The odds (right now) on LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for a second time next summer?
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David Aldridge: 50.1-49.9. Best I can do until I know what Cleveland’s roster is for next season.
Steve Aschburner: I think it’s 70-30 he goes. And I’m fine with that. When James announced his return in July 2014, one of my first thoughts was, “He’s there for the duration now.” But he got such a rapid return – three Finals trips, an NBA title in his second season back in town – that any debt he might have owed for his ham-handed departure in 2010 has been paid in full. I don’t know that I like the idea of James chasing more rings in other markets, but he’s in a tough spot. Among recent all-time greats, Tim Duncan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s teams stayed competitive till they exited. Kobe Bryant stacked up injuries that caused him to recede in a way his temperament never would have. Magic Johnson (HIV) and Larry Bird (back) had even more sudden physical trauma that dictated their retirements. Julius Erving got his NBA success late. Then there’s Michael Jordan, with his largely forgettable Washington sojourn. It will be interesting to see “what becomes a legend most” as James navigates his late career.
Shaun Powell: I’d put it at 70-30 that he leaves. Unlike last time, he has a great excuse: Blame it all on Gilbert. The fans will blindly agree, even though Gilbert has given LeBron everything he asked for (signing Tristan Thompson, keeping JR Smith, extending Kyle Korver). LeBron already won his title for Cleveland and will be forgiven for going to the Lakers.
John Schuhmann: No clue. The speculation will never stop, but James probably doesn’t know the answer to that question himself.
Sekou Smith: I’m going 60-40 right now, based largely on the uncertainty surrounding the organization and the relationship between LeBron James and Dan Gilbert. It’s all up to LeBron. Does he want to continue his career in Cleveland, where he’s fulfilled every requirement for a statue out front of the arena, or write his next chapter elsewhere? Leaving the Eastern Conference to start over in the West just doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, not with all of the migration of star talent we’ve witnessed thus far. But if LeBron feels like there’s nothing more to be done in a Cavaliers jersey, I’m not sure what anyone can do to convince him to stay.
Ian Thomsen: Let’s take those odds off the board until we see what Altman can make of the Irving trade. And yet I really do believe that this uproar may bring out the best in LeBron by giving him something to prove. He’s going to want to show Irving that he doesn’t need him. Last year the Cavs looked like an uninspired group, but now it’s easy to envision them improving their team defense as LeBron seeks an eighth straight NBA Finals – which, if his streak continues, should render his anticipated move to the West less likely.
For the life of me I have no idea why all of these stars appear to be intent on playing in the West. Are they all sheep? Is there not one independent thinker among them to exploit the less-competitive landscape of the East? The answer to that question is yes – and it’s LeBron. The guess here is that Mr. Passive-Aggressive is sending signals of an imminent move to Los Angeles in order to convince his rivals that the West is the place to be while he continues to clean up in the East. That’s what a smart guy would do, and LeBron is this league’s smartest.
Lang Whitaker: I’ve never bet on sports so I don’t even really know how “odds” work. So instead of assigning some numerical ratio to the chances of LeBron leaving, I’m just going to use words. If you’d told me the day after the NBA Finals that LeBron would be leaving in a year, I would have disagreed with you wholeheartedly. If you told me that today, I’d disagree, but perhaps not as vigorously. Playing out West might be nice, but good luck escaping the bottleneck at the top of the Western Conference. I understand there’s an allure to playing and living in different places, but LeBron is nothing if not strategic. And right now, playing in the Eastern Conference with Cleveland clearly remains his best chance of getting back to the NBA Finals.