B / R
Editor's note: Every day this week, at the beginning of free agency in Sunday-Bleacher Report will be seen in every angle of The next decision of LeBron James with reports and characteristics of our most connected reporters NBA . Today, B / R looks at all the people affected directly, and indirectly, by LeBron's choice.
Part 1: The LeBron court options are unlimited
LeBron James is only a few days away from the June 29 deadline to become a free agent – a move that will cause an avalanche of comings and goings of free agents.
Eight consecutive trips to the Finals is one thing, but every time LeBron comes to free agency, it's the NBA Super Bowl version. In the discussion of who is the best of all time, James is still working on his resume. But in terms of who will become the best free agent of all time? It is not even close.
In addition to being a one-man dynasty, James has secured his place in history as the most influential figure in the NBA's moving player era.
Although his 2010 decision to leave Cleveland for Miami was clumsy and poorly received, it nevertheless marked a turning point in the modern era of the NBA superstar. James opened the floodgates for other stars to dictate the terms of engagement – from Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks, from Chris Paul to the Clippers and Kevin Durant to the Warriors.
In 2018 and beyond, the pace will continue. Depending on which path James traces this time, it will have mbadive resonances throughout the NBA's free agency landscape, not to mention that it will serve as another turning point in the league's balance of power.
With LeBron-a-palooza once again in us, let's examine some of the key players, teams and other entities that will be most affected by Decision 3.0.
David Liam Kyle / Getty Images
The Cleveland Cavaliers could be back in first place: James returned home in 2014 with the goal of offering the first major professional sports championship of Cleveland since 1964. In 2016, he delivered. In his speech in the media, James was careful not to be left in a corner with a question from Athletic Jason Lloyd about whether he considers that promise was fulfilled with a title.
"That's a trick question at the end of the day, and I'm not falling in love with that," he said.
From that, we can deduce that James will not feel pressured to go back up with the Cavs simply because he came home with a trophy in four trips to the Finals in his second term in Cleveland.
If James leaves, the Cavs are back in first place. They will be left with an All-Star on the list, Kevin Love, No. 8 pick Collin Sexton and an important future money owed to Love, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson and, if they choose to stay with them, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr.
"If he leaves," an Eastern Conference executive told Bleacher Report, "that's not good business for them."
Which leads us to …
Darron Cummings / Associated Press
Kevin Love may be After getting tired of being the best player on a team that did not make the playoffs in Minnesota, Love welcomed Cleveland and joined James. and Kyrie Irving in 2014. With Irving in Boston and James at another career crossroads, Love understands that it could be collateral damage – and that there could be another change of direction in his future.
"I always wanted to be here," Love told reporters after the final. "I always wanted to win here, but as you know, it's likely to come in. It always happens, it's also good to be loved, but at the same time, it will be interesting to see what happens, we just do not know."
Carlos Osorio / Associated Press
Tyronn Lue has a decision to make: The pressure to train a team led by LeBron ended up forcing Lue to take a leave of absence during the season to deal with health problems. He was very clear after the Cavs were swept by the Warriors in the Finals he waits and wants to return next season, regardless of James' decision. If James leaves, does that give Lue the opportunity to settle in and develop as a coach and leader without the enormous pressure of training James? Or is he also looking for a quick exit?
Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press
Chris Paul and the current Rockets get used to seeing each other: The talk on the NBA front – the office's post is consistent with the reports of Brian Windhorst of ESPN and and Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal in recent weeks: James's family does not She is in love with the idea of moving to Houston. Add to that the information from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that Paul tells people that James is heading to Los Angeles, and has the Rockets positioned as strangers in a high-stakes gambling game risk.
Although Paul and Harden represent the kind of talented and cerebral players with whom James has said he wants to play, James has also made it clear that "the people who have been with me for the last 20 years will have something to say." so. "
Rockets general manager Darryl Morey is registered as obsessed with defeating the Warriors, and if James rejects him, where does that leave the Rockets in that search? USA Today Sam Amick, "There remains a strong sense within the Rockets circles that [Paul] is staying." Rival executives tell B / R that they expect Morey to move quickly and aggressively to Plan B if LeBron says Not to Houston, maybe even pushing the whole field to get Paul George out of Oklahoma City.
If that does not happen The most sensible course would be to keep several key players from the team that lost against Golden State in the finals of the Western Conference, players who would have been discarded to make room for James, as Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com reported, the safest way for the Rockets to get to LeBron would be for James to opt for 2018-19 and be traded to Houston. Fuer In the unlikely event that Morey can find a candidate for Ryan Anderson (he owes nearly $ 42 million over the next two years), he will have to send Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Nene and at least three other players to do a commercial job. of LeBron. If LeBron Houston is not a starter, the luck of almost half of the Rockets' roster will be altered. And Paul – as James – would be left wondering if he would have enough to dethrone the Warriors.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
If Paul George and Kawhi Leonard stay , James could, too: Oh, if only the Thunder had not thrown a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. How the fate of multiple stars and franchises could have been altered.
Instead, Kevin Durant took advantage of the salary increase that summer to join the Golden State team, and Thunder's general manager Sam Presti pivoted to bring George and Anthony last summer in hopes of surrounding Westbrook with enough talent to maximize the rest of your best time. All he got was a 48-win season and a first-round start at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
For the Thunder, the first shoe fell over the weekend when Anthony rejected a free agency shot by rejecting an early termination option that would have cost him a $ 27.9 million guarantee next season. According to USA Today's Amick there is "all sorts of optimism" within the Thunder that George will re-sign, as well as the pessimism on James' side that George might be forced to leave Oklahoma for the Lakers. So, although James can handle the world of basketball, he evidently does not run in Oklahoma City. George would stay in league circles as a big blow to any plan James could have to form a team with the Lakers.
The key point of that plan, according to league sources, has been twofold: 1) Hope the Lakers can persuade the Spurs to trade with the disgruntled All-Star Kawhi Leonard, and 2) Let James Do your magic and convince a third All-Star (for example, George) to join him there. The Spurs have been closing commercial offers for Leonard since at least the beginning of May, and there has been no change in their position, league sources said.
If there is no Leonard (or George) in Los Angeles, the road to a James-Superteam run at the Staples Center becomes infinitely more difficult to navigate. Which brings us to …
Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press
A trio of the top 10 Lakers selections best keep their suitcases: The most famous inhabitants of the Staples Center have a less than stellar recent record of attracting star-free agents, but the president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have the franchise in a solid position in the LeBron draw. When it comes to adding James and a top-level free agent (for example, George), the path is a bit complicated but feasible, and it starts with giving up Luol Deng and stretching the nearly $ 37 million that is owed to him. next seasons. That still would not give the team room for two maximum salary slots, but it would be close, perhaps close enough to convince two like-minded superstars to take less to play together.
But if George and the Lakers 'young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma is not enough in James' estimation to overthrow the Warriors, things get more complicated.
That's where the Spurs and Leonard come in … and where the Spurs 'intransigence in discussing any deal with Leonard becomes a significant obstacle to the Lakers' plan.
A package of Lakers for Leonard would need, at a minimum, to include Ball or Ingram, plus at least one more salary. A Western Conference executive told B / R that the Lakers' preference in this scenario would be to keep Kuzma. Julius Randle could be the strange man, since the Lakers would probably need to give up their rights to complete the list.
From the perspective of the Lakers, the collateral damage of James' decision could affect each of his last two General Selections No. 2 (Ball and Ingram) and his No. 7 2014 (Randle) selection.
Elise Amendola / Associated Press
The rivalry between the 76ers and the Celtics is about to become much more interesting: What is at stake here is simple. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, it becomes a three-team race for the supremacy of the Eastern Conference … and as long as LeBron is in the East, the path to the Finals goes through him. As this season proved beyond any doubt, it almost does not matter who you are playing with.
If it goes to the West, we're seeing Sixers vs. Celtics in the Eastern end in the foreseeable future.
Oddsmakers are down on the Sixers' chances of placing James in free agency; In fact, James' introspective comments during the Finals about the type of players he wants to surround would seem to decrease the odds of him joining 20-somethings whose preparation for the championship should "accelerate", to borrow one from your favorite terms But well, the basketball Twitterverse can dream, right? If James somehow does the unexpected and decides to form a team with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Darío Saric in the City of Brotherly Love, we would be seeing LeBron vs. Kyrie in a collision course for the right to play the Warriors in the Finals.
Bruce Yeung / Getty Images
A partnership with DeMarcus Cousins could make Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo a little uneasy: If this looks like a weird trio to put in the sights of The free agency decision of LeBron is not so far fetched.
James has a history of being a great supporter of Cousins, since he has tweeted praises to Cousins in January – before Cousins broke his left Achilles tendon in January and He lost the rest of the season.
James has also recorded having called Cousins "the best big man in our game". Cousins is a free agent with no restrictions, and how his recovery from Achilles injury affects its value – in the eyes of James and those in the market – worth watching.
If James could persuade Cousins to team with him next season, where would he leave that to Davis? In the end, the player-movement superstar era that James launched in 2010 will reach the next wave of star players wondering how long they will have to wait to have the opportunity to compete for a championship. The next two online are Davis and Antetokounmpo, whose chances of attracting a free All-Star agent to New Orleans and Milwaukee, respectively, are slim or nil.
With so many tentacles to the impending decision of James, the effects of the shock wave feel short and long term. And although Adam Silver is the commissioner of the NBA, it is certainly LeBron James who directs it.
And with the clock running on Decision 3.0, LeBron's power to alter the fate of stars and franchises has never been greater.
Ken Berger covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KBergNBA .