By Dustin Brewer
Early Tuesday, the Miami Heat were informed that LeBron James would be opting out of his contract, becoming a free agent. Naturally, upon hearing the news the internet and ESPN imploded with speculation as to what this means for the NBA days before the draft and free agency. Let’s take a look at some of the best reactions.
After the Heat lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals in a less than competitive series, attention immediately focused in on F LeBron James and whether or not he’d be opting out of the final year of his contract to explore free agency options this off-season.
All year people spoke about the possibilities but James chose to focus on the season and didn’t speak about it, even during his final interview after the Finals, he said he planned on taking a family vacation and getting away for a little bit before he announced anything.
Well, vacation is over and LeBron is choosing an early trip to free agency. It’s pretty clear that King James need not worry about money, though he’ll still get a Fort Knox sized deal, but what matters is where can he go that will give him the best chance at NBA titles. Winning is everything, Miami has four trips to the Finals in his four years with the team and two NBA titles. But Dwayne Wade has broken down, Chris Bosh is wildly inconsistent and the rest of the team is a full step behind the Big Three in terms of speed and defense, a point we saw countless times as the Spurs ran roughshod all over them game after game.
So what’s going to happen? Where is LeBron going to take his talents this time and what will that do to the NBA landscape?
- The Decision Two: If there’s one thing we could bet all our money on, it’s that no matter where he goes, there won’t be an hour long ESPN special devoted to the announcement of his signing again. “The Decision” was one of the most derided and scrutinized non-steroids related sports stories of the last five years. LeBron immediately became public enemy #1 in Ohio when he announced, from within a Cleveland Boys and Girls Club that he’d be leaving his home state to play in Miami. It’s safe to say he’s learned his lesson from this fiasco and whoever said it was a good idea has been replaced on Team James.
Probably Not Happening:
- Los Angeles Lakers: Analysts love the thought of LeBron heading to Hollywood to join Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and eventually become the face of the franchise after Kobe retires in two years or so. The Lakers surely have enough cap space with only Steve Nash and Kobe on the books and they’ve been vocal on their shopping around of Nash and their #7 pick in the upcoming draft. They’re going to try and get Carmelo Anthony to town but now with LeBron on the market, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to pursue both but actually signing both of them would be as close to a miracle as you can get. The roster right now is non-existent and no one knows what they’re going to do or who they could possibly sign. Not to mention, Kobe is still expecting to come back and be top dog in town, he’s never going to play second fiddle to someone else, a big deterrent to Anthony because he’s a more effective player with the ball in his hands and with LeBron, it’s all going to be about branding and endorsements. LeBron in Hollywood would be a great move for him but sharing the attention with Kobe on a team that is almost certain to not contend for the title next year would be a waste of a year to James that he could spend chasing a title. But, leave it to Lakers fans to hope:
A Little More Likely, But Going to Take a Lot:
- That Other LA Team: LeBron and Chris Paul are really good friends, that’s no secret. They’ve been honest and vocal about wanting to play together at some point and what better circumstance to join then a young Clippers team on the uptick and full of young talent and on top of that coach Doc Rivers is someone LeBron really likes. So why is it unlikely that this pairing will happen? Because it’d cost the Clippers Blake Griffin. They’d likely have to do a sign and trade deal with Miami to make it happen and even then, Miami still is losing a ton. Plus, a lot of the reason the Clippers have been on such a strong rise is the ever improving and expanding game of the Land Shark. LeBron is definitely a better player than Griffin though and the Clippers would be crazy to not go for it, but the odds of it happening are low, so onward we move.
It Could Happen:
- Houston Rockets, New York Knicks: Both teams have their benefits and their doubts, if Anthony goes back to New York, then James and Anthony can team up under the guidance of Phil Jackson. If James hits Houston, he gets a no-tax contract and joins James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons and a pretty sound bench and instantly brings defense, a lack of which cost Houston in the playoffs last season. Houston just doesn’t have the cap space, dealing Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and others would free up some, they’d have to restructure Parsons’ deal and still, LeBron would be taking a pay cut but Houston would instantly be penciled in to the Western Conference Finals.
- King James Goes Home: If LeBron went back to the Cavaliers, he’d instantly become a hero to the town and state again, even though it’d do nothing to undo the fact that he left, dominated the team whenever they met and made no apologies about any of it. But Cleveland has a lot more now than they did when he left four years ago, the damage he inflicted on them hasn’t been without its’ dividends. They have a great young PG in Kyrie Irving and he and James would be one of the best duos to watch night in and night out. Yes, they whiffed on last year’s number one pick, taking Anthony Bennett who contributed next to nothing all last season but now they have another number one pick for this draft. Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker in addition to Irving, James, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng and Anderson Varejao would be a great situation for either rookie and James would have a roster of young talent that he could only dream of. I personally don’t think he’ll head back to Cleveland but it’d be pretty telling if he did almost as an attempt to make up for the manner he left before.
Temper Expectations, Most Likely to Happen:
- Stays in Miami, New Big 3: Picture this; LeBron stays with the Heat but has opted out to restructure his contract and takes a pay cut to afford the Heat room to sign Carmelo Anthony. Then, they trade Chris Bosh and other pieces/cash to Minnesota for Kevin Love and suddenly have formed a new Big 3 that takes so much pressure off Dwayne Wade that he has no choice to be healthy for an entire season and playoff run. The Heat roster would still be pretty sparse, especially in the bench department but the younger and more athletic Anthony and Love would help mask those holes similar to how the Heat played the first two seasons of the Big 3. Plus, the East is an easier road to the Finals as opposed to a loaded Western Conference.
Who knows where all this will go and what LeBron will end up doing, but no matter what, it’ll surely change the NBA landscape similarly to when he made his first decision four years ago.
Until then, enjoy this picture from earlier on Sportscenter on ESPN. #LeBronWatch begins.
Stay tuned to HefferBrew for all the latest news on LeBron James and the rest of the NBA Free Agency group as well as all the latest moves leading up to draft day.