LeBron James’ free agency decision in 2018 could rival the historic one made during the summer of 2010, when he initially opted to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat.
This time around, LeBron has delivered a championship to the city of Cleveland, and he’s looking to position himself for his golden NBA years. At 33 years old, LeBron is still playing as well as ever. He carried the Cavaliers to the 2018 NBA Finals, and a lot could weigh into his decision about where to play next.
"The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family," LeBron said following the Game 4 loss to the Golden State Warriors. “My family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that. So, I don't have an answer for you right now as far as that."
We take a look at five potential landing spots for one of the game’s all-time greats:
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Home is where the heart is, perhaps. Cleveland will always hold a special place for LeBron, and he can make more money with the Cavs than any other franchise. The Cavs could swing a long-shot deal to improve the roster, plus they will have the No. 8 pick in the draft. If the team could grab a point guard like Trae Young or versatile forward like Michael Porter, could LeBron be interested in staying? The Cavaliers will need to get creative with their roster, but it’s not impossible. If they were to trade a player like Kevin Love and a role player or two to the Portland Trail Blazers, could CJ McCollum and the No. 8 pick sway LeBron into giving it another go in Cleveland? Much is still to be determined.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
As is, the Lakers are not as attractive as a host of other teams, but LeBron could bring another star player–like Paul George–with him. The Lakers shed salary cap space specifically to be a player in free agency, and here we are. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball are all intriguing players, and LeBron can hand-pick his running mate. An LA lifestyle and a legendary franchise also hold significant appeal.
3. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are ready-made to win a championship, and they are the likely conclusion for LeBron if his only goal is to win titles. However, his salary and his style of play could complicate matters. For starters, the Rockets will need to get James Harden, Chris Paul, and LeBron all under the salary cap–while also accounting for Ryan Anderson’s deal, plus the money allocated to solid role players like P.J. Tucker.
Style points matter too. Both Harden and Paul want to command the ball, so adding James does not automatically equate to smooth sailing. Touches will have to be sacrificed all the way around, assuming the Rockets can even make the salaries work–which would take major creativity from general manager Daryl Morey.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
From a basketball and financial point of view, the Sixers make the most sense. LeBron can stay in the Eastern Conference, where he’ll only really have to contend with the Boston Celtics. He also steps into a situation where Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are borderline stars, plus the Sixers have another lottery pick coming their way in the 2018 NBA Draft. There will be some questions as to how he and Simmons co-exist, considering Simmons has no jump shot to speak of. That said, the litany of young stars, salary cap space, and positioning in the Eastern Conference make the Sixers quite enticing.
1. San Antonio Spurs
That’s right, the San Antonio Spurs. A lot will weigh into this decision, and the Spurs have a lot to offer–assuming they can get Kawhi Leonard back into the fold. With LeBron and a potential max deal, that should not be a problem.
As far as LeBron, this move makes a lot of sense. He has close ties to Gregg Popovich from their time with USA Basketball, and Pop is considered the league’s best coach–perhaps ever. LeBron can trust his final NBA years to Pop. Plus, he gets to play alongside a top-5 superstar in Leonard. The rest of the roster suits LeBron’s game as well. Point guard Dejounte Murray is more of a defensive stopper than a traditional ball-handler. This will allow LeBron to continue to dominate the ball, while also deferring to All-Stars in LaMarcus Aldridge and Leonard. Murray’s development, plus the presence of outside shooters like Danny Green and Patty Mills make the Spurs an enticing option.
The lack of state income taxes in Texas might also allow LeBron to take less money than he would otherwise.
Keep it here on AXS.com for more NBA news and tickets to select games.