I would first like to preface this article by saying that I think LeBron will only leave Cleveland if the Cavaliers make the NBA Finals. If the streak of five straight NBA Finals appearances ends, everyone will simply assume he is “running away” should he decide to leave the Cavaliers.
The rumored landing spots for LeBron James are Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles (Lakers), and of course, many still believe he will stay in Cleveland. Here are the cases for and against LeBron James playing in each of the aforementioned cities.
The case for: After this season, the 76ers will have $34 million in cap space if they let JJ Redick and Amir Johnson go in free agency. This means they can pay LeBron big money. However, the payoff for LeBron is that he will have young but promising talent as his teammates in players like Simmons and Embiid. The 76ers would also need a cheap SG to replace Redick as the primary floor spacer of the team.
The case against: The Philadelphia 76ers are in the Eastern Conference and if LeBron were to stay in the East, but not in Cleveland, he will receive backlash from fans similar, if not worse, than the first time he left Cleveland. I also don’t think LeBron would want to live in a city as cold as Philadelphia if he were to leave.
Los Angeles Lakers
The case for: LeBron will probably not end up with the Clippers, but the Lakers have been a team that has been in the conversation to land The King all season. Similar to the 76ers, the Lakers will have plenty of cap space once Brook Lopez, Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are let go; nearly $47 million! The Lakers could potentially sign both James AND Paul George, giving Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle two superstar players to learn from and play with.
The case against: Even if LeBron and PG13 are in LA, that team is VERY thin. The starting lineup would be Ball, Kuzma, George, James, and Randle. The starting lineup is fine, but if a 33-year-old Luol Deng is your 6th man, the team is in trouble. Going to the Lakers would put LeBron on a worse team than Cleveland, and being in the Western Conference would most likely mean we would not see James in the Finals, unless he plays elsewhere.
The case for: As of right now, the Houston Rockets look to be well on their way to the top seed in the Western Conference. LeBron James would have the potential to join the likely league MVP this season in James Harden, and regardless of the team around them, the two would likely be VERY successful together.
The case against: Everyone thinks of the Rockets now and just sticks LeBron James on the roster. However, the Rockets could look VERY different next year, as Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela are all on expiring contracts. Would the Rockets have to give up two-of-three to get LeBron? Would it be worth it?
The case for: LeBron James is the king of the East, and he still can be if he stays in Cleveland. Obviously the Cavaliers STILL have issues, even after the historic trade deadline they had a month ago. However, the Nets’ pick acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade could land the Cavaliers a top prospect, such as Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mohamed Bamba. These two players could dramatically improve the Cavaliers defense and give LeBron a reason to re-sign with the team.
The case against: Aside from players like Rodney Hood, Jose Calderon and Jeff Green being the only players of note that will likely not return, the Cavaliers will look the same as they do now. If you are LeBron you have to ask the question: “if it hasn’t worked before, why should it this time around?” Plus, why would LeBron James want Tyronn Lue as a “head coach?”