By process of elimination, the Los Angeles Lakers are now the favorites to land LeBron James in NBA free agency.
Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd recently said a source told him that there is “no perfect option” for LeBron in free agency as the Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and Sixers all have “issues.” But it becoming more and more clear that the Lakers have – by far - the least amount of issues.
The Rockets should already be fourth on the “most likely” list for LeBron. Here is what ESPN’s Bobby Marks said about LeBron and the Rockets cap situation.
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“Let’s debunk the myth that James could be signed with cap space, because he can’t,” Marks wrote. “Here is why it is so complicated: Despite the Rockets’ having $77 million in guaranteed contracts ($24 million below the cap), Houston will operate over the cap because of (Chris) Paul’s $35.7 million free agent hold. The Rockets also have $21 million counting against the cap in combined holds for Capela and Trevor Ariza. Essentially, the entire roster would have to be torn down outside of Harden, Paul (on a major discount) and Capela. Then the rest of the roster around those three and James (or another max free agent) would be filled with minimum contracts and the $4.4 million room exception.”
In short, there is cap juggling … and then there is the miracle that Rocket GM Daryl Morey would have to pull off in order to even entertain signing LeBron.
As for the Sixers, they have major issues right now with GM Bryan Colangelo. This might be a good opportunity to bring in a LeBron-friendly GM like David Griffin, and Griffin even said recently that he believes the Sixers have a “leg-up” in the free agent pursuit of LeBron.
That said, LeBron is looking for an ownership group that will bend over backwards for him. He’s looking for the anti-Dan Gilbert.
Joshua Harris is seen as a small step up from Charles Dolan in most NBA circles, so that’s strike one against Philly.
Strike two and three are the Sixers dynamic duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. This is not to say both players are bad – far from it, actually. They’re just horrible major pieces to put around LeBron if winning an NBA title is the main objective. It’s a bad fit on the court.
Charles Barkley and Brian Windhorst (who is as tied in to LeBron as any media member) have both said that LeBron needs shooters first and foremost as his main running mates. Simmons, in particular, would be one awkward fit with LeBron.
This leaves the Lakers, who have geared up for signing LeBron for over two years, lurking. Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson have done a fabulous job of clearing cap space, and the Lakers have room to sign not only LeBron but a second top player in NBA free agency. If LeBron wants to trade young players for veterans like he did when he came back to Cleveland – and he likely will – the Lakers also have young, short-money players like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball available to dangle in a trade for a third superstar (we hear Los Angeles native Kawhi Leonard is available).
It may not look like it now, but the Lakers remain the top destination for LeBron this summer basketball-wise. Throw in the great weather, the history of winning, and the potential entertainment ventures that LA has to offer – and this could quickly become a no-brainer.