LeBron James has likely played his final career game in a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey after getting swept by the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals.
It is widely known that James was unhappy throughout the entirety of the 2017-18 NBA season and was also an integral part of blowing up the roster at the trade deadline. Although he had an unbelievable 2018 playoff run, he knows that winning a championship is the only thing that matters these days. This current Cavs roster is just simply too weak and if the front office fails to land another all-star talent this offseason, then look for LeBron to leave Cleveland for good. The question now remains: Where will James land?
San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich has reportedly stated that he will attempt to convince LeBron to sign with the Spurs. Why is this so important? Well, James has repeatedly announced that he loves Pop and calls him one of the all-time great coaches. It is no secret that James wishes that Pop could be his coach, but what makes this whole situation even more difficult is the Spurs’ relationship with their superstar, Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has had a complicated relationship in San Antonio since his right quad injury in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. He missed the entire 2017 preseason and did not return to action until Dec. 12. After missing roughly six months he was back in the lineup until he re-aggravated the injury in mid-January, 2018. After reports surfaced of teammates calling out Leonard as well as Pop taking shots at him in press conferences, many believed that this might be the end of the Kawhi era in Texas.
Today, it seems as if Leonard and coach Pop are trying to make amends. The new relationship comes just in time for LeBron to evaluate all of his options and get a read on where he can put himself into the best situation possible to be successful. If Leonard and Pop are actually serious about putting water underneath the bridge, then the James sweepstakes can takeoff.
With the Lakers having space for two max-contracts, the Rockets having the potential to free up cap-space and Boston’s ability to trade key pieces to acquire the 15-year veteran; then why would LeBron even consider the Spurs? It comes down to two reasons—coaching and star talent.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens proved that you can have a so-called “average” roster and still win. In 2016-17, Boston claimed the number one overall seed in the East after many thought the Celtics would be a borderline playoff team. In 2017-18 they likely would have done the same if not for some untimely injuries. However, Stevens’ success still remains in search of a title after his star players went down with season ending injuries.
Popovich on the other hand will go down as one of the most accomplished coaches of all time. Not only does he have five Larry O’Brien Trophies, but he has been named the NBA Coach of the Year three times, and the NBA All-Star Game head coach four times. He is one of the best minds in the entire league today and will fight for every single one of his players.
In order to win in this league you either need three superstars or a combination of two superstars and an elite head coach. The Warriors have a really good coach in Steve Kerr, but it’s evident that their all-star talent and multiple MVP winners carry the load. In their historic 2015-16 season Luke Walton coached the first 24 games of the season in which Golden State went undefeated. Don’t get me wrong, Kerr is a very good basketball coach and mind, but that team proved it could win no matter who had the reins.
Adding James to a roster consisting of a healthy Leonard and possibly LaMarcus Aldridge or another elite talent such as DeMarcus Cousins would make them the favorites to win the West. Even without a third star they could compete with the league’s best and put LeBron in a prime position to win his fourth ring.
Last season, with an ailing roster the Spurs finished with an impressive 47-35 record, just one win away from securing a top-5 seed. Even with the Leonard distraction Pop was able to get the most out of his depleted squad and secure a playoff spot for the 21st consecutive season. San Antonio has a winning culture and it stems from their head coaches systems.
The road will be extremely difficult this time around for LeBron as he will have to go through the strong Western Conference, but at the end of the day you have to beat the best if you want to be the best. The East is beginning to get tougher with Philadelphia’s “Process” gaining steam, Boston getting Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injury, and Toronto likely keeping all of their pieces intact.
Playing in the West will give LeBron added experience to playing the back-to-back champion Warriors, while also having the best basketball mind controlling the game on his own bench for the first time in his career.
LeBron’s next championship will not come easy, but the Spurs can put him in the best position possible to not only chase Jordan, but silence the critics in the process.
Don’t be surprised when you see James suiting up in the Black and Silver this fall.