When NBA free agency kicks off on July 1st, LeBron James is expected to decide where he’ll like to spend the rest of his prime after his most prolific postseason ever.
According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (via Clevis Murray of The Athletic), James is expected to hold meetings with top championship contenders, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, and the Golden State Warriors.
After the report surfaced on social media, Smith defended his reporting against a critic who questioned his sources.
Philadelphia is intriguing. Yesterday, former Cavs general manager David Griffin explained why the Sixers have a “leg up” on the competition in LeBron James’ free-agency sweepstakes. The pending Bryan Colangelo situation is a negative, but Philadelphia has a lot to offer. With two of the NBA’s brightest stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the No. 10 pick in the upcoming draft, and the cap space to sign a free agent to a max contract.
But could James mesh Simmons? A guy that plays the same position as him, and needs the ball in his hands (just like him) to be effective on the court.
For Boston, things get a little dicey. Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart are looking for new contracts, and who says Irving will even sign off on bringing James aboard, less than a year from demanding a divorce from Cleveland? Not to mention, Boston already has injured star forward Gordon Hayward coming back next season, the NBA’s last elite rookie standing in Jayson Tatum and a rapidly improving Jaylen Brown. The Celtics would have to surrender one of their star players to acquire James (likely a sign-and-trade).
Houston would be presented with a similar problem. With Daryl Morey looking to retain Chris Paul and Clint Capela this summer, bringing James aboard appears unlikely. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Paul Paul wants no less than the max to re-sign with Houston. A contract which could grant him over $200 million over five seasons by the time he turns 37. The Rockets would have to pass on re-signing CP3 to get James.
Golden State would need to perform a boatload of moves this summer to acquire the four-time MVP. But this remains a longshot. Not to mention, James electing to sign with Golden State if the Warriors vanquish him in the Finals again, could damage his legacy.
According to oddsshark, the Rockets are the +150 favorites, with the 76ers (+300), Cavaliers (+350), Lakers (+400), Golden State Warriors (+1600), Los Angeles Clippers (+1800) and Miami Heat (+2500) listed as the next likeliest candidates.