Even with his newly acquired teammates, LeBron James is all but packed and ready to go once the season ends. Make no bones about it, this will be James’ final run in Cleveland.
LeBron’s already talked to Lonzo Ball using the cryptic MLB ‘glove cover up’ move following a recent game, and he also bought a second home in Brentwood to the tune of $23 million. Add in the fact that before the season even started, LeBron made a special appearance at Ball’s summer league game to create an early bond with the rookie.
With Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball in tow, it only makes sense for LeBron to take his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, right? Wrong.
If there’s anyone that’s great at theatrics, it’s LeBron James. Much like his game show, The Wall, for which he’s an executive producer, LeBron has everyone fooled about his potential move to Hollywood.
First and foremost, a move to the Lakers just doesn’t make sense. In the Western Conference alone, the Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder are all established teams. In fact, each of these teams have a strong foundation in place that will likely carry them throughout LeBron’s late-prime playing days. While the Lakers would immediately become contenders with the addition of LeBron, his road to the NBA finals is substantially minimized in the face of such competition.
Though we know that LeBron wouldn’t go to the Lakers without a plan in place, again, it just doesn’t make sense from a ‘road-to-victory’ perspective. On paper, a team with LeBron James, Paul George, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle looks great. However, given the tough Western Conference opponents that LeBron would face on a regular basis, he’d actually have to play harder than ever. There would be no resting in Los Angeles like there is in Cleveland. This in itself could pose a challenge for even the most physically gifted basketball player that we’ve ever witnessed.
In the Eastern Conference, there’s still room for domination. Both the Celtics and Sixers are quickly developing before our eyes, but neither is exactly a superpower just yet. Given the fact that both of these teams are a player away from being championship-grade material, you’d think that LeBron would consider joining one or the other.
We all know that the Kyrie-LeBron reunion isn’t happening anytime in the near future. Besides, the Celtics should have Gordon Hayward back at full strength next season to put them one step closer to dominating the Eastern Conference.
As for the Sixers, their young core might benefit more from a Klay Thompson type player, rather than a superstar like LeBron James. Ben Simmons has a lot of LeBron-like potential, and it might feel like a crowded floor with both LeBron and Embiid sharing the paint. Not to say that it couldn’t work, but we simply can’t see it.
If Canada weren’t so far off LeBron’s social map, we’d consider Toronto a fit for him too.
Knowing that only the Celtics, Sixers, and Raptors stand in his path to the NBA finals, LeBron’s best move will be to stay in the Eastern Conference. As we’ve written before, the only place where there is a clear path to victory is in Miami.
In Miami, LeBron would have everything he needs to make it back to the NBA finals for the duration of his career. A deal maker in Pat Riley. A respectable coach in Erik Spoelstra. An emotional support in Dwayne Wade. And, key building blocks in both Hasan Whiteside and Goran Dragic.
The message has already been sent to Pat Riley. That was done when LeBron somehow worked out a way to get Dwayne Wade back to South Beach before the trade deadline. Just as Riley did for Alonzo Mourning when Wade came along, he’ll keep Wade as a key transition piece so that LeBron can fully take the reigns.
While many media outlets play up the LeBron-to-L.A. storyline, we’re smart enough to know that LeBron has a higher business IQ than that. That being said, LeBron doesn’t need Lonzo Ball, nor Los Angeles, let alone to live in the shadows of every Laker-great that’s come before him. He’s a man that calls his own shots and writes his own history. For those reasons alone, LeBron will keep his legacy intact and take his talents back to South Beach. However, this time, expect a subtler return. No decision necessary.