Prior to the start of this year’s free agency period, a number of NBA teams were thought to be in the running for LeBron James, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Houston Rockets. It was also seen as a possibility that the four-time NBA MVP would re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in hopes of taking them to a second championship. However, a new report suggests that there was another “dark horse” team that James considered before he elected to sign with the Lakers in July.
On Thursday’s episode of Yahoo Sports‘ Chris Mannix’s podcast, Cleveland Cavaliers beat reporter Joe Vardon of the Athletic shared some details on the decision-making process James went through before he signed a four-year contract with the Lakers. As recapped by Fadeaway World, Vardon mentioned that the Toronto Raptors appeared to show some interest in James, who might have reciprocated by at least considering a potential move up north.
“I think at one point, Toronto was kind of a dark horse there. I think there was some sniffing around on both ends.”
— Raptors Nation (@_raptors_nation) October 6, 2018
According to Fadeaway World, Vardon’s claim that LeBron James possibly mulled over a move to the Toronto Raptors is ironic, as the NBA’s only Canadian team has gotten a lot of flak for repeatedly failing to defeat the Cavaliers in playoff action. With LeBron leading the way, Cleveland swept Toronto in four games during both the 2017 and 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Raptors’ elimination at the hands of the Cavaliers earlier this year was especially notable, as Toronto finished the 2017-18 regular season as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Following the Raptors’ most recent early exit from the playoffs, the team fired head coach Dwane Casey and later on traded star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and backup center Jakob Poeltl to the San Antonio Spurs, getting two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Kawhi Leonard and veteran wingman Danny Green in return.
In the light of the new rumors that LeBron James and the Toronto Raptors showed some mutual interest in each other before this year’s free agency period, NBC Sports‘ Dan Feldman wrote on Friday that it would have been interesting to think of which players Toronto could have offered to Cleveland for a potential sign-and-trade deal. While he didn’t name any players, Feldman added that the thought of James counting the Raptors as one of his potential destinations is proof that Toronto has come a long way as an attractive option for top free agents.