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LeBron James’ prospective free agency has a few fan bases hoping they can get their hands on the king, and the Golden State Warriors are no exception.
James has an early-termination option in his contract that will allow him to hit the open market at the conclusion of 2013-14. It must be said: The Miami Heat probably have the inside track on re-signing their best player.
They have a championship roster perfectly constructed to fit around James and also, he has a top-flight sidekick in Dwyane Wade that embraces his role and routinely shows up in big games. Still, no. 6 might decide that the grass is greener elsewhere and contemplate a few destinations.
One of the most fascinating aspects of his the situation is that his suitors are seemingly obliterating their chances at wooing him.
The Los Angeles Lakers managed their salary cap in a manner to have the flexibility needed to sign James the moment he hits the market. However, a broken down roster coupled with a stubborn head coach are hardly an ideal attraction for the best player in the game.
And for good measure, in the event the Heat superstar were still willing to join the Lake Show, he would probably need assurances that Bryant’s body will hold up for the next few seasons, which seems unlikely.
The other team that is supposed to have a shot at the two-time champion is his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. However, they have been a perennial loser from the moment he left the franchise in the 2010 offseason.
In addition, the pieces on the team are intriguing to say the least, but they have done very little to positively influence the direction of the organization. Kyrie Irving might be good, but King James already has Dwyane Wade by his side at the moment.
Much like Irving, Wade has had his bouts with injuries, but he always seems to show up whenever James and the Heat need him.
Irving can barely make himself available to lead Cleveland to the postseason. Consequently, the teams that were expected to lure away the game’s premier player have apparently squandered their opportunities.
This opens up the door for a few teams to make convincing pitches. One thing we cannot escape with the 2014 summer nearing is the poor shape of teams projected to have cap room. Quickly have a look at the teams that will have at least $20 million in cap space (James’ starting salary for 2014-15 will be $20.1 million per ESPN.com’s Amin Elhassan unless he accepts a reduction in pay):
- Cleveland Cavaliers (by releasing Anderson Varejao, Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee and Andrew Bynum who all have non-guaranteed deals in 2014-15)
- Dallas Mavericks
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Orlando Magic (by cutting Jameer Nelson, Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price who have non-guaranteed deals for 2014-15)
- Philadelphia 76ers (by cutting a few players with non-guaranteed contracts)
- Phoenix Suns
- Utah Jazz
We have already addressed the Lakers and Cavs, which give the remaining teams a possible chance at James. Granted, their odds are incredibly low considering the situations of those respective teams.
The squads are all bottom-tier teams that cannot fit in another star next to James. Basically, if the four-time league MVP agreed to join one of these units, he would be doing so with the intent of recreating the Cavs team he actually ended up leaving in July 2010 when he famously stated he was taking his talents to South Beach.
The Dallas Mavericks are an intriguing unit though. They will have the cap room to bring in James and potentially re-sign Dirk Nowitzki.
The German big man has already stated he would be willing to take a significant pay cut if it meant that the team could bring in a superstar. Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas has the details:
“At this point of my career, it’s all about competing and winning,” Nowitzki said Thursday after an event to promote AT&T’s “It Can Wait” program, which urges people not to text and drive. “It’s not about money. Obviously, Cuban took care of me for a long, long time. I always tried to pay him back by hard playing and being here for this franchise, so I don’t think we’re going to fight over money. I want to compete over these last couple of years. That’s going to be the goal.”
Thus, Dallas is an attractive destination. But, Nowitzki’s age probably serves as an obstacle. If LeBron is going to relocate during the prime of his career, he will likely prefer playing alongside an elite player close to his age for the next few years.
That gives him a much better chance to improve his ring count.
Given that the teams with cap space do not present great situations for James, should he intend to leave the Heat for a contender, it will more than likely be via a sign-and-trade transaction.
Which situations are most likely to attract the former Olympian?
Portland Trail Blazers
LeBron James’ relocation to Miami was initially choppy because he and Dwyane Wade struggled to blend their strengths together. Both loved having the ball in their hands to create plays and consequently, it took time for both of them to adjust their games given their skill sets.
That will not be an issue with Portland Trail Blazers. James can join the team as the undisputed alpha dog flanked by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both Portland stars are already All-Star caliber players and furthermore, they are younger than the Miami Heat small forward.
The Blazers would immediately become title contenders by virtue of their big guns as well as the talented role players around them. An argument could be made that the James-Aldridge duo would be the best perimeter and interior combo in the league.
Portland acquires James in a sign-and-trade involving Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson.
Los Angeles Clippers
Much like the Portland Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Clippers offer a formidable twosome in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. With LeBron James on board, the Clips might have the best passers in the league at their respective positions.
Paul gives the reigning league MVP an incredibly talented sidekick as well as the Association’s premier setup man. James gets to play under the tutelage of Doc Rivers — one of the best coaches in basketball — and turn the Clippers into L.A.’s more important ball club at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The two-man unit of James and Paul becomes the most dynamic perimeter tandem in the league — a more efficient version of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (!) — and as a result, LAC becomes a legitimate threat to win multiple titles.
Keep in mind, Paul and Griffin are also both younger than the game’s best player.
James goes to the Clips by way of a sign-and-trade involving DeAndre Jordan, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford. Granted, a team cannot acquire a player through sign-and-trade if they are $4 million over the luxury tax line, which will probably be the case for the Clippers.
The luxury tax figure for 2014-15 is unknown, but the amount for 2013-14 is $71.75 million. Should that number hold heading into next season, the Clippers simply need to ensure their total player salaries are inferior to $75.75 million. In order to accomplish this, the organization can simply waive Willie Green’s non-guaranteed contract of $1.45 million.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors will undoubtedly become the most prolific offense in the league with LeBron James in their uniform. The King will be surrounded by a top-five NBA point guard in Stephen Curry and a facilitator reminiscent of Scottie Pippen with Andre Iguodala.
The three-man crew is deadly and becomes even more lethal with Klay Thompson spacing the floor while Curry and James run what amounts to a terrorizing pick-and-roll.
What’s more, the former Cleveland Cavalier gets to play alongside two of the best defensive players in the league in Andrew Bogut and Iguodala. James is arguably the league’s best and most versatile defender, and he would now be aided by an elite defensive center.
The ages on the roster fluctuate, but the core players are all around James’ age if not younger. Curry, Bogut, Iguodala have deals that expire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign, which gives the Dubs at least three seasons to compete with this core.
Thompson has a qualifying offer scheduled for the 2015-16. The Warriors will probably present it to him and then, Golden State will be faced with the decision of providing him an extension or letting him walk. Nonetheless, the Dubs have a superb core with James in the fold.
LeBron’s voyage to the Bay Area requires a sign-and-trade involving David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Nedovic.
All three scenarios certainly offer some intrigue and leave us wondering whether the face of the sport has given some thought to joining any of these franchises. The Decision II will only take place during the summer, but one cannot but help speculate.
Still, the clock is counting down…
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.