Rumor has it LeBron James has his sights set on joining the Los Angeles Lakers next summer when he can opt out of his contract. Los Angeles seems like a likely destination for LeBron. Why not enjoy the great weather, better position his million dollar media company, and join a storied franchise on the rise after several years in the gutter? Yes, the Lakers seem like a good fit for LeBron, but let’s examine some other franchises that it would be fun to see LeBron consider.
1. Los Angeles Clippers – Hey, remember when I listed those reasons why LeBron would be a good fit for the Lakers? Well, forget that last bit about a storied franchise, but the rest applies just as well to the Clippers! Also in LA, the Clippers are the something of the Lakers’ ugly step-sister. That said, the Clippers could pair LeBron with Blake Griffin and make the Clippers a title contender. LeBron and Grffin would be a great top two. LeBron signing with the Clippers would probably force all star center DeAndre Jordan out of town, but the Clippers would still have a great team. If he opts into his player option, I suspect Jordan would be easily flipped for a good contract or draft pick. A core of LeBron and Griffin, with role players like Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley would be a tough team. Though the Clippers may not be a legendary franchise like the Lakers, there are still plenty of benefits to joining them over big brother.
2. Miami Heat – Pat Riley and LeBron may have ended their time together in Miami on a sour note, but maybe LeBron would consider taking his talents back to South Beach. Unlike the Lakers and Clippers, the Heat would have to make some big moves to make room for LeBron. The Heat gave sizable contracts to the likes of Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk this summer, plus Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Tyler Johnson are also on large contracts. The cap situation and LeBron’s relationship with Riley alone make the Heat an unlikely destination, but bear with me. Playing in the Eastern Conference has had a profound impact on LeBron’s career. The East has been weaker than the West for a long time, and that does not seem to be changing any time soon after Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap both went West this offseason. Chilling in the East may give LeBron his best chance at more NBA Finals appearances. A team centered around LeBron, Dragic, and Whiteside is pretty good and would definitely compete for the best team in the East. Plus, who could blame LeBron for wanting to enjoy the Miami lifestyle?
3. New York Knicks – The weather in New York is not nearly as nice as Los Angeles, but imagine LeBron playing in the Big Apple and bringing some respect back to one of the league’s marquee franchises. There are problems about LeBron going to New York, though. First, James Dolan is possibly the absolute worst owner in the NBA. Then there’s the fact that the Knicks cap situation looks bleak due to Joakim Noah’s atrocious contract, and the newly acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. appears to be absurdly overpaid as well. Even if the Knicks had enough cap space for LeBron, it would be difficult for them to get a decent surrounding cast to compete for titles. Still, it would be cool to see LeBron go to the biggest market in North America and maybe position the Knicks as a potential destination again.
4. Brooklyn Nets – At the very least, the Nets will have the cap space for LeBron. Brooklyn is not a destination LeBron would consider, but how awesome would it be for him to come into Brooklyn and turn the worst team in the league around? LeBron could do it. He won’t, but he could. Plus, LeBron would look pretty cool in a Nets jersey.
5. Boston Celtics – The Celtics are currently LeBron and the Cavaliers biggest competition in the East. Even going back to LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland, the Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were a huge challenge for LeBron. But now, the Celtics are probably LeBron’s best chance at maximizing his title odds. The Celtics are in the East, making the path ahead of them easier. The Celtics would have to dump Horford and not re-sign Isaiah Thomas for this to work, but the potential is mouth watering. A team centered around LeBron James and Gordon Hayward is already something special, but don’t forget about all of the young talent the Celtics have. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart are all promising young guys, plus the Celtics have the Nets’ 2018 pick and possibly the Lakers’ 2018 pick as well (if the pick falls between 2-5, otherwise it converts into the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 pick). What this means is that the Celtics could build around LeBron and Hayward with some great young talent, setting them up for both an amazing present and future. The Celtics could have a potential dynasty on their hands, and LeBron would add to his already amazing legacy.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers – It’s fun to imagine LeBron on different teams, but staying in Cleveland might be the most practical option for LeBron. The Cavs still have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. If the organization decides to move on from one or both of them, they should be able to acquire some serious assets in return. The Cavaliers are still the favorites in the East. As constructed, the Cavs have as good a chance as any team to dethrone the champion Golden State Warriors. After all, they were able to defeat the Warriors just a year ago. Even if LeBron is never able to win another championship in Cleveland, there is something to be said for sticking with them, the team that drafted him, his hometown team. LeBron left Cleveland once already, and faced severe backlash for that decision. What would leaving again do to his legacy? Ending his career with the team that drafted him would be poetic in a sense. This is the outcome I’m rooting for. Ride it out, LeBron. The Cavaliers have assembled a great group of players, and the city of Cleveland worships LeBron. The most impactful decision LeBron could make next summer would be opting into his contract, and ending his career with the Cavaliers.