The odds that LeBron James signs with the Lakers this summer are growing steadily following reports of “discontent and concern” in the Cavaliers locker room. There is a feeling within the organization that their problems aren’t fixable this season.
As for future seasons, many are pointing to the fact that the Cavs own the Brooklyn Nets pick this summer and that the hope of a young stud helping LeBron into the twilight of his career will be enough to convince him to stay in Cleveland. Several issues with that:
1. The Nets pick likely won’t even be that good. The Nets currently have the seventh worst record in the NBA. You think LeBron is staying in Ohio because he likes Luka Doncic’s game?
2. Isaiah Thomas will be a free agent. The Cavs are struggling mightily since he returned. Would he want to run it back in Cleveland even with LeBron?
3. Mission accomplished. LeBron believes that he’s already done enough for the city of Cleveland by ending its decades-long championship drought. That has been LeBron’s mindset for two years. (See: LeBron’s tweet to departed Cleveland GM David Griffin “We got us 1!”)
Here is an idea of how bad things are in Cleveland (via Cleveland.com): “Rotations are awful. IT (Isaiah Thomas) is so much worse than Kyrie (Irving) defensively it’s insane," a league source said. "There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other.”
The feeling surrounding the Lakers right now isn’t much better, and the record surely is worse (15-28, the sixth worst record in the NBA). But with the Cavaliers, Lakers and Rockets the only three teams that consistently come up in regards to where LeBron will play basketball next season – the Lakers remain the odds-on favorites.
The Rockets would need to trade PJ Tucker, Ryan Anderson, Nene and Chinanu Onuaku without taking any salary back – and even then it’s not enough for Houston to sign him to a max deal (according to SB Nation).
Plus, there’s this:
When LeBron went to the Heat, it was a unique situation. Dwyane Wade was one of his best buddies in the NBA, and he had already won a title. LeBron didn’t mind sharing the spotlight with him.
James Harden is still hunting for his first title, and it’s easy see Harden and LeBron’s egos clashing. Harden is one of the NBA’s premier alpha dogs and wants to win his first title as his team’s No. 1.
Yes, the Lakers’ cap situation is messy too, but LA has a clearer financial path to signing both LeBron and Paul George than Houston does in signing both LeBron and Chris Paul (re-sign) this summer. There will need to be some serious financial sacrificing from LeBron and others in both destinations, but it would be much easier to get a deal done in LA.