By Austin Santiago
Published: February 28th, 2018
Now that we have officially entered the second half of the NBA season, all those year-long “what-if” questions begin to materialize, and the excitement around what each franchise will do to get better over the summer hits a fever pitch. However, the summer of 2018 looks to be the hottest ever on record for the NBA, thanks to the looming free agency of the king himself, LeBron James.
There have been many different theories as to where James will call home come the season opener in 2018; some say he will stay in his actual home of Cleveland in hopes of bringing a second title to his beloved city. However, James has refused to verbally commit to the Cavaliers this offseason meaning that no possibility is off the table. In fact, the basketball world nearly collapsed on itself in the beginning of February, when multiple sources including CBS Sports reported that James would be open to meeting with the defending champion Golden State Warriors if they could in fact create room for a max contract offer. James has since disputed the reports, labeling them as “nonsense.” But if we have learned anything from watching James over the course of his career, it is that anything is possible. No one imagined he would leave his hometown for Miami in 2010, and even fewer expected his return to Cleveland in 2015. With so many teams clamoring to court the king of the NBA—the most recent being the Philadelphia 76ers who posted billboards across the city with the hashtag “We Want LeBron”—we are forced to look at the entire NBA landscape and see which franchise is truly fit for a king.
What makes James’ impending free agency so interesting is that there are very few teams that can roster him while meeting his demands. There are only three things that James wants going into the twilight of his career: to win, get paid, and be the first option on his team. These three demands eliminate just about every team in the NBA that isn’t called the Cleveland Cavaliers. James will not sign with a young team such as the Los Angeles Lakers or 76ers. Despite their youth, LeBron cannot expect to win right away with such raw, untapped talent. At 33 years old, time is not on his side, and by the time he can work his magic in making the team better, it may be too late. There’s always Miami, the city James called home for years and won two titles with, but with a lackluster roster it is hard to envision any immediate success for the king in South Beach.
Though the young teams of the NBA show promise, the true frontrunner for James’ talents resides in Texas; Houston, Texas to be exact. The Rockets have been a blast in every sense of the word this season, with Chris Paul running the offense, and James Harden in the midst of an MVP campaign. There is a lot to be excited about in the Lone Star State. But therein lies the problem; the Rockets will never be James’ team. Additionally, he may be the missing piece, but he will not be the only piece, and this is the problem with him joining the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs as well. On paper, San Antonio is a perfect fit for James; a winning history and a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich all seems too good to be true. There are also no superstars in the Spurs system. While Tim Duncan and crew will likely be first ballot Hall of Famers, there are no pedestals under coach Popovich. There is no superstar treatment because the Spurs have a team-oriented style, and this may serve as an obstacle for James. Based on James’ criteria, it seems as though no team currently in the running can roster him, and a lot of that falls on James himself. Of course, James’ deserves to have all of his demands met in full; he is the best player of our generation, but as it stands, the NBA is too weak for him.
No one knows what will happen next. The only thing we know for sure is that we will all be on the edge of our seats this July, wondering where the crown will be for the 2018-2019 season.