LeBron James wants to win championships, and some close to him say he wants to be in Los Angeles. If those are, indeed, his two wishes they very well could be halted if LeBron is unable to bring two superstars – Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – with him to the Lakers. If this becomes more than just chatter and smokescreens, LeBron must come back to Cleveland, observe the landscape of next year’s free agent class, make observations of the Lakers’ young talent, and revisit his options in 12 months.
The sense is that the Spurs have no interest in dealing Leonard to the Lakers and according to Marc Stein, there is belief around the league that George returning to the Thunder on a two-year deal with a player option next summer is being strongly considered. And that is where this all begins to make sense.
Joining the Lakers without George and/or Leonard to play with a young team with no idea how to win certainly would not increase LeBron’s chances to win a title in 2019.
The key is “next year.” This scenario all begins if George re-signs with the option to become a free agent after next season concludes and Leonard is not traded to the Lakers. Because if that takes place, LeBron must sign an identical deal to George’s but in Cleveland.
Returning to Cleveland and postponing Decision 3.0 for a year has much more upside for LeBron than going to the Lakers alone in a few weeks.
Waiting a year will increase LeBron’s chances of a playing with another superstar immensely as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George (signing the two-year deal this summer), Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving (doubtful) will all have the opportunity to go wherever they please. Doesn’t potentially bringing another superstar with him sound better than coming alone and hoping that someone joins him in a year?
Regardless if LeBron will be awarded the chance to play alongside another star in Los Angeles or not, the rest of the team must be able to contribute at a high level in order to complete championship aspirations. While Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart have all shown flashes of potential, no real observation can be made off this past season.
The most plausible result of LeBron and another superstar joining the Lakers is that at least one piece of the young nucleus will have to be moved. Next season will give both LeBron and the Lakers’ organization a better grasp on which of those pieces fit and are set up for the most long-term success. Currently, besides Ingram, it is almost impossible to draw any real conclusion about the players’ futures this early on.
Maybe LeBron will find out the young players in Los Angeles are not who he envisioned, maybe he will not be able to bring another free agent with him … but at least he will know. If he goes there this year alone, it will be a cruel awakening finding that out one year later.
No, there is no guarantee in a year the options will be great, but it will clear up the situation in regards to the destination he is linked to the most.
What he cannot do is go somewhere else (Houston, Philadelphia) with the ultimate goal to go to the Lakers eventually and leave for the fourth time, demoralizing another city.
Remaining in Cleveland for another year obviously isn’t ideal, but neither is going to the Lakers with no chance to win with 24/7 attention solely focused on you.
For the sake of LeBron, hopefully, he can meet Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles this summer, but if the recent set of rumors become a reality, he cannot go alone.