Eight years after LeBron James left his hometown of Cleveland behind — with no championship success and a team that without him were only capable of winning under 20 games the following season — the threat hangs in the air again as James has opted out of his $31 million contract option next season.
There are a number of locations the superstar could take his talents to next season. The most likely destinations are the LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and possibly, back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Negatives for Philadelphia
While the 76ers are a young and prosperous team, they lack the consistency and salary cap space to interest a player like LeBron. The 76ers are already 30 million dollars over the NBA’s spending cap and can only manage to spend another 30million dollars, which is currently not enough to sign LeBron to the max offer sheet he will be asking for. Also, LeBron is looking for a team where he can control every aspect, from player personnel, minutes, and play calling. The 76ers team motto is to “trust the process” which involves creating a team full of young talented players, however, seasoned veterans like LeBron already have their own process.
Positives for Philly
The 76ers are exactly what they say they are, a young, talented team full of potential looking for a seasoned, veteran leader. LeBron could anchor a weak small forward or power forward position on a team with talented prospects at point guard and down in the paint. On the court, adding LeBron as the ball handler in this offense would elevate the 76ers from the eight seed they are right past the Celtics to the top seed. However, are they willing to break their process and hand the reigns over to LeBron?
Negatives for Los Angeles
Without question, the Laker name holds the weight of its own in the rafters of NBA all-time greatest franchises. Their 16 NBA titles are second only to the Boston Celtics, and with hall of fame player and former Laker point guard Magic Johnson in charge, the Lakers are as enticing as ever to free agents.
However, as Stan Lee wrote in his famed comic Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility” and the Lakers have handled that responsibility poorly. Since the departure of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have struggled to find their championship identity, failing to make the playoffs for the last few seasons.
Also after hearing LeBron would like to play with Paul George next season, the Lakers made a pass at the small forward while still under contract and got a slap on the wrist from the NBA front office. The Lakers have not won a lot of games for a long time, and their roster is nothing to boast about, making it difficult to attract the possible best player of all time.
Positives for Los Angeles:
LeBron has expressed serious interest in coming to California to play his last few seasons. He’s said how he would enjoy living the Los Angeles lifestyle and having his family move to that environment as well. Maybe the nickname “mistake by the lake” is getting old for the King of Cleveland. The Lakers are a storied franchise, and LeBron could add his name to a list of legends to wear the purple and gold uniform. With money and the reigns to the team as a non-issue, the only pending factor is if the front office of the Lakers has already fumbled too many opportunities.
Negatives for Cleveland
The list is too long to cover completely, but to begin, the only reason the Cavs are in the running for a return of the King is that LeBron was born in Ohio. He has full control over the Cleveland team and still struggles every year to put a dent in the scoreboard against the champs of the West, Golden State, and last season James realized a healthy Boston team is ready to take over the East. The Cavs are a thing of the past, and LeBron saw this split coming seasons ago.
LeBron would be leaving roughly $53 million on the table if he doesn't sign with the Cavs 💰 pic.twitter.com/5AEjbGksWc
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 30, 2018
Positives for Cleveland
They can still afford the King and James has a strong connection to the city of Cleveland, but the bad blood between James and the front office has led most to believe that the team and the king have agreed to a mutual separation.
So where will King James be playing basketball to start the 2019 season?
Like most NBA offseasons, there will be endless speculation followed by Twitter emoji meanings and players tribune reveals, but at the end of this story, the free agency fans may be disappointed when LeBron suits up wearing Cleveland colors to kick off the NBA season.
There will be a lot of coverage of this story this summer and a lot of let down once LeBron signs a long-term deal with his current team with an opt-out after two seasons, leaving us to have the same conversation two years from now. Until then, LeBron will continue his fight against rising talent in the east and insurmountable odds out west with an average team and superhuman abilities.
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