LeBron James couldn’t possibly leave again, right? Right? Of course not, it would be the closest thing to career suicide that James could do within his active power as an NBA player — he might as well double down and roll around in a kiddie pool full of performance enhancing drugs while holding a big sign with the most offensive phrasing you could think of. LeBron, for better or worse, is inextricably linked to Northeast Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While we understand that the Cavs made it to the Finals last season; that they’re the favorites to come out of the East again; and that James’s foray into free agency is nothing more than leveraging a way to keep the Cleveland front office from falling into complacency (quickly: if he never signs a long term contract, the Cavaliers are always under the pressure that he could leave, and since the franchise has first hand evidence that James is the difference between the Finals and the Draft Lottery they’ll be on edge to finally put James in a position to succeed at the highest level via smart free agency moves and trades), but what if he left?
Imagine, if you will, that LeBron James decided that Cleveland really wasn’t worth the effort, channeled his inner Joakim Noah, and fled town. Where would he go? Where could he go? Here are our picks for the best places that LeBron James could sign as a free agent, even if he’s not going anywhere but back to the house that Dan Gilbert bought.
If James wants to be the Johnny Appleseed of NBA success, there’s really no more obvious candidate than the Sacramento Kings, who have been stuck in a front office tailspin for the better part of a decade and have the longest active streak of regular seasons without a playoff appearance in the league. Most recently, the Kings were in the middle of rumors regarding a potential John Calipari hire — both Coach Cal and the Sacramento front office have denied the story, but the merry-go-round of chaos that envelopes the least-successful California team remains spinning regardless.
Also, if Vivek Ranadive is really committed to his “cherry picking” defense, who better to convince the rest of the team to buy in than the best player in the world?
2. New Orleans
Maybe we’re reaching here, but we don’t believe that James leaves South Beach if Cleveland doesn’t offer Kyrie Irving and a host of other talented young players, even if they traded away Maple Jordan for Kevin Love. On that end of the spectrum, what team would be better suited to a magical appearance by LeBron than the New Orleans Pelicans, who have Anthony Davis and an assortment of moving parts that might make the Cavaliers blush (not really, the Pelicans are way better than the Cavaliers). James would be another high usage player on a team that already has Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans… but it’s LeBron James and Anthony Davis. You’d lust after that combination in fantasy, and we know you’d lust even harder for it in real life.
Ok, so this suggestion sort of assumes that James is able to join forces with a back court of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler to create a perimeter wing defense that absolutely no one wants to deal with. And they’d be funneling anyone towards Joakim Noah, who is a great defensive presence no matter how much he’s feeling the effects of being a player for Thibs (wear and tear is as common to his players as headbands are to the rest of the league). Plus, we’d get to watch James and Noah collectively eviscerate the hopes and dreams of Cavaliers fans — a little schadenfreude is to be expected when you get a player of LeBron James’s caliber twice in his NBA career.
LeBron James becomes a free agent at midnight. We expect him to sign with the Cavaliers. We will eat a shoe (boiled) if he winds up in Sacramento.