With the 2014 NBA free agency period just hours away, the speculation regarding the future of LeBron James is heating up to absurd levels. The news of LeBron demanding a max salary this upcoming season has sent the basketball world into a frenzy despite the well-known fact he will likely re-sign with the Miami Heat. Even though there are a slew of ridiculous rumors out there, the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns are the only other teams that would actually make sense for the self-proclaimed king.
There are only seven teams that can offer LeBron the reported 2014-15 max salary of $22.2 million and among them, the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic just aren’t real possibilities for James. Aside from the Heat, who would be the same team as they were in 2010 when James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all joined forces there originally, the Suns and Mavericks are the only teams that can give LeBron the money he wants along with the chance to win championships.
Although Phoenix isn’t exactly an ideal market (No. 13 nationally) for a player of James’ popularity, the Suns were a 48-win team last year led by a small-ball approach at a breakneck pace that ranked seventh in the NBA in points scored. For James, one of the fastest players in the NBA who thrives on the fast break, there’s really no better offensive fit for him in the league, especially considering Phoenix boasts one heck of a backcourt with Eric Bledsoe (who will be retained through restricted free agency) and Goran Dragic, which means LeBron wouldn’t have to bring the ball up in a point guard role, something that has plagued him throughout his career when unreliable teammates leaned heavily on him.
While the Suns are certainly considered an underdog to land LeBron, the Mavericks have a better shot because they offer him the greatest chance to win of any of his potential suitors and the best market (No. 5 nationally) besides L.A. After trading for Tyson Chandler to create their own Big Three with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, the Mavs have roughly $28 million in salary cap space and Dirk has already said he’s willing to take less money in his new deal to land another superstar like LeBron.
With newly-acquired Raymond Felton and Devin Harris (assuming he re-signs) splitting the point guard duties, Ellis continuing his attacking style from the two spot, LeBron holding down his small forward position, Nowitzki knocking down shots as a seven-foot shooting power forward and Chandler doing what he does best in the paint, Dallas would have unquestionably the best starting lineup in the NBA.
Of course, some would immediately point to the Mavs’ potential lack of depth in this scenario and cite how that eventually doomed the Heat, but one thing to remember about this possible Dallas squad is that it would include a less-brittle, faster version of Wade in Ellis, a better seven-foot shooter than Bosh in Nowitzki and the X-factor: a big, defensive center in Chandler who would give the Mavs a presence in the paint, something the Heat never had with their Big Three.
If LeBron signed with Phoenix, the Suns would be a title contender right away. If he signed with Dallas, the Mavs would immediately be the favorite to win the NBA Finals, even if the San Antonio Spurs re-sign Boris Diaw and Patty Mills to essentially bring back their entire championship team. Although it’s unlikely James leaves South Beach, he’d be foolish not to take long, hard looks at Phoenix and Dallas, but especially the latter.