At 33-years-old and after 15 seasons in, LeBron James will enter free agency as the most coveted player on the market this summer. Essentially every team in the league wants to sign him, but according to Stephen A. Smith, James will talk to these seven teams.
San Antonio Spurs
One thing we have not seen James do is play with an all-time head coach like Greg Popovich. Along with great coaching, the Spurs have solid talent to surround him and would immediately become a title contender if he were to join. Cap space would be an issue and the situation with Kawhi Leonard will certainly be a major factor. According to Marc Stein, Popovich “is bound to try to force his way” into the James sweepstakes.
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7. Golden State Warriors
Simply mentioning the Warriors just feels dirty, But according to Smith, Golden State is one of the teams James will talk to. The Warriors will already go deep in the luxury tax to retain its’ current roster and it is doubtful that James will take anything less than a max deal.
6. Miami Heat
James shook the basketball world in July 2010 when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Heat. Now in 2018 the Heat still have the Dwyane Wade if he does not retire and Erik Spoesltra. Wade is hardly a shell of himself and the Heat also have to deal with expensive contracts. Hassan Whiteside will earn $25 million next year and the Heat owe a combined $77 million to Whiteside, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, and Tyler Johnson. Spoesltra is a very good coach, but the Heat roster might need some tinkering to get James.
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5. Boston Celtics
The Celtics do not have a dire need for James because they’re loaded to say the least, but the two could join forces to achieve a common goal: win the NBA Finals. The Celtics have arguably the best front office in the league, great young players, and a phenomenal young coach in Brad Stevens.
If the Celtics and James want to form a super team to win the NBA Finals, this could be a great fit. But there are two things getting in the way: the salary cap and Kyrie Irving. This is a pipe dream more than a reality for James.
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4. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers lost the best player in the world once to free agency and it looks like it may happen again. Cleveland is near and dear to his heart, but if James wants to win championships he cannot stay in The Land.
The Cavaliers are stuck with bad contracts, owing $64 million next year to George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Jordan Clarkson. If James is after money, then Cleveland will likely be able to give him the most since they owe him about $36 million next year. The Cavs likely cannot make any big moves, so the roster could remain as is. James may be forced to leave home if he wants another title.
3. Houston Rockets
The Rockets were just one win away from the NBA Finals and James Harden will likely win the MVP. So do the Rockets need LeBron? Not really, but James might need Houston if he wants to beat Golden State. However, obtaining him will be extremely difficult.
Houston owes $30 million to James Harden and $20 million Ryan Anderson, respectively, in 2019. Chris Paul has made it known that he will not take less than a max deal. Clint Capela will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Rockets should look to retain the 24-year-old defensive anchor. The Rockets will essentially have to pick two players to sign between James, Paul, and Capela.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
James’ signing with the Lakers has been a rumor for the better part of a decade and now it is warranted. He has business ties in Los Angeles and bought a home in Brentwood in December.
The Lakers have enough cap space to sign two max-level players, so if James decides on La La Land for his next destination, he likely will not be alone. Paul George is the most likely option to join him there, but names like Leonard have also been mentioned. LeBron would have to adjust to the much tougher Western Conference and risk not even making the Finals.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have made it known that they want James to “Trust the Process”. In terms of Eastern Conference teams vying for James, Philadelphia makes the most sense.
With two budding superstars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as well as solid complementary players like Robert Covington and Dario Saric, this is a prime spot for James. The Sixers have the cap room to sign James at his price, but the chemistry between he and Simmons could be a question since the two have similar playing styles.
However, LeBron reportedly wants to play off the ball wherever he goes in free agency. This could be a match made in heaven. The Sixers would be the only Eastern Conference team with the talent to hold off Boston.
James and his camp will do their due diligence before coming to a decision. Expect nothing but bedlam to ensue over the course of the next few weeks with the NBA Draft and the start of free agency as checkpoints in route to the finish line.
Now, we just wait and see where The King will take his talents next.