The biggest headline heading into this NBA off-season will involve the decision Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James makes regarding his destination for next season. Whether he remains in Cleveland, joins a developing roster, or collaborates with a contender, James will have everyone’s attention over the summer. While certain teams certainly stand out, here are ten teams that have a case for the future Hall of Famer.
#10: Toronto Raptors
This is a team that many aren’t talking about, but it’s worthy to at least mention them. The Raptors have been a successful regular season team, but are dismantled by LeBron James each postseason. If James were to join Toronto, I would put them above Boston in terms of the most complete Eastern Conference roster.
The issue with this theory solely involves cap space, which the Raptors virtually don’t contain at the moment. With four players making over $16 million in the 2018-19 year, the team would need to move too many pieces around to even make this realistic.
#9: Oklahoma City Thunder
I have seen this theory of LeBron James and Paul George coming (or returning) to Oklahoma City in order to secure a championship with Russell Westbrook. At first glance, the fact that the Thunder have the second-lowest available cap space almost eliminates them from the race.
The pieces that need moving would include Carmelo Anthony not returning to the team next year, Paul George opting out in order to re-sign on a discount, and potentially finding a trade suitor for Steven Adams, who is set to make over $24 million next season.
For the sake of NBA fans, this seems like the most exciting scenario. On the other hand, James knows about Westbrook’s inability of winning with select star talent around him, and the risk is just too great at this point in his career.
#8: Golden State Warriors
Coming off of their third championship over the last four years, LeBron James knows way too much about the Golden State Warriors. After witnessing first-hand what super teams can accomplish in the NBA, James would have the opportunity to dominate the league with relative ease.
In order to make this work, you would imagine that James wouldn’t ask for anything close to a five-year deal. His most recent contract was marked as a three-year deal, while the previous one was a mere two-year deal. The cap space of Golden State currently ranks 17th in the NBA, and the second-largest contract within that mix is none other than Klay Thompson, who is an unrestricted free agent by the end of next season.
If LeBron James books it to his bitter rivals, it would require a lot of movement on Golden State’s end. It would likely include the transition of Klay Thompson, and possibly even Draymond Green, who is a free agent in 2020. The odds this occurs are awfully low, but did we expect for Kevin Durant to team up with the Warriors?
#7: Boston Celtics
This scenario is intriguing, but completely unrealistic. The fact that Kyrie Irving left LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to create his own legacy goes to show that James in Boston would only cause more chaos. The only way this would add up is if James and Irving were able to sit down and come to the conclusion that with James in Boston, they would have the support needed in order to remain competitive with Golden State.
By the end, I don’t see how this shakes out to become realistic, considering there are so many franchises with less theatrics. I doubt that Boston would even make a pitch to James this off-season for the lone fact that it might upset Irving. It should be noted that Irving will be a free agent by the end of the 2019-2020 season.
#6: Miami Heat
This theory has been looming for a few weeks now, but makes sense to a degree. The fact that Miami still contains Hassan Whiteside is awfully attractive, and it would allow for LeBron James to remain in the Eastern Conference as well.
The downfall of this theory is that Miami is paying six players over $11 million next year, and Dwyane Wade is currently a free agent. Without Wade on the roster, this scenario is unreasonable. If the Heat can find a way to move the pieces in the right direction, the thought of LeBron James returning to Miami is entertaining at the very least.
#5: Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to LeBron James all season, and not many know why. For one point, James has gone on record to remind the media about his family and what’s best for them, and the James family already has residency in Los Angeles at the moment.
The same case for the 76ers can be made for the Lakers when it comes to James’ legacy. By bringing a third franchise to success would be great for James, but to do it for the Lakers would be monumental. The purple and gold jerseys have sentimental value, and James knows what the expectations are in Los Angeles. Based on recent Vegas odds, James is most likely to join the Lakers in the off-season.
I think James would be smart to hear the case of Los Angeles, simply because this is one of the best young rosters in the NBA. The team hasn’t had a superstar since the days of Kobe Bryant, but remained in the playoff hunt for most of the past year. If another figure such as Paul George goes to Los Angeles this off-season, I would say their case becomes a lot more valuable.
#4: San Antonio Spurs
Playing for head coach Gregg Popovich alone could be enough for LeBron James to at least consider joining the San Antonio Spurs. Although the Western Conference is more difficult to find success within, the Spurs have made the playoffs in each of the last 21 seasons.
Based on reports, Popovich is vocal about wanting to be part of the Spurs’ pitch to James, and this could prove to be beneficial. While Kawhi Leonard has a player option to consider after this upcoming season, that may play a role in James’ decision to hold off on San Antonio.
To be fair, there are teams in this list who have worse cases than the Spurs, but there are also teams with more appealing cases as well. If Popovich is able to persuade “The King” to join forces in San Antonio, it would put the Spurs as a near favorite to win the title.
#3: Houston Rockets
With a variety of players set to hit the free agent market, this is the perfect time for the Houston Rockets to recruit LeBron James to represent their franchise. Ranked 7th in salary cap heading into the off-season, the Rockets will need to figure out a way to re-sign Chris Paul before James signs any contract.
With James Harden and Chris Paul on the floor, the Rockets were the second-best team in the NBA last season (behind Golden State). With Harden, Paul and James, this super team has just enough ammunition to take down the Warriors in a seven-game set.
The odds that LeBron James moves down to Houston in order to compete within the Western Conference is unlikely, just because his entire career has been based off of the success he’s had in the East. This is one of the premier destinations for James, but the front office needs to make a worthy pitch.
#2: Cleveland Cavaliers
Just because of the media and how LeBron James would be treated by the public, the case for James staying in Cleveland is actually stronger than critics believe. With virtually no cap space, it would take a lot of movement in order for James to sign an extension with the Cavaliers, but his player option of $36 million for next season is still on the table.
If Dan Gilbert and company can ship off a plethora of players in order to attract one other big free agent, then I believe LeBron James stays in Cleveland until the end of his career. If not, then Cleveland could easily be on the brink of an entire rebuild process.
#1: Philadelphia 76ers
I firmly believe Philadelphia holds the best case to sign LeBron James this off-season. It would be the first time in NBA history where a player of James’ caliber has gone to three different franchises and has won titles in each respective time frame. In order to further his legacy, James could hold this point over the head of Michael Jordan.
Aside from the legacy aspect, the Philadelphia 76ers are one of the most entertaining franchises in the world right now. With a young core in their hands, the only thing stopping the 76ers from signing James is themselves. With the recent front office dramatics, it’s possible that James would want no affiliation with Philadelphia.
By the end, I think the positives outweigh the negatives drastically, and LeBron James should commit to a two-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. There is more than enough cap space to bring him on board, and very small movements would need to be made in order to make this a reality.