You’ve heard the saying, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Well, LeBron James could be changing that to if you can beat them, join them, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
Appearing recently on Tim Kawakami’s podcast, Haynes had a rather interesting take about James.
“I’m going to throw out a dark horse, the Toronto Raptors,” said Haynes, of who he believes could land James as a free agent this off-season.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem likely that LeBron would sign in Toronto. He wants to win championships and well, the Raptors haven’t exactly proven themselves to be clutch playoff performers.
But there are benefits to heading north.
James would be joining a team that has shown year in and year out that they can be one of the top teams in the league. The Raptors were the first seed in the Eastern Conference and had the second-best record in the NBA last season, ahead of the Golden State Warriors and just behind the Houston Rockets.
Adding James to the current roster would instantly make Toronto the top team in the East and give the Raptors a legitimate shot to win the NBA Finals. James would be surrounded by two All-Stars in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, while also having a good young bench and a good centre in Jonas Valanciunas who can provide rebounds. Lowry is also an excellent passer — as he averaged 6.9 assists last season — and can be a facilitator and get the ball to LeBron and make his job easier.
Signing in Toronto also keeps James in the East, away from the Warriors and Rockets until the Finals. It would also solidify his new nickname, “LeBronto.”
However, before Raptors fans start to celebrate too hard, Haynes did report that other teams are the favourites ahead of Toronto.
“Philly of course, that’s legit,” added Haynes. “The Lakers are still in play but they’re not as hot as it was before, but you’re going to grant Magic Johnson a meeting. You’re going to do that and listen. The Lakers have been setting up for two years for this summer.”
The Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season, have a ton of cap room and can go out and sign or trade for another top player to pair with LeBron, like Paul George, Chris Paul, or Kawhi Leonard. That would arguably be a better team than the Raptors with James, and living in Los Angeles would appeal to him.
The Philadelphia 76ers could be a good spot for “The King” to land, given that their team may be the best in the East next season. The 76ers are loaded with young talent, with the likes of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and possibly Markelle Fultz, if he gets back to his college form.
Or James could decide he wants to finish his career out at home and ultimately stay put in Cleveland, which is still a possibility at this point.
The Raptors may have emerged as a dark horse candidate for James, but they’re still a long shot.