Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Sekou Smtih and Rick Kamla discuss LeBron James’ looming free agency
> What do you think are the odds – give me some numbers – that LeBron plays for the Heat next season? If he’s not in Miami, where do you see him playing? Why do you say that?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m at 96 percent confidence that LeBron James stays right where he is next season and even beyond. His days of chasing rings through relocation need to be over — moving again would be unseemly and his legacy would shift from number of championships won to the mercenary way in which he stalked them. More than that, he doesn’t need to chase. The help he needs should come to Miami now, a market with all the necessary advantages to attract whatever and whomever James needs. He, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh conceivably could take massive pay cuts — think Spurs’ Big 3 prices — and wind up with all the depth, shooting and young legs they’d need to contend for another half-dozen years. As for that 4 percent opening I left: Clippers.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: 90 percent. Maybe I’m being naive or just downright foolish, but I think he appreciates what Pat Riley did in enabling him to win two championships, believes in Riley’s drive and determination to put the Heat on the right track, and also realizes that, even with their problems, they were still in The Finals this year. Also, the East is still the East. If he leaves, it means LeBron is just chasing rings and the most ready-made place to do that, pardner, would be Houston.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Call me nuts, but I’m putting it at 95 percent that he’s back with the Heat. Thing is, I can’t see LeBron in another uniform. Chicago? And forever play in the shadow of his idol Michael Jordan? Just don’t see it. It’d be silly for LeBron to take his talents West; just too tough. Who else realistically is left in the East? The Wizards? That’d actually be a pretty solid choice, but Washington has been involved in zero — that we know of — discussion of LBJ. Toronto? Miami is the only logical choice. If the Big 3 negotiate new deals, they can make room for Kyle Lowry and bring in other low-cost reinforcements such as Shawn Marion.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: 60 percent. Something that indicates the Heat are the favorite but far from in command. The problem is, I don’t see an obvious landing spot if he leaves Miami. Sure, the Clippers make sense, but how may salaries will they have to move to clear cap space? At that point, will the Heat have a better angle on another championship than the Clips do on their first? I think he gives Pat Riley one more season, then re-assesses and maybe leaves in July 2015.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: 90 percent. A potential move to Chicago or Houston is intriguing, but the most likely scenario is that James stays in Miami, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh take pay cuts, and Pat Riley adds another impact player or two. Though James left Cleveland high and dry in 2010, he doesn’t seem like the mercenary type. He’s comfortable in Miami, where a system built around him is in place and where his team became the first to make four straight Finals in 27 years. You can pick apart the Heat’s issues (and I did that quite a bit over the last two months), but they just need a little more help to keep competing for championships.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m calling it 50-50 after getting burned on the original “Decision.” It’s hard to imagine him in another uniform, though, after four straight years of No. 6 in that Heat jersey playing to the final day each season. The Heat have to be considered the favorite to … keep him, I guess. But experience with LeBron in free agency has taught me well. Nothing lasts forever, and that goes for the Big 3 and their run. Cleveland, for so many reasons, is the place that has to be tugging at the heartstrings of not only LeBron but his entire family. But this is a business decision, a choice that is more than anything about his continued professional success and where he can best realize the immense potential that remains. So if he’s not going to continue in Miami, his next stop has to be in a place where there is a championship structure either already in place or in need of that one player, uh … LeBron, that pushes a team there, immediately. As preposterous as it feels typing these words, I think he either goes home to finish what he started in Cleveland or stays with the Heat. Anything else, before we know who does whatever is necessary to land him, is beyond what I can wrap my mind around at this time.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not a gambler (as far as you guys know) so I don’t even know how odds really work, but I’ll put it the chances at 90 percent that LeBron returns to Miami. This is based on no inside information, just based on several observations. I understand LeBron being from Akron and that giving the Cavs some sort of interest, but I wonder if he just forgot about that comic sans thing? LeBron went to Miami and talked about it being a long-term thing (“not one, not two,” etcetera etcetera), and his work there is not done. LeBron opting out is fun fodder for Twitter and talk radio and all that stuff, but honestly, it was a smart business move for LeBron whether or not he intends to stay in Miami. And I think he intends to stay.