By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
Nobody knows whether Lebron James will leave Cleveland or not this summer but one thing is for sure: he’ll definitely be on somebody’s roster next year. Any guess would be a good one at this point but what factors do we consider? Is it about legacy for Lebron? Family? Friendship? There’s only a few select locations that can give Lebron what he’s looking for. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO SportsDesk debates which one is the best look.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during a news conference following Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, early Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Cleveland. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 108-85 to win the NBA championship. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Green: Cleveland. LeBron’s done the relocation thing already and the second time wouldn’t be any smoother than the first. Being beaten out of Cleveland wouldn’t sit well with James again and he’s proven already he can topple Golden State, he just needs some more help and the Cavs have the assets to achieve that. The No. 8 pick in the draft could bring in a talented youngster or be swapped for proven backcourt talent, which Cleveland desperately needs. Kevin Love may not be the marquee trade magnet that he was a few years ago but maybe he can still fetch something worthwhile over the summer. I don’t think LeBron needs to surround himself with all-stars like Kevin Durant did. James has proven he can lead any group to the championship round and Cleveland already has a bunch of B-list-quality depth. They just need another all-star and a solid role player and I think they can give the Warriors some go next season.
Riley: Swapping out a top-ten pick for a quick fix to fit into LeBron’s closing window would cripple the Cavs’ future; and what are you getting back in return for a bloated Love contract projected to pay nearly $50 million over the next two seasons? I don’t want to see James leave, but that would be in everybody’s best interest. Going out West to Houston, Los Angeles or even worse, Golden State, would be tempting; but if LeBron can stay out East and put New York in the Finals next season, it would be a miracle. I know the Knicks stink but they’re a storied franchise with cap room, the No. 9 pick and a blossoming superstar in Kristaps Porzingis still playing on a rookie contract. James and Porzingis would be the ideal front court to combat Kevin Durant and Draymond Green; and maybe New York drafts Steph Curry part II in Trae Young to battle the prototype. And don’t forget about last summer’s lottery selection Frank Ntilikina, the still-developing 19-year-old who averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and five rebounds over his last two regular season games against Cleveland, ironically. Add a couple of mid-level exception type players and New York could be the team to beat next year.
Green: At least we both agree that James shouldn’t go out West next season, but if he’s going to stay in the East then he might as well stay in Cleveland. Porzingis ended last season with a torn ACL and some have speculated he may not even play next season. And as much as I love the Knicks, my favorite team, the front office shouldn’t be trusted to put the proper pieces around LeBron. If James is having problems in Cleveland then New York would be a whole other story. The lineup Cleveland trotted out into the Finals wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t highlighted by another superstar or two. The depth is definitely there and if they can somehow swing for a Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins or a Chris Paul then they become an immediate threat to the Warriors. They don’t need all but securing just one other all-star would keep James in Cleveland and if he can avenge last week’s Finals defeat with another championship out of Cleveland then his legacy would become that much greater.
Riley: LeBron’s legacy in Cleveland is already intact. The town, the city and State will forever be indebted to him. Going to the Warriors and Rockets would be too easy and playing for the Lakers would be more flash than substance at this point. If LeBron can resurrect the Knicks, put them back as contenders and even win one in the Big Apple; then he would be labeled as the best player of all time after his feats in Miami and Cleveland. The Knicks are in the same kind of attractive situation that Cavs were in when James returned. They have an injured superstar (Porzingis) who hasn’t broken out similar to what Kyrie Irving was before James. They have a top pick in the upcoming draft (No. 8 overall) which could be swapped for established veteran help similar to how the Cavs moved their top overall selection in 2014 for Love. And perhaps more importantly, is the fact that they’ll give LeBron free reign to call the shots as a player just as he did in Cleveland. No one is talking about New York right now as a dark horse but that’s okay. People weren’t talking about Cleveland either back in 2014 until James was headed there.