LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept out of the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors. The sentence was not fun to write, and probably even less fun to live for James, who reportedly hurt his hand punching a blackboard after game one. It’s hard to see him returning to Cleveland, which would seem to give the Los Angeles Lakers a shot to sign biggest free agent of the summer.
Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck was in Cleveland for game four and wrote a fantastic piece about the mood immediately following LeBron’s sixth finals loss. In it, he wrote this combination of analysis and reporting that should catch your eye if you’re hoping to see James in a Laker uniform next season.
It (title contention) almost certainly won’t happen in Cleveland. The Cavs don’t have the payroll room, or the general allure, to land star free agents. The eighth pick in the draft won’t help them in the near term or be valuable enough to land a significant player via trade.
So it seems almost certain that James will be calling the moving trucks, for the third time in eight years.
League sources view the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers as leading contenders, with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat also likely to get a look.
Not listed: The Boston Celtics. So that’s nice to see.
Philadelphia and Houston offer exponentially more immediate talent, but James’ fit with Ben Simmons doesn’t make sense when the latter sees three-point lines in his nightmares, and Chris Paul reportedly not being open to taking a pay cut makes the cap workings pretty complicated for James’ fit in Houston.
What the Lakers offer more than any other team is the opportunity for LeBron to put together exactly the kind of team he wants. They have the cap flexibility to land another superstar and the assets to trade for a third. Plus, the Buss family has always shown a willingness to pay up if the team is contending.
A lot has to go right, but the Lakers have a chance to get James. For a team coming off 35 wins, that’s about all you can ask for right now.