Everyone wants LeBron James this summer, but only one team can have him...unless cloning becomes a thing in the next month or two. Even so, NBA "insiders" are busy linking LeBron with almost a dozen teams, and way too many fans and media outlets are talking about LeBron coming to their city like it's a serious possibility...or even a done deal. With that in mind, we've graded every NBA team's realistic chances of landing LeBron this summer.
Atlanta Hawks: Not happening. Atlanta is one of the few teams smart enough to realize that, though, so more power to them. 0% chance, but they knew that anyway.
Boston Celtics: Boston is gearing up to make some noise in free agency this summer, but they're too many moves away from contention to tempt LeBron. Somehow landing Kevin Love would be a real signal of intent, but even that's still a longshot for the Celtics. 0% chance.
Brooklyn Nets: The Nets are in salary cap hell for at least another year, all their valuable draft picks belong to Boston, and they won't be able to offer anyone a max contract until approximately 2028. Oh, and after Jason Kidd's bone-headed power play, they don't have a coach anymore. 0% chance, but Brooklyn's owner seems like the likeliest guy here to explore the cloning option.
Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets are headed in the right direction and have some interesting assets, but they're well aware that they aren't a free agent destination yet. 0% chance, as a single tear rolls down Michael Jordan's cheek.
Chicago Bulls: Chicago will be a major player in free agency this summer, but they're nothing if not realists. The front office knows they have a much more legitimate shot at Carmelo Anthony, so that's what they've been working towards. 0% chance for LeBron...but a very real chance at Melo.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland has assembled a talented young roster loaded with potential, but LeBron isn't interested in potential - if he leaves, it would only be for a better title shot than he could get with Miami. 0.01% chance...this summer.
Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban's Mavs always aim high, but they're smart enough to realize that betting all their chips on LeBron this summer isn't a good idea. Look for Dallas to make a serious run at Carmelo Anthony, but stay out of the LeBron sweepstakes this summer. 0.5% chance, because we're talking about Mark Cuban here.
Denver Nuggets: It's incredibly hard to tell what the Nuggets are trying to do right now - they aren't a serious contender in the West, but they aren't trying to blow things up and rebuild, either. Unfortunately for Denver fans, who've had absolutely terrible luck over the past few years, they aren't even in the conversation. 0% chance.
Detroit Pistons: This team is still at least two seasons away from making serious noise in the playoffs, and that effectively rules them out. 0% chance.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are a fascinating dark horse in this summer's free agency discussions. With an intriguing array of assets, a big-market location and incredibly ambitious management, Golden State GM Bob Myers has refused to rule out a run at LeBron this summer. That's a long, long way away from making it a serious possibility, but the ambition and the pieces are there. 1% chance.
Houston Rockets: Another ambitious team out west that isn't afraid to shake things up, the Rockets pulled the free agency coup of last summer when they landed Dwight Howard. Word on the street is that Houston will be one of the teams pushing hardest to lure LeBron away from Miami - that's no guarantee of success, but the precedent is there. 2% chance, although Houston's brilliant, unpredictable front office could find a way to change that number in a hurry.
Indiana Pacers: Absolutely not - no interest whatsoever from either side. 0% chance, moving right along.
Los Angeles Clippers: They haven't made much noise about going after LeBron yet, but NBA insiders have quietly labeled them as one the real front-runner if LeBron leaves Miami. With LeBron's close friend Chris Paul already on board and a number of easily movable assets (The Clips would need to do some trimming to make room for LeBron's contract), the biggest roadblock to the Clippers' pursuit of LeBron (assuming things reach that stage) is good ol' Donald Sterling. If Sterling continues to make everyone's life miserable and the sale to Steve Ballmer drags on, LeBron could be off the market before the Clippers have a chance to go after him. 3% chance if the Sterling mess is resolved quickly, 0% chance if it doesn't go away.
Los Angeles Lakers The Lakers know that as durable as Kobe Bryant is, he won't be leading them to the Finals by himself anymore. LA has some big moves in mind for this summer, and LeBron is the eventual goal...but a huge number of pieces need to fall into place before that becomes even a remote possibility. As things stand, the Lakers have a 0% chance...but if they snag Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony and then start wheeling and dealing, that'll change quickly.
Memphis Grizzlies: LeBron to Memphis, the small-market home of grit 'n grind? Yeah, not happening. 0% chance, unless you're playing NBA 2k14.
Miami Heat: Miami has always been in pole position to get LeBron back, and that hasn't changed. Opting out was LeBron's way of telling Miami's front office to stop screwing around and get him some help off the bench, and from what we've heard out of Miami this week, that message was heard loud & clear. Unless the Heat royally botch the next few weeks, there's a 93.5% chance that LeBron sticks around.
Milwaukee Bucks: As awesome as it would be to see LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo running the world's funniest fast break, this ain't happening. 0% chance.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Lol. 0% chance.
New Orleans Pelicans: A team on the rise, but not a contender for LeBron by any stretch. 0% chance.
New York Knicks: Phil Jackson still has plenty of work to do before the toxic stench of the Dolan/Isiah era really washes off - Carmelo Anthony's determination to be anywhere else has made that clear. With Jackson and Derek Fisher around, things are finally getting better instead of getting worse...but they're smart enough to know that LeBron won't be walking through the door. 0% chance.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are moving forward with the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook nucleus that took them to the '12 NBA Finals. 0% chance.
Orlando Magic: Another young, Eastern-Conference team with a long way to go before they start making eyes at marquee free agents. 0% chance.
Philadelphia 76ers: Picking up LeBron would ruin Philly's master plan to tank until 2017...sorry, Sixers fans. 0% chance.
Phoenix Suns: On paper, Phoenix is a surprisingly tempting free agent destination - with awesome weather, a great young core of players and plenty of assets, this franchise is going places. They're publicly trying to paint themselves as a real contender in the LeBron/Melo sweepstakes...but right now, that's just wishful thinking. Phoenix doesn't have a realistic shot at LeBron, but look for them to make some noise this summer anyway. 0% chance, but an A for effort.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers haven't registered interest in any of the marquee free agents...which is strange when you consider that Portland has a great young core and cap space to work with, even after LaMarcus Aldrige's max extension. The Blazers could be up to something, but a play for LeBron is unrealistic and extremely unlikely. 0% chance.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings are a small-market team with lots of work to do before they can contend in the west. Owner Vivek Ranadive wants to make noise quickly, but he's a smart enough guy to know that LeBron is a bridge too far. 0% chance.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are more likely to bring back Dennis Rodman than make a move for LeBron. 0% chance, and that's being generous.
Toronto Raptors: The Raps are finally out of the woods after some rough seasons in Toronto, but there's absolutely no way for them to convince LeBron to take his talents north of the border. 0% chance.
Utah Jazz: As tempting as giving up South Beach for Utah must be, we just can't see LeBron trading in his sandals and flip-flops for dad jeans & crocs. 0% chance.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards, like Toronto, are a playoff team again after several painful seasons. They aren't real contenders yet, though, as we saw in their playoff loss to an unconvincing, held-together-by-scotch-tape Pacers squad. Washington is more worried about keeping their young core together than they are about adding to it - that'll happen next summer, when almost $25 million frees up. 0% chance.
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