And the Winner of the Lebron Sweepstakes Is…
Ah yes, it’s that time again. And no, I’m not talking about the heat of the MLB season or the NBA draft or NFL training camp. I’m talking about a much more exciting time. The sweepstakes to get the world’s best player: Lebron James. The first time this happened, it was a huge spectacle. Lebron had just lost to the Celtics, with his own fans booing him off the court in game 5. He was an Ohio native. He had brought the team to one NBA Finals (Which ended in a Spurs sweep). There were so many reasons to stay and so many to leave. Ultimately, he announced during his controversial “The Decision” telecast that he was leaving Cleveland to create a big three in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Cleveland went crazy. His jerseys were burned in the street. His decision to leave cost Cleveland area bars and restaurants billions. He was dead to any and all Cavaliers’ fans. But then, 4 years, 4 finals’ appearances, and 2 rings later, he was back. Cleveland had no choice but to accept him with open arms. The Cavs were a league worst 97-215 in Lebron’s absence. Now, 4 years, 4 finals appearances, and 1 championship later, we are in the same position. Does Lebron leave the city he loves in pursuit of greener grass? Or does he finish out his legendary career with a team that’s synonymous with his name? Let’s look at some pros and cons of teams that Lebron could be rumored to go.
The obvious question is the one I asked above: Should Lebron finish his career as a Cavalier? At this point, I don’t think any true basketball fan or even Cleveland fan would be upset at Lebron if he left. Dan Gilbert’s management of the team has been poor. He’s had the world’s best player for 4 years and refuses to surround him with enough talent to make a run at multiple titles. Sure they’ve been to 4 straight finals, but that’s largely because of Lebron being Lebron. And even when they do have good players around Lebron (i.e. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love), they never have the depth to challenge the Warriors. While the Warriors went out and got better by signing Durant one summer, they Cavs followed it up by trading their second best player the next. But, there are some merits to Lebron staying in Cleveland. From a legacy standpoint, people would certainly respect him more, especially if he could get a couple more rings. Plus, the Cavs just drafted Collin Sexton, a dynamic point guard who could allow Lebron to do more by doing less. The Cavs one final’s victory was because they had Lebron and an All Star point guard. With Sexton and Lebron on the team, the Cavs could use that formula for victory again.
Another way to recreate that winning formula? Just rejoin the point guard that you won with! Lebron on the Celtics would create a potent big three (James, Heyward, Irving) and would make winning the East a cakewalk (The Sixers, while on the up and up, certainly wouldn’t be ready to compete with that team). However, part of why Kyrie left was because of a tense relationship with Lebron (He felt the Cavs didn’t want him, fueled by Lebron’s people). So the Celtics signing Lebron would once again make Kyrie the second best player on the team, which could once again cause tension in Boston.
The Process would be a whole lot easier to trust if it involved Lebron James. With Simmons and Embiid, this could be a legitimate big three to challenge the Celtics in the East. James would take a lot of pressure off of those two to perform at all star levels, allowing them to develop into true superstars that can carry this team when Lebron is gone. Plus, you’d have plenty of great role players like Markelle Fultz, JJ Reddick, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric. With Lebron on this roster, it’s a perfect mix of young talent with veteran presence. With not much downside to this move, I think it’s Lebron’s best choice in the Eastern Conference
Now we look at the Western Conference teams that Lebron could join, starting with Houston. Houston could’ve legitimately beaten the Warriors and won it all had it not been for an injury to Chris Paul. With Paul, Harden, and Lebron, the Rockets would have to be the favorites to win the NBA Finals. However, I don’t think this is a great spot for Lebron to go. With Lebron and Harden always wanting the ball in their hands, there could be a lot of tension over who gets the shots in crunch time. This team would certainly win, but with two offensive superstars, the Rockets could have too much of a good thing.
Los Angeles Lakers
This is the team I’m going to talk about last because I think it’s the best spot for Lebron in the Western Conference. The big thing that the media is latching onto is that Lebron is sending his kid to a private school in LA. However, the Lakers have the pieces to be legitimate contenders. They have a great young coach in Luke Walton and they have a lot of young talent. They are just missing one thing: a true superstar. While Lebron, Kuzma, and Lonzo (Yes, Lonzo Ball is good), wouldn’t quite constitute a big three, it would certainly be a team to reckon with. Add on other young, blossoming stars like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram and you have a Western Conference juggernaut. The big downside to Lebron being a Laker is he’d have to compete with the Warriors and Rockets to make it to the NBA finals. I don’t think that this current Laker’s team with Lebron could do that right away. However, add another star or give these young guys another year or two to develop and we could be looking at the the return of Showtime. It would certainly be poetic if one of the NBA’s most storied players finished his career winning a few championships with one of the NBA’s most storied franchises.
The Final Ranking
This ranking is based on where I think Lebron should end up:
One thing’s for sure, wherever Lebron decides to go this summer will certainly shape the landscape of the NBA for years to come.
-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)