Free agency for the 2018-2019 season is fast approaching and as always, superstar free agents are up for grabs. Players like Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins could find themselves on new teams for the upcoming season. However, the big prize that teams are vying for is LeBron James. James can decline his $35.6 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and leave the city for the second time in his career. Rumors have circulated about him teaming up with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Some rumors even project James going to the Boston Celtics. Here are just a few reasons why adding LeBron James doesn’t work for the Celtics.
The Boston Celtics work best when they play as a team. That means everyone gets involved on offense and everyone makes some defensive effort. The offense runs through Kyrie Irving in Boston, but he’s more than willing to dish it out to the open man. Adding James breaks that dynamic. Just like with Cleveland and the Miami Heat, the offense will run through James and some players like Jaylen Brown will turn into spot-up shooters as James tries to run the offense and create opportunities all by himself. The Boston Celtics would not look like the team we saw this year if James joins their ranks.
There is one big obstacle to adding James to Boston: Kyrie Irving. Irving wasn’t just traded from Cleveland last summer, he demanded to be traded. Whether the trade to Boston was about leaving Cleveland or leaving James specifically is irrelevant, it’s still a big red flag. The Kyrie Irving experiment in Boston has been a success even in a small sample size. He’s proven himself to be a leader on the court for a young team. Irving also makes his teammates better by getting them quality looks. Adding James automatically makes James the de facto leader of the team and turns Irving back into a secondary option. I could be wrong, but I don’t see Irving and James rebuilding their chemistry after Irving left Cleveland on such bad terms.
The Celtics have young and talented players in abundance. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier are just some of the young players Boston has on the roster. All-Star caliber players like Al Horford and Gordon Hayward also bolster the roster. Acquiring James would create an interesting dilemma. It’s hard to deny the impact James has on any team in the immediate future, but will adding him now help the Celtics down the line? The Celtics would give up some of their young talent and an All-Star player to take on James’ contract. It wouldn’t be anything new for this organization. Only four players (Horford, Smart, Rozier, and Brown) returned from the 2016-17 season after Irving and Hayward were acquired. I wouldn’t put it past the Celtics to make a crazy deal but a deal for LeBron James isn’t one they should make.
LeBron James is the best active player in the NBA, but he doesn’t fit every team. James will control any team he plays for and needs complimentary pieces that fit his playstyle. A Boston team without Irving could accommodate James because it puts less pressure on players like Brown and Tatum to pull off heroic feats. Still, the Celtics shouldn’t get rid of Irving if they can avoid it. Whichever path the Celtics take to acquire James will gut their roster. A big name (Irving or Hayward) and role pieces (Morris, Rozier, etc.) would need leave to make room for James. The Boston Celtics already have a great core and while James is an amazing player, he does not fit this core roster.
The Celtics should look at the free agent market for a player like George or Cousins but it’s best to leave James out of the equation. I feel that acquiring James will complicate the current situation in Boston and ruin the dynamics of the roster. Then again, Danny Ainge could already have a package of players and picks ready in the event James opts out of his contract in Cleveland. Regardless of what happens, this offseason will be one to remember.
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