LeBron's Free Agency Race And Who Will Win It?

posted by Scooter Reese -

Lebron Media Day - Getty

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Kevin Kleps from Crain's Cleveland Business spoke to Bill and Mike about his article "Optimism grows for a LeBron return, but to win this race, Cavs have to (quickly) improve roster"    www.wtam.com/listen


Kevin's Article below...

Decision 3.0 hasn't yet entered the entertaining as hell phase of its predecessor.

(Who could forget one of the best days in the history of Twitter?)

But the Offseason of LeBron is certainly heating up.

This week, there was speculation that James' free-agent announcement will quickly be followed by a trailer for "Space Jam 2" — the long-awaited sequel to the 1996 movie starring Michael Jordan.

But Cavs fans probably don't find that nearly as captivating as a lot of the recent buzz focusing on Cleveland's improving chances to keep the world's best player.

ESPN's Dave McMenamin wrote a compelling case for James to stay with the Cavs, and he included this nugget:

"In the past week, two members of the 2017-18 Cavaliers — a player and another staff member — relayed to ESPN that they believe Cleveland has the best chance of any team to land LeBron."

McMenamin closed the piece in a manner that might make even the most pessimistic Cleveland sports backer rethink his or her stance on James returning for a 12th season with the Wine and Gold:

"When James walked off the court after Game 4 of the Finals as the first Cavs player to make his way to the locker room, he greeted his sons with handshakes. He hugged his mother, and then he kissed his wife as he journeyed down the tunnel, but he did not stop to acknowledge or wave to the crowd to say goodbye.

Maybe because there was no need for him to do so just yet."

ESPN has also told us that LeBron doesn't want elaborate recruiting pitches, and Tuesday the Worldwide Leader had a free agency breakdown that included front officer insider Bobby Marks predicting that James would sign a one-year contract with a second-year option to remain in Cleveland.

"Yes, the critics will ask why he would return to a team that just got swept by Golden State," Marks wrote. "But an All-Star we sometimes forget in Kevin Love, the infusion of youth with Collin Sexton and contracts that can be moved in George Hill or Kyle Korver give Cleveland the opportunity to return to an NBA Finals for a fifth straight season."

Also Tuesday, Magic Johnson seemed to be preparing Lakers fans for a possible letdown, sayingit won't be a huge setback if the team fails to land the likes of James and/or Paul George when the new league year begins next week.

"Next summer, if nobody comes and I'm still sitting here like this, then it's a failure," Johnson said. "If I can't deliver I'm going to step down myself, (Jeanie Buss) won't have to fire me, I'll step away from it, because I can't do this job."

Wednesday might have had the best news yet for Cavs backers, with ESPN reporting that the Lakers are now "racing" to acquire Kawhi Leonard before Friday, when LeBron must decide if he's going to decline his 2018-19 player option.

Alrighty then.

But it wouldn't be an Offseason of LeBron without social media speculation that ran contrary to Northeast Ohio's feel-good moments.

Tuesday night, the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma tweeted "First domino," which could mean a million things. Heck, it could have simply been a reaction to the Clippers trading Austin Rivers, son of Doc, to the Wizards for Marcin Gortat.

Or, since this is NBA Twitter, it could mean LeBron is headed to the Lakers, which Cuffs the Legend, a friend of LeBron's, believes is the case.

Cuffs, as he reminded his followers Tuesday night, posted a picture of a Cavs jersey featuring James' old No. 23 on Instagram on July 10, 2014 — a day before James announced his plans to return.

If you're still keeping track, the Lakers remain the heavy favorites to land LeBron and the Cavs have comfortably become the No. 2 choice, according to oddsmakers.

What does this all mean?

To be blunt, your guess is probably as good as mine.

If you're a Cavs fan you should at least be encouraged by the growing speculation that this is now a two-team race.

The problem is the Lakers offer two key things to appeal to LeBron — a better basketball situation and a place that caters to his Hollywood interests. (Also a place where he owns two homes that cost a combined $44 million.)

The Cavs' primary appeal is they represent home.

That's important, but the clock is ticking for Koby Altman and Dan Gilbert to check off the second box.

We can't see James returning because of Collin Sexton.

If the Cavs trade Sexton for, say, Kemba Walker and bring in another piece via trade, we wouldn't be surprised if James agreed to sign a 1-plus-1 deal, as Marks predicted.

Unless James picks up his player option — a possibility that looked remote until, well, Wednesday — the real frenzy begins July 1.

At that point, the rumors will get even more wild, and the pressure will really turn up on the Cavs.

They're still in the race, but we think, even with the momentum seemingly shifting in their direction, they need quite a bit more help.

You can follow me on Twitter for sports information and analysis, and you should follow Cuffsjust for his "73-9 and they LIED" handle.

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