Miami Heat superstar Lebron James has the ability to exercise an early out clause in his contract this offseason and potentially leave Miami in free agency. Up until know the speculation regarding a potential opt-out by James has been centered on a return to Cleveland. With the Cavaliers a mess the odds of James returning to his original team are a long shot. Over the past week a new potential James destination has become a popular talking point. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who’s covered James since his high school days and throughout his NBA career, believes the Los Angeles Clippers could wind up being a serious contender for James. According to Windhorst the Heat are “quite aware the Clippers could end up being a competitor if James elects to opt out, perhaps the most serious contender of all.”
According to Windhorst James has a strong relationship with Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. Paul is the godfather of James’s son Bryce and the two stood up in each other’s wedding. The Clippers would have to make personnel moves in order to acquire James with a sign and trade, potentially built around Blake Griffin.
Wednesday night in Los Angeles hoops fans were treated to a show by the two main parties involved in the speculation when the Heat outlasted the Clippers for a 116-112 victory. James had 31 points 8 rebounds and 12 assists in the victory, with Griffin putting together one of the most dominant performances in his NBA career. The Clippers forward had 43 points and 15 rebounds in the loss. It was yet another exemplary performance for the Clippers big man who’s elevated his game to the next level during the absence of Chris Paul. During the month of January Griffin averaged 25.7 points per game with an impressive .554 shooting percentage. His foul shooting, once a weakness, has improved as the season has gone on with Griffin shooting near 70% from the free throw line. Griffin is in the top ten in Player Efficiency Rating at 23.92, a career high. At twenty-four Griffin is clearly taking his game to the next level, with many touting him as a potential most improved player.
Lebron James will turn 30 during the next NBA season. While the four-time MVP has shown no signs of wear and tear he’s played an incredible amount of games during the past several years due deep playoff runs and international basketball. If Los Angeles does trade a package involving Blake Griffin for James they’ll be dealing a young star on the ascendency for one of the greatest players in league history who could potentially be starting the downside of his career. The opportunity to acquire one of the greatest players in the history of basketball to pair with Chris Paul is awful appealing, but is one or two potential title runs worth dealing a young superstar like Griffin? Here are the pros and cons of the deal.
Why a potential deal makes sense for Los Angeles: It’s no secret that Chris Paul wants to win an NBA title now. The star point guard has dealt with injury issues throughout his career and may not have that many prime years left. James has never had the luxury of playing with an elite point guard like Paul. The combination of the two, along with the presence of Doc Rivers and the remaining Clippers core could make the team instant favorites in the west. Windows of opportunity can be fleeting in the NBA and the chance to make a couple of title runs should be awful appealing to Clippers management. The impact on the Clippers brand can also not be exaggerated. Even with the criticism James earned following the famous “Decision” he’s one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. Beyond the obvious success on the court the presence of James would be a tremendous asset from a business perspective.
Why the deal doesn’t make sense: With the amount of mileage both Paul and James have there is no guarantee of health. If Paul continues to miss time due to injury and the seemingly unbreakable James starts to wear down the Clippers could find themselves in a difficult situation. Paul hasn’t played over 70 games in a season while a member of the Clippers, and he’ll have played 60 games or fewer in two of those three seasons. If the Clippers have the opportunity to deal Lebron James for Blake Griffin its likely an absolute no-brainer but not as much of a sure thing as it was at the beginning of the season. Griffin’s play this season, especially in the absence of Paul, indicates that he’s clearly taking his game to the next level. With the sheer athleticism that Griffin possesses there’s no telling how far he can take his game. He’ll never be the equivalent of Lebron James, but may surpass an older James in the next couple of seasons, something the Clippers are going to have to consider.
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