Less than two weeks after this year’s trade deadline, ESPN has restarted the NBA’s rumor mill by citing several teams that could become LeBron James’ potential landing spots in the upcoming free agency period. Eight were mentioned, but one team had stood out from the rest: the Golden State Warriors.
James, who turned 33 in December, is still going strong despite being in the second half of his illustrious career. Now on his 15th season, LeBron still manages to produce one of his best regular seasons in recent memory, averaging 26.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.5 steals in 37.0 minutes per game in 56 games so far for the Cavs.
The four-time NBA MVP has won three titles — two in Miami and one in Cleveland — after seven straight trips to the NBA Finals. Twice in the last three years, he was denied by the Warriors, and yet rumors of him joining the defending champions to join fellow MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have started swirling.
In an ESPN feature story, Adam Reisinger said that there is a chance, however slim it may be, that James might end up with the Warriors this summer if he so chooses.
Reisinger noted that James must first opt in to his $35.6 million player option for next season. Then the Warriors would have to offer the Cavaliers a trade package centered on either Klay Thompson or Draymond Green plus Andre Iguodala. It was unclear, though, whether Cleveland would agree to such a deal or if James would decide to lift his no-trade clause at all.
Reisinger said that another way the Warriors can acquire James is to gut their team of as many players as possible, including one or two starters and several key reserves to “free up the cap space to sign James outright,” with Durant again taking a “massive pay cut.”
Compared to the first option, the second one is obviously impractical. Even if Golden State manages to keep Curry and Durant, the trio would more likely end up not having enough bench support to help carry them through such a long season.
The LeBron James-to-Warriors rumors began a few days before the February 8 trade deadline, with ESPN’s Chris Haynes reporting that Golden State could “position themselves to secure a meeting” with the 14-time All-Star. Many analysts and NBA players have reportedly frowned on the idea of LeBron joining his arch-rivals just to add to his title collection.
James himself dismissed the rumors, saying that they are “nonsense” and that it is a “non-story,” as reported by the Toronto Star.