Lebron James is coming off a tremendous postseason that ended in disappointment against the Golden State Warriors once again. An argument could be made that he was once again the best player in a playoff series but against a team as talented as the Warriors it did not matter. He is already one of the greatest players in NBA history with a legitimate argument as the G.O.A.T.
As he mentioned, there will be many factors he considers before he decides which team to join next year. It is still early enough in the process that many things could change between now and free agency; however, it’s fun to speculate on his next and best decision for his future. This ranking will attempt to determine what is the best fit for him from a basketball standpoint from worst to best.
The Cavaliers are more likely to keep Lebron; however, this list is about his best fit basketball-wise and when this is considered Cleveland is low on the list. As the playoffs proved, there simply isn’t enough talent on this roster to challenge the Warriors or even stay atop of the East with the 76ers and Celtics approaching. Their second best player Kevin Love, while talented, is best served as a tertiary option rather than a secondary one. Lebron is not getting any younger and for his sake, he shouldn’t continue to play with a team and coach that doesn’t allow him to get valuable rest on the bench. Unless the Cavs can make a major move it is difficult to see him staying with Cleveland especially after what happened in the Finals.
Considering the recent news that Kawhi is requesting a trade, with L.A being his top destination, the Spurs ranked lower than their initial ranking when compiling the list. Coach Pop and Lebron would still be a match made in basketball heaven but without Kawhi, making a move to the Spurs would make little sense for Lebron personally and potentially basketball wise. Considering all the stress Coach Pop has gone through in and outside of basketball it’s also difficult to see him coaching the team for many more seasons. The roster with Lebron and without Kawhi may not be able to get past the Rockets much less the Warriors. The Spurs initially seemed to be a dark horse candidate for Lebron’s services but due to the turmoil they’re faced with, the circumstances have undoubtedly changed.
This team has been linked with Lebron for a long time and is considered the dark horse team to land his services. Not only does the team have the prerequisite talent Lebron desires to have a chance against the Warriors but they also have the cap room to sign Lebron outright. The largest concern with them is Lebron’s fit next to Philly’s established stars. While Simmons and Embiid are both extremely talented neither of them are great shooters. It has been proven throughout Lebron’s career that he works best with knockdown shooters which is a role that neither player has shown the capability or consistency of fulfilling; however, the talent is undeniable and if they can find a way to keep J.J Redick and shooters around them then this team has a chance to be incredible.
This is considered the team Lebron is most likely to join based on many reports and the qualities he’s looking for in his next franchise. There are heavy rumors of his oldest son going to school in L.A next year. When considering his statements about how family would play a large part in his decision this summer then L.A makes even more sense. This is without discussing the possibility of Lebron playing with Kawhi and/or Paul George if he decides to join the Lakers. There is a legitimate question if the Lakers could acquire either top talent and surround that group with enough to contend with the Warriors. Regardless, a fully healthy team of Kawhi, Lebron, and Paul as the core would be one of the most talented teams Lebron has ever played with. Even if both players cannot play with Lebron, he has proven capable of taking lesser talent much further.
The Rockets were likely a Chris Paul injury away from defeating the Warriors and making it to the Finals. Even without CP3, if they did not miss a record number of threes in a row in game 7 (29) they would’ve likely made the Finals and defeated the Cavaliers. Adding a player of Lebron’s caliber only increases their odds of winning next year. The issue is that as much as the Rockets would love to have Lebron they may not be able to afford Lebron. The Rockets’ core pieces last year were mainly CP3, Harden, and Capela. CP3 is a free agent and Capela will be a restricted free agent. Both players will need to be paid which makes it incredibly tricky to add Lebron on to the team even with a sign and trade. Daryl Morey is a smart GM who will need all of his brain power to have a shot at adding Lebron without gutting any essential depth pieces needed to defeat the Warriors. If they can manage to do that this team will be incredibly dangerous next year.
The Celtics took the Cavaliers to seven games last year with Hayward and Irving out due to injury. During their playoff run Brad Stevens proved to be one of the best coaches in the league, if not the best, considering how far the team exceeded public expectations. The Celtics appreciate they can afford to go into next season with essentially the same team they had this past year and have a legitimate shot at the title. When taking into account their defense; their multi-faceted personnel; and their overall coaching they will be one of the best teams in the league next year with a legitimate chance to defeat the Warriors. The Celtics do not need Lebron which is exactly why they would be the perfect team for Lebron and his best opportunity at winning titles for years to come. The Celtics would have to obtain Lebron through a sign and trade and trade either Hayward or Irving and another piece such as Marcus Morris to the Cavaliers to match salaries. Considering the direction the league is moving to, it would make sense to trade Kyrie and keep Gordon. A lineup of G. Hayward/J. Tatum/L. James/Al Horford with either Rozier or J. Brown for that fifth spot would be an incredibly dangerous team. Unfortunately due to the tense relationship of Kyrie and Lebron; the optics of letting go of Kyrie or Hayward after their injuries – though that hasn’t stopped Danny Ainge before – would not look good. It is difficult to see Lebron joining the Celtics even if they exponentially increased his odds of winning for the short and long term.
Lebron’s decision will be the catalyst of NBA free agency. His decision will determine where other player decide to go during free agency. Regardless of what team he chooses, there will likely be moves made afterwards that no one expects. Before the decision is made the NBA world will surely be waiting in anticipation.