We are off to the races on the summer blockbuster event “The Decision 2: Decision Harder”, and already we have been blasted from all angles with secret meet-ups, rumors, and trades. To add to the chaos, Thursday is the NBA Draft.
Wednesday afternoon, it was reported that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh held a private meeting down on South Beach. They had security present during their meeting, as well as enjoyed some salad. I approve of this; a nice salad isn’t too filling for LeBron and Wade, as they were planning on going to the evening’s Jay Z concert.
(Meanwhile, Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley, and Toney Douglas all met at a Days Inn in Hallandale Beach. One security guard was present – with flashlight – and Beasley brought a lovely cheese platter. OK, I may have made that up.)
ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that LeBron has listed the Heat, Cavs, Knicks, and Nets on his wish list. He also listed the Rockets as a long shot in the race.
(In case you don’t have ESPN Insider, here’s CBS covering the article.)
So now that we have a rough idea of the contenders, let’s break them down:
Miami Heat: Still considered the favorites. The Heat can offer the most money (if he valued that) as well as would have roster flexibility (assuming Wade, Bosh, and Udonis Haslem opt out of their current deals), and the ability to add to the franchise’s recent success. Miami’s interest in trading up to draft UConn’s Shabazz Napier – a LeBron favorite – seem to fit the dynamic of the Heat catering to LeBron’s desire to add impact players. Any additional cap space that Miami can free up could help lure a big-ticket item (Kyle Lowry?) and help the team field a title contender.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The sentimental favorite. The prodigal son returns to right a wrong and brings the hometown team to glory. It’s touching.
The Cavs have the cap space to do it, so they’re definitely the second most logical option. Even if LeBron can look past owner Dan Gilbert’s letter from back in 2010 (still so very glorious), can he trust the Cavs to surround him with the help that he needs? Kyrie Irving has shown flashes of how good he can be, but the rest of the roster is comprised of guys struggling to find their ways. Dion Waiters has been inconsistent, and has had a rocky relationship with Irving; Tristan Thompson doesn’t know if he’s left or right handed; Anthony Bennett – last year’s first overall pick – has been a bust, so far. Cleveland has the first pick, again, but reports say they’re still undecided on what to do with it.
Another issue compounding things is that the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love has said he would not commit to a long-term deal with the Cavaliers, which underlines the idea that stars aren’t interested in playing in Cleveland. Jabari Parker, a possible candidate for the first pick, may or may not have tanked his workout with the Cavs, so he could get drafted second by the Milwaukee Bucks. This has to raise red flags.
Houston Rockets: The dark horse. Phase 1 of Houston’s plan to clear cap space seems to be in motion, as reports say the Rockets are trading Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future first round pick. This frees up some money for Houston to go after LeBron or Carmelo Anthony. The Rockets still need to find a taker for Jeremy Lin’s contract to really be in business.
The question for LeBron is whether he can play with Dwight Howard. LeBron loves to have a clear path to the basket, while Howard tends to clogs the paint. Might be an oil/water situation. Also, the path back to the Finals is a bit more difficult playing in the Western Conference, so adjusting to new teammates might not be a smooth experience.
However, there was a new rumor on Wednesday that said the Houston would like to sign both LeBron AND Carmelo, and might be willing to dangle James Harden in a sign-and-trade for either of them – while signing the other outright. Pretty sure the Rockets are coming up with the plan as they go along.
This is…interesting. If both guys decide on Houston, aren’t you hoping to get Harden as a consolation prize? He’s already a great player, who happens to be turning 24 this summer. He also opens the door for whichever team acquires him to gain the interest of 2016’s biggest free agent: Kevin Durant.
New York Knicks: An odd addition to the list, as the Knicks are over the cap (even after Wednesday’s blockbuster deal) and would still need to shed, at least, Andrea Bargnani’s ($12 million) and J.R. Smith’s contracts ($5.98 million in ’14-15, $6.4 million in ’15-16) to even get within reasonable dollar value to peek LeBron’s interests. Not to mention the Knicks are still trying to bring back Carmelo, so that adds another layer of difficulty to this. I could only see this happening if the Knicks signed both LeBron and Carmelo. That’s simple. All Phil Jackson has to do is trade Bargnani, Smith, AND Amar’e Stoudemire ($23.4 million). Needless to say, it’s a bit of a long shot.
Brooklyn Nets: I’m beginning to think that LeBron accidentally scheduled a family vacation to New York for Fourth of July week, so he’s trying to write it off as a business expense. Smart.
But really, the Nets are worse off than the Knicks, as they are over the cap and the tax. Brooklyn has no assets to trade to clear up space. Maybe Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has promised LeBron some land in eastern Russia or something. Or he’s holding his family hostage. We’ll file this one as “Probably won’t be happening”.
With all that said, everything is still very fluid and can obviously change in an instant. The Draft will probably have some dominoes fall and give us some clues on what some of these teams are planning. The Wade factor is also in play, so the Heat have to hope to get some clarity on that within the next few days.
This is going to be a bumpy ride.