Where will free agent LeBron take his talents?
LeBron James is the hottest talent in National Basketball Association’s (NBA) free agency this summer. The North American basketball superstar is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the first week of July. Teams including his current Cleveland Cavaliers can invite James to join their organizations. However, he is not quite sure where to go.
Currently, James intends to spend time with his family, which is an important factor in his future move. He said:
“The one thing that I’ve always done is considered, obviously, my family. Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I’ve got a teenage boy, a preteen and a little girl that wasn’t around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I’ll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.”
According to ESPN, James has not yet spoken with the Cleveland front office about his decision. In addition, he and his agent are yet to list down their prospective teams.
James has famously moved twice as a free agent in his 15 years as a professional basketball player. He spent the first seven years of his career playing for the Cavaliers after the team drafted him as first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. During his first stint in Cleveland, the Cavs reached only one NBA Finals—the team’s first-ever appearance. That series was in 2007, and they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
In a televised interview in 2010, James announced his decision to opt out of his current contract and sign for the Miami Heat. The decision—also the title of the said interview—immortalized James’ words, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” The Heat organization built the first superstar team of this decade with James, then one-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade, and Toronto Raptors star Chris Bosh. In his four years in Miami, James won two NBA Finals in four consecutive appearances.
After finally bringing home two NBA Championship rings, James decided to give back to his home team. From 2014 to 2018, James’ Cavaliers has reached another four consecutive Finals appearances—his eighth in a row. All four Finals were against the dynasty-in-the-making Golden State Warriors. In 2016, the Cavs managed to win their first NBA Championship, ending the city’s 52-year wait of a professional sports title. However, they lost the other three, with the recent loss—a 4-0 drubbing—being the most devastating defeat.
With age catching up to him and the dominance of the Warriors, the 33-year-old has to make another decision in his glittering basketball career: should he stay or should he go?
He is Taking His Talents to…
James needs to inform the Cavaliers management of his decision before June 30. And by the looks of things, the three-time NBA champion will bid his home goodbye once more.
This season’s Cavs team was, in James own words, “in a funk”. He had to carry the team composed of unremarkable players who, according to NBA Math Editor-in-Chief Adam Fromal, has the worst total points added, offensive points added, and the second worst defensive points added compared with all of James’ other playoffs teams. In what turned out to be a surprising playoff run, the four-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) posted an average of 34 points per game (PPG) with the second best—and the only other double-digit score—14.9 PPG of five-time All-Star Kevin Love. However, James’ impressive display was not enough to bring his lackluster team—who went 8-33 on three-point attempts from James’s passes in Finals Game 2—to another Finals victory.
Analysts and former NBA players have suggested that this iteration of the Cavaliers have pushed the star out of Cleveland. Even James himself admitted that he is not as willing to build a new team as he did before.
“Being a part of the start-fresh mode is something that you definitely don’t want to be a part of. It has its pros and it definitely has its cons.”
Sportsbook Bovada has priced James re-signing with the Cavaliers at 5/1.
Meanwhile, three other teams are poised to sign the 14-time All-Star straight from free agency. At the top of this list is the famous lakeside team from Southern California. Arguably one of the most popular NBA franchises in history, the Los Angeles Lakers are touted to land James. Analysts argue that there is a lot of potential in Lakers’ young squad led by 20-year-old Lonzo Ball and 22-year-old Kyle Kuzma. Together with the space to add another big free agent, James might be tempted to bring this up-and-coming team to a completely new level. The odds of James signing for the Lakers are at 7/4 on Bovada.
Following the Lakers is another young team from the city of Philadelphia. The 76ers are currently reaping the rewards of their painstaking rebuild after half a decade of missing the postseason. Although less marketable than the purple and gold of the Los Angeles team, the 76ers are starting to gain worldwide fame with their “trust the process” slogan. Lead by future stars Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Markelle Fultz—all drafted by the Philly organization—the 76ers reached the playoffs for the first time in six years. Analysts said that becoming the veteran of this promising squad could be an enticing proposition to James. Bovada has the 76ers as James’ destination at 11/5.
The third most favorite, according to sports betting sites, is a storied team from the state of Texas. Compared to the first three squads above, the Houston Rockets have two superstar players currently on their roster. Nine-time All-Star Chris Paul and six-time All-Star James Harden led the Rockets to its second Western Conference Finals appearance since 1997, only losing to the Warriors 4-3. The prospect of forming another Big Three to topple the once-in-a-generation Warriors could lure James, who experienced success being in Miami’s own Big Three. Bovada has the Houston Rockets priced at 5/2.
According to James, his body is still capable of pushing teams to new heights. He believes that he can still win his fourth NBA Championship ring.
“For me, I still have so much to give to the game. When you have a goal and you’re able to accomplish that goal, it actually… made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships, and I still want to be in championship mode. I think I’ve shown this year why I will still continue to be in Championship mode.”
As of June 11, Bovada has the fifth to ninth favorite to land James as follows: San Antonio Spurs at 8/1, Boston Celtics at 12/1, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks both at 30/1, and Miami Heat at 40/1.