Back in 2010, LeBron James’ free agency garnered around-the-clock coverage from most sports and media outlets. Every meeting, movement and rumor was over-analyzed for hours on end until James took center stage on his “Decision” special and let everyone know he would be taking his talents to South Beach.
Two titles and four NBA Finals appearances later and we’re ready to do it all over again. Earlier today, it was reported that LeBron had decided to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and test free agency, as many expected. ‘Lebron Watch 2.0’ is now in full effect, you’ve been warned.
When the best player in the universe hits unrestricted free agency, every team in the league is willing to line up and take a shot at signing him. So which teams are actually options for LeBron this summer? Let’s take a look.
Let’s start with the front-runner for James’ services, his current team the Miami Heat. First, the obvious. James has won two NBA titles, two MVP’s and gone to the Finals in all four of his seasons with the Heat.
The most likely scenario that plays out this summer is James opting out puts pressure on the Heat to improve their roster, they oblige, James re-signs and the team goes back to the NBA Finals for a fifth straight season. But the reality of the situation is there is no guarantee LeBron is heading back to South Beach.
For one, there’s a little matter of Dwyane Wade and his contract. It’s no secret that Wade is quickly fading from the spotlight, and likely cannot be counted on to carry a heavy load for Miami any longer. He also has the choice of opting into two years and $41 million dollars, or opting out for a longer deal that pays him less and allows the Heat to re-tool with cap relief.
While Wade will likely opt out of his deal, an aging star who knows he might not get $41 million over four seasons from anyone else could decide that he’s happy with three rings and is taking the money. If this happens, the odds of James leaving Miami go up exponentially.
Regardless however, Miami has to be looked at as the favorite to have LeBron on their roster next season. It will be interesting to see what the team does to give James a better supporting cast to ensure they are competing for titles for years to come.
The Bulls are an interesting scenario for James. First, they have been a thorn in the Heat side since LeBron came to South Florida (in the regular season at least), and have employed the most physical/controversial style of defense on the four-time MVP. Second, they are a Central division team, aka a divisional rival of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Heading to the Windy City would be like stabbing the fans in Ohio all over again.
But take the fluff out of the situation, and speaking strictly in terms of basketball, the Bulls might just be the ideal situation for James to land in.
Chicago has been linked to Carmelo Anthony for months, but like any other franchise will do whatever they can to try luring in LeBron first. The Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer (seriously, amnesty is still a thing) and make a few other moves to open up the right amount of cap space for a shot at James.
But once they do? There are not many situations better for LeBron than landing in a line-up featuring a former MVP in Derrick Rose, a young defensive stud in Jimmy Butler, your reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah and a developing big in Taj Gibson. Not only would they be immediate contenders, but likely heavy favorites to win the NBA Title.
Miami fans won’t be happy to hear this, but Chicago is a very real challenger in the LeBron James Sweepstakes.
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