LeBron James caused some commotion recently when he told Bleacher Report that he would love to play with his friends Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony before their careers are over. James later admitted that he didn't know how "realistic" that union would be, but he'd clearly be in favor of it happening.
We broke down how that can technically happen in Cleveland next offseason. It would take a lot of moves that would be nearly impossible to pull off in such an specific order, but it is technically possible.
Now, Anthony has talked about it, too, adding another wrinkle that makes reuniting The Brotherhood even harder.
"Everybody dreams sometimes. Everybody has fantasies," Anthony said, via the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. "We'd all have to take pay cuts. I'd take one. I think at that time we'd want to go someplace warm. Later -- [close to] retirement.''
"Someplace warm" clearly eliminates Cleveland, as well as New York. Let's jump into this fantasy world again and think about where this improbable reunion actually takes place, if it were to happen. Here are the warm-weather franchises that could technically accommodate all four next offseason.
Sorry, fans of other NBA teams. Any discussion about uniting a collection of stars has to start with the league's most traditional destination franchise. The Lakers have the history, the warm weather, the vibrant city and, most importantly, the means to get those four together.
The Lakers have gobs of cap space. If they renounce the cap holds of all of their own free agents as expected, they could sign two players to $30-million max contracts and still be under the salary cap. In this scenario, they would renounce all of their free agents first, then absorb Anthony's contract in a trade and sign James. They could send the Knicks Julius Randle, a couple of first-round picks and maybe even a signed-and-traded Jordan Clarkson, who seems like a Triangle point guard. For the Knicks, the goal is to get Melo's contract off the books and receive some young talent in return. The Lakers wouldn't need to match salary because they would be under the cap.
With LeBron and Carmelo taking up around $53 million on top of the $23 million the team already has committed, the Lakers would still be under the cap by around $13 million. That seems like enough to get Wade in the fold in free agency, though it'd be a pay cut.
Now, they can focus on landing Paul. A package centered on D'Angelo Russell and filler could be enticing to the Clippers if they don't reach the conference finals and decide to go young. The player the Lakes select with their draft pick this year if they get it (it's only protected in the top three, otherwise it goes to the 76ers) could also be included in the deal.
There's zero depth on that team, so the front office would need to get incredibly creative when filling out the roster. They would have the Room Exception of just under $3 million and minimum contracts. That said, the city of Los Angeles is a selling point for prospective free agents.
The team that originally pulled off the "three-stars in one offseason" coup should obviously be included among the possibilities for doing it again. The Heat also have ample cap room and a couple of good players on large contracts they could deal in trades.
The first thing to do would be to re-sign Wade immediately, which gets his cap hold off the books. Let's say he goes for another $20 million contract instead of taking a huge pay cut, since the others would be joining his team.
That leaves around $21 million for LeBron, which is a serious pay cut considering he could get $30 million elsewhere. The Heat could find a team to take Josh McRoberts in a trade, clearing his near $6 million of the books, so LeBron can get close to what he would make in Cleveland.
After that, it's a question of trading Chris Bosh for Carmelo Anthony and Goran Dragic for Chris Paul. If he's healthy, Bosh is the perfect mentor and frontcourt partner for Kristaps Porzingis. His contract is slightly higher and runs as long as Melo's, but he's just a better fit, so the Kincks might do it. Of course, Bosh's own health issues cloud this picture.
As for Paul, Dragic alone is clearly not enough. However, if Pat Riley also includes prized rookie Justise Winslow in the trade package, that might change Doc Rivers' mind. Maybe.
Again, there's no depth on the roster. However, the Heat had no problem getting veterans to sign to chase a ring the first time they brought James and Wade together.
Everybody scoffed when the Magic traded Tobias Harris for expiring contracts, but Orlando could get the last laugh by pulling off the offseason of the century. Remember, this franchise once got close to getting peak Tim Duncan and Grant Hill in 2000, so they are no strangers to big moves.
Just like the Lakers, Orlando would have enough cap space to sign LeBron to a maximum contract and absorb Melo's contract in a trade while sending back one of their promising young players. If Nikola Vucevic is the one to go to New York to give Phil Jackson the low-post scorer he wants -- or if he goes elsewhere -- the Magic could get enough cap space to give Wade a juicy eight-figure deal.
After that, the Magic could use any combination of Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja, Elfrid Payton and C.J. Watson's contract to trade to the Clippers for Paul. That's a lot of young talent and depth for a team that lacks both. Doc Rivers could rebuild on the fly with those pieces.
The Magic have so many young players to trade that they might be able to keep their draft pick to provide some depth. Bonus: Shabazz Napier would finally get to play with James!
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The dream is certainly farfetched, but at least there are three franchises located in cities with warm weather and the cap space and assets to bring Anthony, James, Wade and Paul together. It's technically possible for all three warm-weather teams to pull it off thanks to the new TV deal and the rising salary cap.
Technically, the dream is alive. Technically.
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