“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
Can we start the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes already?
Playoffs? Yeah, yeah, there’s all that I guess but teams across the league are already making their pitches for arguably the greatest player of all-time. And why should they wait in Los Angeles? Even the long-awaited return to playoff basketball in Philly shouldn’t play bigger than that city’s outside chance to be the next stop for the King.
Fans representing the 76ers, Lakers and Cavaliers have all taken the initiative to make early pitches to James by using billboards asking the upcoming unrestricted free agent to come join their franchises next season. Like in past free agency periods (2010, 2014), James will be the possible moving piece that sets the tone for the future of the entire NBA.
James has his pick of destinations where he can ship his talents to, and recent reports state he will mostly be considering the Rockets, Lakers and the 76ers along with the Cavs this summer. In my honest opinion, there are only two ideal situations for the King — one of which hasn’t been reported to be on his consideration list, but with which he’s pretty familiar. For the final stages of his career the Royal Highness should either consider home or a place that’s been like home: Cleveland or Miami.
Win-now teams like the Rockets and Spurs could certainly be up for consideration in James’ efforts to dethrone the Warriors or possibly even catch up to the “ghost” we know so well here in Chicago. However, it does not make sense to go to the Western Conference just to try and beat the Warriors before reaching the Finals unless he applies the “if you cannot beat them, join them” concept Kevin Durant did in 2016 and join him in Golden State.
The Lakers have been a much-discussed destination, especially since James’ kids attend school in LA and his businesses are there, but the Lakers will not be in a position to beat the Warriors for a few years, unless other high quality talent such as Paul George and other productive role players come along with him within the next year or two.
Many variables exist with any choice for James but if he wants to continue a sharp legacy, be a family man and still have a good shot at winning championships he should only consider the thought of sticking with the Cavs or reuniting with the only other franchise that knows him best?
A 2016 championship aside, the severe strain in the relationship between James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is no better than it was the first time they separated in 2010 when it was front and center as the main issue that rode James out of Cleveland. Maybe it can be negated as a factor but it very well be the same reason why James leaves town again.
If he leaves for “Wade County,” James can take comfort in a history with a sturdy front office for the Heat and a rare opportunity to pursue more titles in the franchise that helped establish him as an all-time talent. Further perks include a roster with young rising talent (Bam Adebayo, Hasaan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson) positioned alongside highly talented veteran presences like Goran Dragic and not to mention another opportunity to possibly end his career next to his best friend Dwyane Wade.
With that roster currently a borderline playoff contender in the East, adding James can elevate their status, making them strong Eastern Conference competitors and possibly continue James’ dominance in the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals runs.
So, Miami offers a chance for the King to play for the franchise that started his championship journey — an ideal situation to end a career, but an even more ultimate storybook ending, and personal best option in my opinion, is for him to stay in Cleveland.
Besides the fact that Cleveland is the home and the foundation of LeBron’s kingdom,the Cavs can be the powerhouse of the future if he chooses to stay. Yes, James has already bring home his hometown its only NBA championship and elevated the status of a dying franchise with numerous playoff appearances and repeated NBA Finals runs while making it one of the most expensive franchises in the league, but it doesn’t have to stop there.
In forcing Gilbert to invest in the franchise’s future by acquiring George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. at this season’s trade deadline, all while keeping the Nets first round draft pick in this year’s draft — as approved by LeBron — Cleveland has a strong chance of continuing its recent trend of NBA Finals trips for the next few years in the James-dominated Eastern Conference.
The front office relationship may be strained, but the championship opportunities are not. James’ legacy in Cleveland is already cemented, but the 30,000 point, 8,000 rebound and 8,000 assist legend should look to add to it, and eventually create the kind of happy ending worthy of one of the greatest ever NBA careers, one seeing him retire with the hometown franchise that gave him the opportunity to lead the state of Ohio to the promise land.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio