Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Eight Potential LeBron Landing Spots Ranked by "Fun Factor"

LeBron returning to Miami with Bosh and Wade seems like the most likely outcome, but that's no fun...
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

As you may or may not know, I am a fair weather Heat fan, so my obvious preference in this game of LeBachelor would be for King James to give the final rose to Pat Riley and re-up for another run with his boys D-Wade and Bosh.

That being said, LBJ returning to the Heat, as presently constructed, is just about the least interesting result in the entire LeBron derby. So, in the interest of "fun," I am removing my slight bias and ranking LeBron's potential free agency destinations based on which would be the most interesting.

Here we go!

8. Miami (with Bosh and Wade)

This is still the most likely scenario, but what a snooze-fest, amirite?

LeBron rejoins Wade and Bosh with a slightly improved supporting cast (Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger should serve as upgrades to the Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis), and they win another Eastern Conference crown, with a puncher's chance to take home the whole thing against whomever emerges from the brutal West.

This is a safe and comfortable play for LeBron, and it offers him the chance to play on a team with championship experience in the lesser conference. Still, we've seen this play a few times, so maybe we should move on to…

7. Dallas

Well, at least things are starting to get interesting. I mean, this will absolutely never happen, but the thought of LeBron playing for Mark Cuban and next to Dirk, especially after the Heat fell to the Mavs in the 2011 Finals, would make for some great theater.

A front court featuring the all-around game of LeBron, the offensive brilliance of Nowitzki, and the potential rim protection of a motivated and rejuvenated Tyson Chandler could prove to be the league's best.

6. Phoenix

If LeBron doesn't mind going through a year of growing pains, this is actually the team he could probably do the most winning with long-term. Now, the best player in the world currently in his prime probably isn't motivated to take any years off from tittle contention, but perhaps the allure of playing with young guns Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, who could each lessen LeBron's ball handling and play making burden, could entice The King.

The thought here would be that speed and young legs could help the Suns run through early mistakes with intense defense and relentless transition offense. They aren't the most complete team, but few squads would offer LeBron the chance to play on an up-and-down team where he isn't the one doing all the work.

5. Miami (without Bosh)

Let me first say that I think Bosh is the most underrated guy from Miami's mini-dynasty. His ability to spread the floor with pick and pop/three-point jump shooting, and his defense in the pick and roll, not to mention his passing, made him the second-most important player on those great Heat teams behind LeBron.

All that said, it would be way more fun if Bosh accepted the max salary offered him by Houston, and the Heat threw all their extra cash at a title-chasing Carmelo Anthony. If LeBron came back to Miami with Melo in the fold, it would mean LBJ has successfully played with all the relevant top picks from the 2003 Draft (The Heat could add Darko Milicic for the veteran minimum to complete the Top-5, I suppose), and we'd finally get to see these two playing side-by-side.

Ever since LeBron and Melo went against each other in high school, the basketball world has linked them. While LeBron was doing his "greatest high school player ever" thing in 2003, Melo was lighting the college basketball world on fire and leading Syracuse to a national championship.

Only the ridiculous assertion that Milicic would be a star in Detroit stopped them from going one and two in the draft. Now, with both starring in a "stretch-four" role for their current teams and their primes appearing to grow shorter, could these two phenoms chase a title together? Probably not, and stylistically, the team might be worse with Melo than it was with Bosh, but man would this be fun to watch.

4. Cleveland

Who says you can't go home?

Yes, that's right, the owner that cursed his name and the fans that burned his jersey are now hoping to lure James back to his home state of Ohio, but the potential team around him should have basketball fans salivating.

With exciting young point guard Kyrie Irving now signed to a five-year deal and No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the fold for the next few years, along with the potential of bringing the explosive Dion Waiters off the bench, the Cavs would be able to run and gun with anybody.

3. LA Lakers

There's not much to say here other than it would be fun to watch LeBron play with the carcass of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers don't even have a coach yet (only team in the league without one), much less an intriguing supporting cast to surround LBJ with, but the Lakers are such a story regardless of what they do that the LeBron-Kobe relationship would be amazing to watch. Especially once it becomes clear that Bryant is over the hill and LeBron is basically doing what he did in Cleveland last decade.

2. Chicago

Wait, LeBron, you don't like being compared to Michael Jordan? Then, by all means, go play for a team with his statue in front of its building! Watching LeBron fight for the love of Bulls fans and battle the ghost of MJ would be the most entertaining marketing story line, but on the court he would have some pieces to win with.

Assuming Derrick Rose is even 75 percent of what he used to be, there will be some help for LeBron on the ball-handling front, and the suddenly elite Joakim Noah would combine with James to form a tremendous defense on the other end.

Will this ever happen? Well, LeBron would have a nice cast, while getting to stay in the East… But no, he ain't playing in Jordan's town. That would be slightly tougher than winning over Wade County.

1. Houston

If James simply wanted to wind back the clock and again join forces with the game's premier 2-guard and an elite big, he could land in Houston with James Harden and Dwight Howard. In fact, I would argue this would give him the best supporting cast, but it would also force James and Co. to go through the brutal Western Conference and play the nemesis Spurs four times as divisional rivals.

Still, wouldn't that be awesome! James would face off with the Spurs, Clippers, Blazers, Thunder, Warriors, Mavs and Suns on the regular, and would do it with Harden, Howard and sharp-shooting Chandler Parsons at his side.

Plus, once James realizes that he still kinda thinks Howard is an immature douche and Harden plays no defense, there will be some intense drama to go with beautiful offense and hot-and-cold D.

But Really...

After all this, where will LeBron end up? Probably back in Miami with Wade and Bosh. After all, Wade and Udonis Haslem opted out of far more money than they can hope to get anywhere now, and James probably wouldn't want to be responsible for them losing money and getting nothing in return on the court.

Plus, the East is so weak that a slightly improved Heat team is easily a favorite to get back to the Finals. From there it's just hoping that new pieces can help LeBron power Miami past a beaten and bruised Western Conference foe. It's not the most interesting destination, but it is the safest.

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