LeBron James, at nearly age 37, is running out of time to capture 2 more NBA championships to equal the great Michael Jordan’s 6 rings. James is an all-time great player who has been the best player of his generation and has a resume that will stand the test of time. The King has accomplishments that include 17 All-Star Teams, 17 All-NBA Teams, 4 NBA titles, 4 Finals MVPs, and 4 MVPs. As a player for 3 different franchises, James accomplished everything in the game at an elite level.
But at the moment, it is not looking too good for LeBron’s career. The King is playing on a very average Lakers squad that is at risk for not making the playoffs, as they currently have a 16-16 record as they barely cling to a playoff spot. Even if Los Angeles somehow captures a playoff spot and avoid the play-in, there is no way that the team will progress to the Western Conference Finals as currently constructed.
Even LeBron’s greatness as a player will not be enough to change the Lakers’ inconsistencies this year. James is the heart and soul of the team at this moment because both Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook are not performing at All-Star levels despite their statistics on paper. The best way for LeBron, as he approaches the final seasons of his career, to have the ultimate landing spot is by considering his former team: the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the dream scenario is for LeBron to play with his son, Bronny Jr., the most realistic scenario is for LeBron to consider Cleveland in the future because Los Angeles is not the right place for the 4-time NBA champion.
Los Angeles Is Not The Right Place For The King
Looking at the Lakers roster, it is clear that the roster is top-heavy with a ton of inconsistencies. LeBron is having a solid year averaging 26.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 6.6 APG; but there is no way that The King should be at an MVP-level at this stage of his career. The Lakers needed Anthony Davis to be like his MVP-caliber self, but the big man has been anything but that. Davis is averaging 23.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 2.0 BPG; solid numbers for any player in the league. But for a team competing for a championship with a soon-to-be 37-year-old legend on his final days, Davis needs to be better. He is only shooting 17.9% from three and 72.7% from the free-throw line, very poor numbers for a number one option.
But most importantly, Davis is injury-prone and will not get healthier as the season pass. By 2023, which is LeBron’s free agency period, Davis will be very broken down. The big man simply cannot stay healthy, as he is currently out for a minimum of 4 weeks with an MCL sprain. While thankfully Davis avoided a major injury, his body cannot handle the load of playing major minutes in the NBA. As LeBron looks to capture another championship, Davis is not a reliable sidekick.
Other than an injury-prone Davis, LeBron only has two other trustworthy teammates: Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker. If Westbrook is not traded this season or next season, the point guard can be relied upon to average a triple-double and be an offensive threat no matter what. Even if Westbrook is clearly one of the better point guards in the league (19.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 8.2 APG), he is not the right fit for LeBron’s Lakers. He does not prosper on championship teams when he shares the ball with other ball-handlers, because he cannot shoot and often plays a bit out of control. By 2023, Westbrook will lose his athleticism and will be even less efficient due to his lack of shooting. That does not bode well for LeBron’s future, because an explosive point guard past his prime who cannot shoot will not work out.
Horton-Tucker is a solid young player, but there are doubts about the 6’4” guard’s potential in a few years because it might not be enough to convince LeBron to dedicate his final years to the Lakers. Unless James wants to remain in Los Angeles at all costs due to business ventures and off-court reasons, the best landing spot for The King is in Cleveland with his old team.
LeBron’s 2023 Free Agency Will Alter The Eastern Conference
LeBron James will be a free agent in 2023, and looking at the progress this season, this year is a wrap. The Lakers are not winning an NBA title, and LeBron needs to look ahead to the next few seasons of his career. Realistically, LeBron might be able to play another 3 years at an elite level (or an All-Star level at least). After all, that gives James enough time to shatter Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record. But why does Cleveland make sense for The King?
Firstly, LeBron is the greatest thing to have ever happened to Cleveland. An NBA franchise devoid of winning, LeBron delivered on the biggest moments for the franchise including the 2016 Finals victory. Other than a historic championship run, James brought countless memories to Cleveland with a resume that includes All-Star appearances, game-winners, and some incredible highlights. Returning to his hometown franchise and ending his career in a storybook manner, LeBron can put the icing on the cake on an incredible career.
But what would be the icing? Competing with a talented young roster. After all, look at the Cavaliers roster at this moment. The team holds a 19-13 record which is good for 4th in the East and has a very talented young core. Darius Garland is only 21 years old and is averaging 19.1 PPG and 7.3 RPG on 39.2% shooting from three, and always takes his game to another level every season. By 2023, he will be a better shooter than Westbrook and a more controlled point guard.
Collin Sexton is only 22 years old but has found his place in the league by putting up 24.3 PPG last year. While Sexton is out for the year this season, he clearly has a ton of potential as a high-volume shooter who will be a fantastic floor-spacer alongside Garland and a playmaker like LeBron James. Sexton and Garland are one of the most talented young backcourts in the league, so why wouldn’t LeBron want to play with them?
The Cavs also have fantastic big men: Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and Lauri Markkanen. Mobley was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft and has the potential to be a bonafide All-Star. The big man is putting up 13.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. The center can score inside, outside, and also dominate the defensive end of the court. Alongside him is Jarrett Allen, an explosive center who is averaging 16.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. Allen and Mobley form a dynamic frontcourt that defends the rim, making Cleveland very formidable. Finally, Lauri Markkanen would be under contract for another few years and is another shot-blocking big man who can shoot and also score around the rim.
With an amazing young core in place, the Cavaliers just need a talented and experienced small forward to put all the pieces together and his name is LeBron James.
LeBron Forms A Top-5 Contender In Cleveland, Although There Will Be Competition
If an accomplished veteran and winner like LeBron James joins Cleveland right now, the team is competing for a Finals spot with the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. By 2023, every player in the Cavaliers’ core will greatly improve in every facet of the court. Even if James will be older and slower, he completes the puzzle of a potential championship contender. By 2023, the Cavaliers will be top-5 favorites for the championship across the league.
Leaving the Lakers would be the best option for LeBron James because he avoids the mess of an injury-prone Anthony Davis and an inconsistent Russell Westbrook, replacing them with a talented core that is healthy and more effective in the modern NBA. In terms of purely a basketball decision, James would do much better with the Lakers barring any business-related ventures. The King is a smart businessman who has a ton of investments off the court, so the only reason he should stay in Los Angeles is because of that.
On paper and looking with an analytical state of mind, LeBron’s fit with the Cavaliers is a match made in heaven. He returns to his superhero role on his hometown team and plays with 2 shooters and 2 defensive stars to compete for championships #5 and #6. James has no chance to win in Los Angeles with this current roster because Davis is made of glass and Westbrook will be a hard contract to trade. But James needs to understand that joining Cleveland means he will have to accept dealing with competition around the league.
The Brooklyn Nets will still be a force by 2023 because Kevin Durant is a one-of-a-kind talent who is still in his prime. Not to mention, KD is an all-time great shooter (49.5% FG, 38.4% 3-PT FG, 88.3% FT) and as long as he has his perfect form, he will always be a factor in the league. Even at age 36 and older, KD will always be able to shoot over any defender in the league and be a force from the perimeter. James Harden is also in his prime and has a few more years left at an elite level. Kyrie Irving is even younger and if the world is rid of Covid eventually, he should return to the Nets or another team if he is traded.
Other competition comes from Phoenix with a prime Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, along with the threat of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns will have an aging Chris Paul on his last legs, but the rest of the roster is very talented with future superstars. Meanwhile, Giannis has possibly another decade at an elite level and the Bucks will be a force for many years to come. But overall, in terms of knowing what to expect, the Cavaliers might have the best all-around lineup. Garland and Sexton will be All-Star caliber players by 2023 as outside shooters and scorers, while Mobley and Allen will be dominant centers on defense. LeBron will always be an elite leader with an incredibly high basketball IQ, so as long as he can average 20 PPG and dish out over 6 APG, The King has the best chance to win championships in his hometown Cleveland.