As Cleveland has fallen apart the past month and especially the past week trading away about half of the roster it seems more and more likely that Lebron will be leaving in the off-season to join a new team. Lebron more than anything wants to be in a place where he can compete for a championship as he has made the NBA finals for a remarkable 7 straight seasons. While it looks like it is becoming more and more unlikely that he will return to the finals this year with Cleveland you can't really ever count him out.
Cleveland's moves this week show that they aren't even sure that Lebron will stay. By adding some good young talent to the roster with upside they are preparing for life after Lebron in the case that he should leave this summer. After spending all but 4 years of his career in Cleveland it will be interesting to see where The King takes his talents this season. Below I outline 6 teams who I think have somewhat of a shot to sign Lebron as well as a few longs shots I will mention first.
The Long Shots
Milwaukee- The Bucks would love to add Lebron and as they have who might turn out to be the next Lebron James on their roster already in Giannis Antetokounmpo, pairing up those two and then picking up another all star in free agency would make a lethal combination in the East and a team that would be the clear favorites to make the finals. It is unlikely that this happens as Milwaukee is in a smaller market and because of the fact that even with Lebron it still wouldn't necessarily mean the Bucks are the best team, but if they add a few other pieces it could definitely be a long shot.
Miami- Lebron had arguably the best run of his career in Miami winning 2 Championships in 4 seasons with Dwayne Wade. Lebron may want to re-create this magic and Miami would be a good spot to try to bring other big time free agents. The Heat are far from the team they were a few years ago and Dwayne Wade is no longer an All-Star so it may take a lot of work to be a great team again which could turn James away.
Oklahoma City- The Thunder already have a three headed monster this year and if James wanted to come to OKC he could make another. The Thunder would most likely have to swap out George for James but that could end up being a big addition especially in the short term. Lebron would love to play with Melo and James and Westbrook on the court would make one heck of a show. This one is still a long shot because Melo might not stay and Lebron might not want to play with Westbrook.
5 likely spots he could go
Why He Will: Lebron will always have a close connection with Cleveland as he grew up in that area and spent most of his career in a Cavs jersey. The Cavs could land a big free agent this summer which would entice James to stay, not to mention the East is still way easier to win than the West. It would take some off-season moves and depending on how this season ends but it could happen as Lebron may not want to break Cleveland's heart twice.
Why He Wont: Lebron accomplished what he came to do, he won a championship for Cleveland and the city got to welcome him back in. Since then things have not gone well, Kyrie left, Isaiah Thomas has not worked out and the front office has started to make moves to empty the roster. Lebron may be looking for a fresh start in a new place to win another championship or two before he hangs it up for good.
Why He Will: The Lakers have a tradition of having the best players and having success. The Lakers and Lebron want nothing more than to win a championship and the Lakers have the money to bring in two max contract players this off-season. Lebron could pick whichever friend he wants and team up in L.A. with a descent foundation of young players who could make a good supporting cast.
Why He Wont: Lonzo Ball is there which means Lavar Ball is there. I don't think Lebron would mind playing with Lonzo but Lavar could be a problem and distraction. Lebron may also not want to follow in Kobe's footsteps and it would not look good if he couldn't even win a championship with the Lakers who have the second most championships all time. Not to mention he would be in the same division as the Warriors and the same conference as the Rockets, Thunder, Timberwolves and Spurs.
Why He Will: This would be the ultimate move to win a championship, the warriors would most likely have to give up a big player or Lebron would have to take a pay cut. The fact is that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James on the same team would no doubtably be the best team in NBA history and could easily win 75-80 games if the wanted to.
Why He Wont: This would be such a low move, even for Lebron not to mention he would have to join the team that he kept losing to. It would show a sign of weakness and an attitude of 'i'm not good enough to beat them so I am going to join them" not that anyone has ever done that...Kevin Durant. This is probably the least likely of the 5 on my list but it still has a chance so who knows.
Why He Will: Lebron has never had a great coach that he has played for, Greg Popovich is one of the best coaches in NBA history and the system and success that they have had in San Antonio for a long time may attract James. The Spurs are over the TIm Duncan/Manu Ginobli/Tony Parker era and still have a good team around Kawai Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge. If Aldridge stays the combo of those two and James plus Popovich could provide a scary team that could be better than Golden State even with Durant.
Why He Wont: Lebron may not want to play for Popovich and his style. Popovich doesn't mess around and he is one of the few coaches in the league that won't be afraid to bench or punish Lebron if he has to. Lamarcus Aldridge may not be there much longer and the Spurs are not traditionally a team to spend big money in free agency.
Why He Will: Houston is giving the warriors a run for their money in the west this year with the Chris Paul/James Harden Combo. Adding James to that could make this team very good. The Rockets already have a good team who could win the finals this year. Lebron also has wanted to play with Chris Paul for a long time and this would be the perfect time to do it. The combination of James/Harden/Paul plus the rest of the Rockets who are very good may be one of the best teams in NBA history and could easily put up 120-130 points a game.
Why He Wont: The Rockets right now only have about $3 milliion in cap space and a majority of that goes to Paul and Harden. The Rockets would have to get rid of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to make that happen. Besides that, he might not want to play with Harden who is known for little defensive effort and holding on to the ball a lot which Lebron likes to do. People made jokes about Harden and Paul not being able to share the ball, imagine adding Lebron to that group.
Prediction: I think there is a good chance James stays in Cleveland, I think there is also a good chance he leaves. If I had to put money on a single team I would say Cleveland just because where he could go is really up in the air. I would say there is probably a 35-% chance he stays, maybe a 25% chance he goes to Houston, a 20% chance he goes to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, and a 20% chance he goes somewhere else.