Could LeBron James Move West In 2018?
The rubber match of the Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors NBA Finals trilogy has not been great, as the Cavaliers just can’t keep pace. Any trade rumors surrounding Kevin Love will surely resurface, as the only realistic big offseason move the team can make.
As long as LeBron James is around, the Cavaliers will be no worse than one of the front runners in the Eastern Conference. But he has left his hometown once, taking his “talents to South Beach” in 2010. Could he do so again a year from now?
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has passed along some buzz around the NBA that James will consider moving West when he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2018. More specifically, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are seen as viable destinations. That kind of rumor is not necessarily new, but ESPN’s Jalen Rose has offered his opinion that James will move from Cleveland to California.
If the general sporting public didn’t know James has a home in the Los Angeles area, it was confirmed with last week’s news it had been vandalized by racist graffiti. He cited concern about not be able to immediately address that matter with his kids, which may be further fuel for James to relocate his career again.
There is appeal to both the Lakers and Clippers’ situations for James. The Lakers seem to be starting on the right rebuilding track finally, with a group of young talent (Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr.) that will be added to with the No. 2 pick in this month’s draft (Lonzo Ball?, De’Aaron Fox?). Paul George seems destined to sign with the Lakers in 2018, and he and James could form a very formidable duo.
The Clippers could be a spot, with lots of moving parts over the next 12 months, for James to re-team with Dwyane Wade and finally play with friends Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony on something other than an Olympic team. The Clippers could re-load, and extend their window to contend, with James as the driving force to join Paul and center DeAndre Jordan. In that scenario, Blake Griffin would be gone as a free agent or perhaps part of a sign-and-trade deal involving Anthony.
James will definitely dismiss any talk about his plans for 2018-19 and beyond right now. But he has been the poster boy for the power NBA players have to choose where they play and drive other personnel moves, with little loyalty even to his hometown team. Playing for either Los Angeles team seems far-fetched at first glance, it can’t be dismissed and absolutely could be on James’ radar. With an eye on his business interests, now and in the future, making Los Angeles a full-time home base comes with a good reason that’s not at all related to basketball.
Last year, James accomplished his goal to bring a championship to Northeast Ohio. All options are on the table going forward then, and James could once again alter the balance of power in the NBA by leaving Cleveland.