Antonio Spurs (8-1)
If the Spurs can manage to keep Kawhi Leonard, they could be a very appealing option for LeBron. Going to San Antonio would give LeBron the opportunity to play with another top-5 player in the league and the league’s best coach in Gregg Popovich. They’d have to do some work to clear the cap space for LeBron, potentially trading LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, or Pau Gasol. There’s also the question of how much longer Popovich will be coaching but either way the Spurs would likely be a short term option for LeBron to win now.
Boston Celtics (12-1)
After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and pushing the Cavs to 7 games without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are ready to take the next step towards championship contention. Would LeBron consider jumping ship to Boston after years of battling them in the playoffs? With Brad Stevens and a supporting cast featuring Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and more, the Celtics would provide LeBron with the best supporting cast. LeBron reportedly would be willing to meet with the Celtics in free agency but the Celtics would have to make some moves to make space for him, possibly moving Al Horford and losing Marcus Smart. There’s also the issue of whether Kyrie would want to stay in Boston after demanding a trade from LeBron and Cleveland just last year. Irving will be a free agent after next season and the Celtics could jeopardize their chances at resigning him if they took on LeBron.
Anyone who tells you they know where LeBron is going is just giving you an educated guess. It’s possible that LeBron hasn’t even decided where he wants to go yet. Regardless of where he ends up, LeBron is the headliner for what should be a very interesting and active summer in the NBA.