With the Warriors up 3-0 on the Cavs, at this point it’s almost a foregone conclusion that LeBron James will fall to 1-3 in the Finals against the Warriors. While the Cavs were in Games 1 and 3, it does not feel like there’s much of anything LeBron could do to stop the fate of another series loss.
In a game where Stephen Curry was dreadful and Klay Thompson was only slightly better, the Warriors still never felt like they were going to lose a game where Kevin Durant was an emotionless assassin. This is a mega super longshot, but what if LeBron could somehow convince Durant that he will never get respect from the legacy-touting pundits winning titles with these Warriors, but must beat them to enter the pantheon with Jordan and himself?
All logic would dictate that LeBron is leaving Cleveland. He despises Cavs owner Dan Gilbert so much he snubs high fives. For his part, Gilbert subtweeted LeBron almost literally at tip-off of Game 1, contradicting his interview with Rachel Nichols about whether trading Kyrie Irving was the right move.
A couple weeks ago, Brian Windhorst wrote about the “organizational fatigue” with the Cavs. LeBron assures them a spot in the finals but he has so much leverage and knows it that he’s exhausting to deal with. Knowing all this entails, they’d nevertheless sign up in an instant to bring him back, but it’s not up to them.
Frankly, the supporting cast on the Cavs is crumbly now, and there’s really no flexibility to get any better. They’re in luxury tax hell, and the last opportunity to use the Kyrie trade proceeds to either draft an immediate impact player or trade for one fell by the wayside when the lottery gave them the eighth pick. Any improvement to the roster would be akin to remodeling a bathroom in a house with a foundation that’s been ravaged by termites.
That being said, without his 2018-19 destination team moving pieces around to accommodate him, there doesn’t appear to be an immaculate basketball fit out there for him. The Sixers are a little weird because Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz can’t shoot and it would render Joel Embiid into the Chris Bosh/Kevin Love role as a spot-up shooter. Would he even want that?
The Rockets are a little odd because there’s only one ball, which LeBron, James Harden, and Chris Paul all need all the time. The Lakers feel like they are a year away; LeBron plus Paul George would not be enough to propel them past the Warriors. Even though I still maintain the Bucks would be a great basketball fit, everybody laughs at me whenever I bring it up.
Teams like the Hawks and Bulls are open canvases with some young talent, but no one brings them up as options. The Celtics were already fringe contenders without Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving this summer; it seems crazy to say this out loud but would they even want to mess with their juju to bring LeBron in? They’d probably be the best option for LeBron from a basketball perspective, but it doesn’t seem like there is any perfect idea out there for LeBron to dethrone the Warriors next year (with the obvious caveat that their legs are intact).
That is, unless LeBron could somehow, some way entice Durant to join him on a team like the Lakers or the Heat? I know this is probably a longshot, but when has something being a longshot ever stopped us from rampantly speculating about fantasy booking the NBA?
Again, it won’t be easy. Durant said on the record that there is a 100% chance he will return to Golden State. Durant chronicler Anthony Slater of The Athletic went on Jason McIntyre’s Fox Sports Radio show last weekend and manually adjusted this percentage to “high 90’s” and Stephen A. Smith said on First Take yesterday that Durant has been emphatic with the Warriors organization that he is staying there this offseason.
If Durant and LeBron teamed up on any team in the league next year, they’d immediately open up as championship favorites over the Warriors, right? Admittedly, this idea would have been more likely before the Finals, when Durant had appeared sulky for a few weeks, the Warriors weren’t totally firing on all cylinders, and their offense had reverted from pristine ball movement to a lot of iso ball. It looks real silly to suggest Durant could change teams the day after he scored 43 points and effectively ended the series.
But just imagine: LeBron gets in Durant’s ear, tells him he’s not appreciated by Golden State fans who view him as a mercenary that wasn’t around for their whole dynasty run, and convinces him that the only way for him to silence the haters is to go out and beat them.
In reality, the haters will always be there for Durant, and this would be doubly true if he teamed up with LeBron. But if LeBron convinced him otherwise, it would throw a large dose of intrigue into next year, which at this moment feels like a foregone conclusion for a fourth Warriors title.