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LeBron James 'likely' to join the Lakers or Clippers? It's too soon to buy into LeBron rumors

We’re more than a year away from LeBron’s free agency. Chill, everyone.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t even been two days since LeBron James lost the 2017 NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in five games, and we’re already seeing rumors pop up about him. Don’t worry, this is nothing new. There has virtually never not been rumors about what James is thinking or planning or doing throughout his career.

The latest one comes from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who said the following on his most recent podcast.

Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back, I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there. I think they feel, I think within Cleveland and around the league, they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out west to one of the two LA teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.

The possibility of Miami again, based on how they, what that team looks like and where they are. Would Dwyane Wade go back there? But I think the focus, a lot of LeBron’s — his business interests, his Hollywood aspirations, his media ventures are based out there.

And I wrote this last year and said it and believed it. The minute he won that championship in Cleveland he was liberated to leave again. Now, if he had not won a title in Cleveland and then left again, I think there would be tremendous backlash again. But the fact that he came back and did what he set out to do, which was to bring a title to Cleveland.

James isn’t a free agent until 2018, where he will likely exercise his player option to opt out of his current contract. Despite losing the series on Monday, James has still been to seven straight NBA Finals at this point, and he’s favored to make it eight next season.

Why James would leave the Cavaliers.

As Wojnarowski mentioned, the business aspect of James moving to Los Angeles full-time is a real thing. At this point in his career and life, the 32-year-old James cares deeply about his ventures beyond the court, something that living in Los Angeles would make much easier.

Chris Paul, one of James’ closest friends in the league, plays for the Clippers, while the Lakers have a number of young players and are rumored as serious contenders to sign Paul George in 2018. George is someone who has been linked to the Cavaliers repeatedly this week because of his fit with the team compared to Kevin Love, but perhaps James and George could end up on the same team somewhere else. A couple All-NBA, two-way forwards like that might be the best chance at taking down Golden State, after all.

The other team mentioned, Miami, might make James’ departure from Cleveland softer. It wouldn’t necessarily be framed as James skipping to another team with elite talent, but James returning to his former team.

Why we should all take a collective deep breath about this.

Well, to name just a few reasons:

  1. The future of the Clippers is in jeopardy this summer if Paul leaves.
  2. The Lakers, while cultivating young talent, still seem more than a year plus James away from being real contenders against, well, anyone.
  3. Likewise, the Heat are a good team, but they don’t have much going their way in terms of young, developing talent. Also, James’ departure from Miami might have burnt some bridges.
  4. I’d still give the Cavaliers, with James, the best chance to knock off the Warriors over the other three teams with LeBron. Cleveland’s core is solid and most of them aren’t going anywhere. They will likely be aggressive while they try to improve their roster.
  5. James is constantly attempting power plays with the Cavaliers front office just to remind them who’s really in charge. This may be no different.
  6. Adrian Wojnarowski is unquestionable a dogged reporter and by far the best, most connected one in the NBA. His track record with James, however, is much spottier than any other superstar. Certainly, all Wojnarowski reports deserve some credence, but it’s worth remembering where he has missed in the past.
  7. 2018 is a loooong ways away right now.

In the letter James wrote when returning to Cleveland, he said that he always imagined retiring there. The backlash wouldn’t be nearly as severe if James left now after delivering a title, I don’t think, but there still would be upset fans who didn’t expect James to leave their team for a second time.

Likelihood this happens.

We usually grade these rumors on a 1-to-10 scale, but I’m not going to grade this one. It’s too soon and too inconclusive. I do believe that these rumors show that James is open to leaving Cleveland, but believing that the Lakers, Clippers, or Heat will have the perfect situation for him to join in a year is hard to fathom. It’s not impossible, though, because a year is a long time. The real answer is that we just don’t know. We have no clue. Don’t assume that James will blindly re-sign with Cleveland next summer, but it’s way too soon to expect him to be leaving, either.