The LeBron James Sweepstakes

Well, it has been less then 24 hours since the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered another disappointing playoff loss, this time to the Boston Celtics. And the sports world is spinning off it's axis about the future of LeBron James. The biggest free agent available since Shaquille O'Neal 15 years ago, speculation will run wild for the next 50 days or so. So I might as well throw my hat into the ring and add to the madness.

Where will LeBron end up? What would be the best situation for him? He is already the face of the NBA, a global icon, a cash cow. He'll get the max no matter where he goes, and will get extra if Cleveland does a sign and trade with someone. I will list all of the teams with enough cap room to sign him and a decent sized market (sorry Oklahoma City).

Cleveland Cavaliers

We'll start with the Cavaliers. They have done little to surround James with the talent he needed to win a title. I mean, they have tried. They brought in former All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison. But none of those players made much of an impact in the playoffs this year. And none, or anyone else on the roster, will be sniffing another All-Star appearance any time soon. The cavs could have had Stephen Jackson or Amare Stoudemire (though I don't believe they were close to a trade for Amare). This goes back to last year when they refused to trade Wally Szczerbiak's expiring deal for help.

So if LeBron comes back they will still be over the cap, even with Shaquille O'Neal's 20 million dollar contract coming off the books. With the mid level exception, their roster might look like this next year.

C - Brendan Haywood
PF - Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao
SF - LeBron James, Jamario Moon
SG - Delonte West, Anthony Parker
PG - Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson

The fact is they don't have any trade assets to bring in that second guy James needs. They are saddled with a ton of horrible contracts and can't do a thing to make this team better. It is pretty clear it would be in LeBron's best interest to go elsewhere where he could be paired with Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh and some young guys with room to improve instead of veterans on their way down and role players with limited skills. Sorry Cleveland, things just do not look good. Not only will LeBron leave, but they will be saddled with bad contracts and little hope for the next few years.

Chicago Bulls

This seems to be the popular destination among sports writers and even a few GM's. It makes sense. They have a great young point guard, a solid big man, a good fan base, a large market, and multiple first round picks. And if they can swing a sign and trade of Luol Deng for James, then they'd have the cap space to sign two free agents. But I am not sure the Cavaliers will want to risk alienating their fan base by "trading" LeBron James. Sure, it's not a straight trade but most fan's just don't understand how a sign and trade works. So the Bulls will be able to sign LeBron and another mid level guy. Their lineup could look like this.

C - Joakim Noah
PF - Kurt Thomas, Taj Gibson
SF - LeBron James, James Johnson
SG - Luol Deng, James Anderson
PG - Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich

Is that a championship team? I am not sure. But they have Rose, Deng and Noah to surround James. Granted, they would look much better if they could have unloaded Deng or Hinrich and added Chris Bosh, but that is looking unlikely.

New York Knicks

Everyone assumes every big name player wants to play under the lights of MSG. The Knicks will not be able to convince Eddy Curry to opt out of his contract, but even with his 11 million dollar contract, they only have 17 million committed, meaning they will be able to sign two max free agents. And another starter. Or they could go with LeBron and two mid level guys. The possibilities are endless. It is a huge gamble though. If they miss out on LeBron they might have to settle for a future of Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer and a bunch of scrubs. If they want to win, I think they sign James then two good players as opposed to one more great one. Something like this.

C - Carlos Boozer, Eddy Curry
PF - Udonis Haslem
SF - LeBron James, Wilson Chandler
SG - Danilo Gallinari
PG - Raymond Felton, Toney Douglas

It's a total crap shoot, but is that enough talent around James to make a difference?

New Jersey Nets

Maybe the best fit for James. In less then a week we will find out if James could join John Wall or Evan Turner or Derrick Favors. Regardless, the Nets have a ton of cap space, a bunch of young talented players and a point guard who is good, but had a horrible year. Not to mention a billionaire Russian owner, Brookyn and Jay-Z and all that other stuff. I am going to go ahead and put the Nets at picking second, so I won't have to think up a Devin Harris trade. Cop out, I know.

C - Brook Lopez, Kurt Thomas
PF - David Lee, Yi Jianlian, Kris Humphries
SF - LeBron James, Terrence Williams
SG - Evan Turner, Courtney Lee
PG - Devin Harris

What more could LeBron ask for? A 20-10 big man to play next to, up and coming wing players like Terrence Williams and Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts if his option is picked up. Another triple double machine like Evan Turner, or better yet, John Wall. And a point guard who is much better then Mo Williams. If they then sign David Lee to do the dirty work and bring in a veteran or two to play defense, that looks like a championship calibur team to me, with the chance to get much better in a year or two.

Miami Heat

It is looking more and more like Dwyane Wade is going to stay in Miami. If he does the Heat will still be able to afford James then probably one more mid level guy. The strategy worked for the Heat a few years ago with Wade and Shaq surrounded by spare parts. Would it work again?

C - Brendan Haywood, Solomon Alabi
PF - Michael Beasley
SF - LeBron James
SG - Ray Allen, Daequan Cook
PG - Dwyane Wade

Carlos Boozer is an option here, but he doesn't seem like the guy to take less then the max to me. So they could go with a few starting level free agents like Haywood, Ray Allen, Raymond Felton or others. Good enough? With two of the top three players in the NBA it could be. Especially if Beasley steps up.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers aren't realistically an option, but they do have the qualifications I listed above. Huge market and the cap space to sign him. And how fun would it be to see Kobe and LeBron battle it out for king of Los Angeles?

C - Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan
PF - Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe
SF - LeBron James
SG - Eric Gordon
PG - Baron Davis

If they can get a real coach in there, and Griffin can bounce back from his injury, looks preatty good, right? Still, I don't see it as an option for LeBron.

So where will he go? The 2010 NBA off season has been talked about since most of the class of 2003 signed their extensions a few years ago. We are less then 2 months away from the madness. I can't wait.

Jonathan Carrano

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