In the latest episode of The HoopsHype Podcast, FS1’s NBA reporter Chris Broussard discussed the biggest stories of the NBA offseason as well as his journalism career.
At one point during the episode, Broussard discussed LeBron James’ future and whether he’ll remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Broussard, who formerly worked at ESPN and is known to have ties to James and his inner circle, weighed in on James’ thinking as he approaches a player option next summer and named a dark-horse destination that may not be getting enough attention.
Here are the three teams that Broussard discussed on the podcast:
“While the organization is doing their due diligence and being wise in planning for a future without LeBron, I know there are people within that organization that still think he’s not leaving,” Broussard said. “They think this is all just a bunch of drama and talk, and we all know LeBron likes drama. So, again, we don’t know. But if I had to make a pick, I would say he does stay in Cleveland. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d predict that he stays in Cleveland. But at this point, I don’t think LeBron knows what he’s going to do. We know that this has been his M.O. for the last several years. Even when he went back to Cleveland from Miami, it was on a short-term deal. He wants to keep to his options open for various reasons – to keep Dan Gilbert on edge, to keep [the front office] trying to make the team better and just for other personal reasons. LeBron likes playing in this situation. I think that’s his M.O. and I don’t think we should assume that he’s definitely leaving Cleveland because he won’t commit there long-term.
“However, there is reason to believe that he would leave. Heading into the draft, we know that Cleveland had a deal on the table where they could’ve gotten Eric Bledsoe and Paul George for Kyrie Irving in a three-team deal [with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers]. Dan Gilbert went to LeBron and wanted him to sign long-term. He said, ‘I’ll do the deal if you sign long-term.’ And I’m told that Paul George was willing to [opt-in] to the final year of his contract. He wasn’t ready to commit long-term, but he told Cleveland, ‘Look, if you do this, I’ll pick up my option,’ so he would’ve been there for two years. And LeBron, still, did not commit long-term. Now, again, I’m not saying this means he is definitely gone, but it’s certainly a red-flag. If you’re getting Paul George for two years and you’re getting Eric Bledsoe, that’s a great deal for Cleveland. As good as Kyrie Irving is, that’s a deal that would’ve put Cleveland right there with Golden State. I’d probably still favor Golden State, but Cleveland would be right there. I think that would’ve been a very competitive NBA Finals and Cleveland would’ve been capable of winning. Yet LeBron still didn’t want to do it, so there is reason to believe that he may be leaving.
“But here’s the thing you have to understand: When LeBron left Cleveland the first time and when he left Miami to return to Cleveland, in both instances, nobody had a clue what he was going to do until about a day or two before. In fact, most of the league assumed he was staying in Cleveland and then most of the league assumed he was staying in Miami. The fact is, LeBron’s group keeps things very close to the vest. If anybody knows ‘where he’s going,’ it would be his wife, his agent Rich Paul, his business manager Maverick Carter, maybe his associate Randy Mims and maybe his PR guy Adam Mendelsohn, but nobody else. And those people aren’t talking. But again, I don’t think LeBron knows where he’s going yet; I think he’s keeping his options open. To think that this time around, all of LeBron’s business is in the streets when in the past nobody ever knew what he was going to do… to think that now everyone knows what LeBron is a going to do a year in advance? It just doesn’t make sense. Just because [rival] executives think LeBron is out of there, and they do, doesn’t mean it’s accurate – especially when it comes to a guy like LeBron, who keeps things very secretive.”
San Antonio Spurs
“I think if LeBron James leaves Cleveland and it’s all about winning and where he can win the most championships then I think the best move for him would be to go to San Antonio,” Broussard said. “If it’s just about winning – not about wanting to be in LA or maximizing his business opportunities or wanting to be in a glamour market or wanting to go play with his friend Chris Paul or whoever – then he should go to San Antonio.
“The one thing that’s unfortunate when it comes to LeBron’s career is [he hasn’t had a great coach]. I think that hurts him in the G.O.A.T. conversation and I’m on record as saying he’s the second-best player of all-time behind Michael Jordan. But if you look at a lot of the greats, the one thing they have in common is they had a great coach. Jordan played for Phil Jackson. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson had Pat Riley. Tim Duncan had Gregg Popovich. Kobe Bryant has Phil Jackson. LeBron – with all due respect to Erik Spoelstra, Ty Lue and Mike Brown, who are all good coaches – has never had that iconic coach, that legendary coach who could’ve fully coached him and [gotten the most out of him]. LeBron has been in some situations where he’s been able to do whatever he wants. Miami was able to coach him more than any other place because Pat Riley was such a strong presence in the front office, but even still, LeBron was able to become the system. I think if in his prime he had played for a Gregg Popovich, a Phil Jackson, a Pat Riley, they would’ve made him acclimate to their system, I don’t think there’s any doubt he’d have more championships. I think that’s one reason LeBron doesn’t have as many rings. I think if he went to San Antonio and played with Kawhi Leonard, they’d have a lot of talent obviously. But with them, it’s not just about talent. I mean, Popovich is always making them a 60-win team no matter who they have. If LeBron were to go to San Antonio, I think they’d be right there with Golden State. With a combination of LeBron and Kawhi and Popovich and whoever else they add around those guys, they’d be right there with the Warriors.”
Los Angeles Lakers
“I think the talk about the Lakers is overblown,” Broussard said. “That doesn’t mean it’s definitely not going to happen… If he leaves, especially if he goes West to the Lakers, there’s a very good chance that he’s not getting back to the Finals [because of the Golden State Warriors].
“And with the Lakers, there are so many questions. Let’s see what Lonzo Ball is. Let’s see what Brandon Ingram is. Let’s see what Paul George is willing to do. I don’t see LeBron going there by himself, without another star, so what happens if Oklahoma City gets to the Western Conference Finals and loses in seven games? Does Paul George stay? Again, I think there are too many questions, at this point, for LeBron to know where he wants to go.”
James can become an unrestricted free agent next offseason due to his $35,607,968 player option.
Listen to the entire podcast interview with Broussard below: