The inevitable has finally happened. LeBron James has decided to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat. I doubt there has ever been a more powerful free agent in NBA history. LeBron is the best player in the world, he’s in his prime, and he calls all the shots. However, his next decision will be key for this one fact: this may be the last contract LeBron signs in his prime. This next decision (2.0 if you will) will be an important decision that will shape the NBA for the next five years, and will set the course for the last of LeBron’s prime.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. LeBron will do what’s best for his family and himself. All of the “he would damage his legacy if he leaves Miami” talk is a load of you know what. People said he’d damage his legacy if he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. If anything that move enhanced his legacy. Most importantly, LeBron has learned not to care what other people think. He does things his own way now; not to please the masses. LeBron knows what’s at stake this summer. This will be the last contract he signs during his prime years. He will have to make a decision that will position himself to maximize those years. With his massive endorsement and investments making money by the boatload, it really does come down to the rings for him. Where is the best place to win now and for the next 4-5 years? Here are a few ideas:
Miami Heat: You dance with who brought you right? The Heat may have saw a version of their future selves in the Spurs if they follow their footsteps. The Big 3 will have to take a steep pay cut and rely on Pat Riley to put the proper supporting cast around them. The Heat organization can no longer cut any corners like they did with the release of Mike Miller and standing pat when they can improve the team. The ownership and the front office will have to go all in year in and year out. Luxury tax be damned.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets have a core of young superstars and are probably one piece away from serious championship contention. LeBron could be that piece. With Wade in obvious decline, James Harden looks like a great running mate right now. Plus Dwight Howard is still one of the best centers in the league. If LeBron wants to maximize his championship chances Houston is the best option.
Chicago Bulls: Just like the Rockets, the Bulls may be one piece away from being serious contenders. Especially if Derrick Rose can ever stay healthy for a full season again. Joakim Noah is another type flight center in the league and the Bulls have excellent coaching with Tom Thibodeau. This is another team that can win immediately with LeBron in the fold.
Cleveland Cavaliers: I can see the YouTube montages already. LeBron highlights with “I’m Coming Home” playing in the background. The Cavs have a great young core with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and whoever the number one pick of this draft will be. This is the sentimental favorite and probably the fan favorite to land LeBron. There’s only one question: Will LeBron ever forgive Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert for this?
Los Angeles Clippers: One of two long shots I have on this list are the Clippers. LeBron is good friends with Chris Paul and has great respect for Doc Rivers. But the only way he lands here is through sign and trade. The Clippers will most likely have to part ways with Blake Griffin and a lot more for the trade to work. Basically blowing up their core for LeBron. Ask the Knicks how that worked out when they traded for Carmelo Anthony.
Los Angeles Lakers: The biggest long shot of them all. If LeBron wants to be even more hated than he is now this is the perfect landing spot. It’s been way too quite on the Lakers front which usually means their planning something big, crazy, or both. Rumor has it that LeBron and Melo want to play on the same team. If their both willing to take in the neighborhood of $16 million per year the Lakers can make that pipe dream into a reality. And the Lakers are probably planning on pitching that to both players.
In the end, the only real players in the LeBron sweepstakes are the first four teams listed with Miami being the favorite. Do you know where LeBron is going? Leave your destination in the comment section.