There are a lot of people watching these NBA Finals thinking “LeBron James looks exasperated with his teammates and tired of carrying them.” He has been otherworldly good through the playoffs, at age 33, and yet had two seven-game series just to get to the Finals, where he and the Cavaliers are down 0-2.
It’s led to even more “where will LeBron play next season?” speculation.
Houston has one of the teams reportedly on LeBron James’ list (which LeBron said is not true), and Rockets GM Daryl Morey has said he would go after him. The Rockets’ new owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly will pay the tax to keep his contender going.
Dudley is right, the only way to really make this work for Houston is LeBron to do what Chris Paul did to get to Houston last summer — but even that is difficult to make work.
It starts with LeBron telling Cleveland he’s leaving, but he will opt into the $35.6 million he is owed next year if they trade him to Houston. The math works sending Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson back to the Cavs, the Rockets would do that and throw in a first in a heartbeat, but why would Cleveland do it? That trade would leave Cleveland with a team of Kevin Love, Gordon, Anderson, whoever they take at No. 8 in the draft, and the rest of the current roster — and an $80 million luxury tax bill. That’s a lot of tax for a roster that might not even make the playoffs in the East, the Cavs would be better off letting LeBron walk rather than taking on that deal (unless Cavs’ GM Koby Altman wants to start making second trades and moving Gordon, Love, and others). There are other ways to construct this trade, but the Rockets are not deep with good young players that fit into these kinds of deals for a rebuilding team (most of the kinds of players the Cavaliers would want to the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade). It’s going to be hard to convince the Cavs to play along, and a third team may need to be brought in.
Whether you’re an NBA player or fan, get out the popcorn and make yourself comfortable — it’s going to be an interesting summer of NBA trades.