If you ask the pundits, oddsmakers and most fans, LeBron James may have just four games remaining in his Cleveland Cavaliers career.
The Buckeye State’s savior will try to pull off his greatest accomplishment yet when he leads the Cavs into battle against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. The Warriors are heavy, heavy favorites in the teams’ fourth consecutive Finals meeting, and just about no one is giving Cleveland a chance, James’ brilliance be damned.
If and when Cleveland comes up short, LeBron will have a very important decision on his hands. The superstar reportedly is expected to opt out of his contract and become the most notable free agent in sports.
Where will James ultimately land? Here are the most recent odds, via BetOnline.ag:
Philadelphia 76ers +175
Houston Rockets +250
Los Angeles Lakers +400
Golden State Warriors +1600
Miami Heat +2000
Los Angeles Clippers +2500
There’s plenty to unpack here, but let’s look at this list from the Boston Celtics’ perspective. The Celtics just took LeBron and the Cavs to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals before ultimately falling short. But the future is bright in Boston, and with better health, the Celtics should be contenders for at least a few more years.
That likely means more horn tangling with James wherever he ends up. So, we decided to rank James’ top four potential landing spots, starting with the least interesting from a Celtics perspective and concluding with the most interesting.
To the list:
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron staying in Cleveland honestly is the most boring possible outcome. It’s probably, despite the odds, the least likely, too. The Cavs’ roster is a hard “meh,” and the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft might not be good enough to land a game-changing player or swing a huge trade. But mostly, it’s a “been there, done that” scenario.
3. Houston Rockets
Golden State’s Western Conference dominance would be in serious jeopardy if it had to deal with the three-headed monster of LeBron, Chris Paul and James Harden. An NBA Finals matchup between LeBron’s Rockets and the Celtics would have no shortage of intrigue, if for no other reason than it’s not Cleveland-Golden State again. James going to Houston (or L.A.) also would technically be best for the Celtics and their fans, as it would get LeBron out of the East.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
We’ll be honest: This one felt far more likely a few days ago when we didn’t know about Bryan Colangelo’s apparent side gig as a professional troll. Alas, you have to imagine the Sixers will figure that out (perhaps at Colangelo’s expense) and get back on track. It’s hard to argue “The Process” isn’t working, and the Sixers should be viewed as Boston’s top competition in the East moving forward. There’s already some beef between the two teams, and adding LeBron to the mix will only intensify those feelings.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Gotta have it. We all know the Celtics-Lakers rivalry is one of the best in sports, and James landing in La-La Land might kick off the next chapter. The Lakers have some work to do before they’re in a position to reach the NBA Finals trips, but acquiring LeBron would go a long way in improving their chances. And if James picks L.A., it’s widely expected that Paul George will join him, meaning you have a budding superteam. As an added bonus, there’s always the chance this thing goes completely sideways, resulting in unparalleled schadenfreude for C’s fans. Imagine a cantankerous situation where LeBron gets annoyed with Lonzo Ball, and then LaVar Ball feels the need to get involved? It’s a win-win.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images