For the fourth straight season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled during the month of January, hitting their yearly January troubles. They have still managed to reach the NBA Finals during the last three seasons. Always fixing their problems before the playoffs. This 2018 season just feels slightly different, all because of injuries, coaching and chemistry problems, and the absence of Kyrie Irving.
All this comes at the worst times, with LeBron James being a free agent at the end of the season. He could freely walk away exactly like he did in 2010. The only difference being winning a championship during his second stint. The one James promised and then delivered in 2016.
But as happy as the city was during the team’s championship, everything in The Land has been as catastrophic as ever. Ever since Irving wanted to get traded away, multiple rumors saying he did not want to play with James anymore because he wanted to be the best player on his own team. Leading to Isaiah Thomas being the new point guard for the Cavs, or at least for some part of the season. The former Boston Celtics guard has been playing like he is coming off a probable career ending injury. Creating tension in the locker room and on the hardwood. Tension has grown even bigger with Kevin Love and JR Smith, both having their respective problems on the team.
Although the roster does not look like it can compete against either the Warriors or the Rockets, because of the aging players they have around James. Which is not only a problem for the team on the basketball court, but also one for Dan Gilbert and management. They can either trade their pieces that are supposed to be for the future. Those being the Brooklyn pick this year and their own future picks, or they can keep it to reboot if James leaves them this summer. Which is very likely at this point, the unanswered question is, where is James bringing his talents next.
San Antonio Spurs
The 2016 Western Conference Finals will always be remembered as the series when Kawhi Leonard injured his ankle and never played after game 1. The Spurs did not have enough stars to survive without him, and they still do not. A fact that could change fast if RC Buford decides to try and land James, a duo of Leonard and James with Gregg Popovich, arguably the greatest coach ever, in charge of them. For two of the games best three forwards to play together, the Spurs would have to trade Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge first, that will free up their cap space enough to sign James and surround him with veteran shooters.
Daryl Morey’s “Moreyball” has worked extremely well with newly acquired Chris Paul and James Harden this season, winning the season series against the Golden State Warriors 2-1. What if Chris Paul and their new reserves are not good enough to beat the team from the Bay in a seven game series? James is the answer. It would take a lot to land James in a Rockets jersey, the franchise would have to get rid of Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela and some of their key bench players. That being the reason because Harden already has a $228M contract, and Paul and James could earn close to that in their next contracts if they decide. The Rockets would have an extremely short rotation, something Coach Mike D’antoni is known for, but it does not take Morey’s analytics to figure out that their probable starting five might be worth it.
Los Angeles Lakers
James just bought a new mansion in LA a couple months ago, also being seen by the media walking around a private school’s campus with his wife. That created even more rumors than there were originally. Although, it starts to make more sense day by day. The Lakers are being ran by President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, and are the biggest and most successful franchise in NBA history. If James wants to have a successful career after his basketball playing days are over, the Lakers are the team to join this summer. This is not only because of the spotlight and being in California, but the organization’s vision is not far from what could dethrone Golden State in some seasons. The LA team has a future star in Lonzo Ball as their point guard, two scorers in Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, and plenty of tradeable assets to land superstars along with James. Maybe being in a team with Ball, Kuzma and Ingram will not take you far, but if they are able to sign two or three stars, including James, the Lakers could be a force in the West for years to come.
Almost every team in the NBA will want LeBron James this summer, but James wants to win and add more championships to his collection. Which teams do you think have the chance to help him win? And which one will he join forces with?