HANDICAPPING THE LEBRON SWEEPSTAKES

For those asking me to handicap the LeBron James sweepstakes, I will, but I really don’t know. Only James does, just like in 2010.

LeBron James photo small 11-27-13

I will say this though, the fact that the Cavs, with a group that reportedly included Dan Gilbert, had a meeting with LeBron’s agent Rich Paul, is a good sign. That tells you that the fences have been mended to a degree between the two sides or the Cavs would have never even received a sit down with Paul to talk about LeBron’s future. Are things all hunky dory between Gilbert and James? No, and they may never be like they once were. But, business is business, and I’m sure the two can tolerate each other enough if it meant winning championships and making lots of money.

So with that in mind, I’ll put on my handicapping hat and give you my best guesses on where I think LeBron James could end up.

As far as the percentages of LeBron staying in Miami versus coming back to Cleveland or going to another team, right now I see it this way. Pat Riley and the Heat are still the front runners until “Riles” proves he can’t add the necessary players to Miami’s roster to make LeBron happy. So let’s put the Heat’s chances at 50 percent. As of now they’re still the leaders in the clubhouse. But if he does stay with Miami I expect his contract will be for only one or two years.

Kyrie Irving and Dan Gilbert ROY photo

The Cavs, with an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving, plus that young nucleus of high lottery picks, cap space and multiple future first round picks are in second place in my opinion. This young roster has to be enticing to LeBron especially with the addition of Andrew Wiggins, or knowing that David Griffin could take some of those young players and trade them for a proven All-Star like Kevin Love. Add in he could come back home to be closer to his family and his Akron roots, along with it being a great story that would help repair his image even more. All that plays in to me giving the Cavaliers about a 30 percent chance, which is a better percentage than they had in the recent draft lottery. That percentage goes up if none of the All-Star caliber free agents want to take less money to play in Miami, or if Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can’t agree on how to divide up the free agent money with their  salaries.

So how do I break up the remaining 20 percent that’s left? There are reportedly four other teams that have talked with LeBron’s agent Rich Paul in recent days; Suns, Lakers, Rockets and Mavs. I’m adding a wild card just in case in the L.A. Clippers. Let’s give them each a 4 percent chance of luring LeBron away from South Beach.

The Lakers, only if Mitch Kupchak can miraculously team up LeBron with Kobe and Carmelo Anthony and it is “Hollywood”.

The Rockets, if James would consider playing with James Harden and Dwight Howard with all three getting max contracts, but what would the rest of the team look like?

The Mavs, because Dirk Nowitzki took a pay cut to create cap space for LeBron and maybe one other All-Star caliber player.

The Suns, who were 14 games over .500 last year and failed to make the playoffs in the Western Conference by just one game. Phoenix does have a nice young group of players, but no All-Stars and they’d have to make some serious moves to get LeBron and maybe another top flight free agent.

And finally my wild card out of left field the Clippers, because LeBron’s best friend Chris Paul is on the team. Also they’re a playoff team with a coach he respects greatly in Doc Rivers who is now in charge of pretty much everything. If the league acts swiftly and jettisons Donalrd Sterling, the Clippers could appeal to LeBron, but they’d have to make some serious moves to acquire James.

So there you have my best guesstimate as of today on where “King James” could end up. Tomorrow it may be different, and then change again on Monday and every day after that until he signs. LeBron is truly the only one who knows which way he is leaning. I believe he will give Miami every chance to bolster its roster, so he can stay there for another year or two, but the clock is ticking. If “The Chosen One” doesn’t feel that the Heat have improved enough in free agency, he is going to choose the team that he believes has the best roster and gives him the best chance to win. And who knows, that just might be Cleveland! If so, they’ll have beaten long odds again to win the sweepstakes.

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