East Contender Among Favorites to Land LeBron James If He Leaves Lakers

Getty LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron James is under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for one more season but the rumors are starting to swirl about the star’s future. Maxim’s Chris Sheridan reported on February 3 that there is some buzz that James would leave the Lakers for a chance to play with his son Bronny James.

Under current NBA rules, the younger James will not be eligible to play in the NBA until 2024, one year after his dad’s contract expires with the Lakers. MaximBet has the Cavaliers (+300) and Heat (+400) as the two favorites to be James’ next team if he leaves Los Angeles.

The Cavs would mark James’ third stint in Cleveland, but the team makes some sense beyond just the superstar having a storybook ending in his home state. As things stand through the first 53 contests, Cleveland is less than two games back from being the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Evan Mobley would stack up well against James’ previous supporting casts with the Cavaliers. A return to the Heat also cannot be ruled out, says Sheridan.

“James still has a strong relationship with Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and other members of the Miami Heat organization, and he could do a lot worse than joining forces with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Sixth Man of the Year lock, Tyler Herro,” Sheridan detailed. “Miami is capped out for the next two seasons, so James would either have to be acquired in a trade (highly unlikely) or sign as a free agent for the veteran’s minimum (he could afford a reduced paycheck).”

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The Mavs & Pelicans Are Also Among the Favorites to Land LeBron

Despite the continuous rumors linking James to the Knicks, New York is way down in the odds at +5000. This is largely due to the presence of Knicks owner James Dolan, an unpopular figure among NBA players. Here is a look at the rest of the odds for the team’s most likely to land James if he leaves L.A.: Mavericks +500, Pelicans +800, Spurs +1000, Suns +1000, Warriors +1000, Clippers +1500, Bulls +1200, Hawks +1500, Celtics +2000 and 76ers +2500.

All of this is speculation as James has indicated on multiple occasions that his preference is to retire with the Lakers. Yet, if pressed, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes James would bolt Los Angeles if it means playing with his son.

“LeBron likes L.A., he likes raising his family in L.A., and his post-career businesses are in L.A.,” Windhorst told Maxim. “But he’s made it very clear that he wants to play with his son. If that situation is available outside L.A., he’ll pursue it.”

LeBron: ‘I Truly Hope That I Can Finish My Career With the Lakers’

During the SmartLess podcast released on July 12, 2021, James emphasized that he wants to “finish my career with the Lakers.” If the team continues to struggle, this could be put to the test, especially if it means potentially playing with his son elsewhere.

“Listen, I truly hope that I can finish my career with the Lakers,” James said during the SmartLess podcast interview. “And how many years that is, if it’s four, five, six, whatever, seven. I hope that I can continue to play the game.

“I love being in L.A.. My family loves being in L.A. Being with a historical franchise like the Lakers is something, it’s like me being in Space Jam. Now, I never thought it would be possible. You think about Kareem and Magic and Wilt and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kobe, Shaq, the whole list goes on.”

For now, James is slated to be with the Lakers at least through the 2022-23 season. If James does not sign a contract extension this summer, the Lakers will head into next season with more speculation about the star’s future.

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