LeBron James free agency: Data-driven look at how LeBron could impact each team he joins
We ran simulations with all of the NBA teams vying for James to see how much they would improve
LeBron James didn't make a decision at midnight on July 1, but he may have taken a meeting. James was seen flying into Los Angeles on June 30. The assumption is that he was flying in to take his free agency meetings.
There has been rampant discussion all season about LeBron's next destination, but a few favorites have emerged: The gambling odds list the Cavaliers, Lakers, Rockets, 76ers, Spurs, Warriors, Clippers and Heat as the leading candidates, even though James himself has given no indication one way or another.
If there's one thing we've learned about James over the course of his career, it's that he's a winner. He's taken teams that had no business being in the Finals all the way to the cusp of a championship, and it's largely because of the fact that he makes his teammates better on a nightly basis with the way he plays the game.
We thought it would be fun to see which team has the most to gain (or in the Cavs' case, the most to lose) if LeBron decides to jump ship once again. SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh ran scenarios using the 2017-18 schedule to see just how many wins LeBron would be worth. The results, as you might expect, are pretty staggering. Let's start with what would happen if the Cavs lose The King for a second time.
Oh: "Without LeBron, the Cavs drop to 13th in the East and zero percent chance of winning it all. But even if he returned, they only have a 1.8 percent chance of winning the championship."
|Cleveland (+700)||Wins||Win%||Playoff chances||Conference||Title chances|
Los Angeles Lakers
Oh: "The Lakers could get home-court advantage in the first round and they go from no chance to a respectable 3.6 percent chance of winning it all."
|Lakers (+200)||Wins||Win%||Playoff chances||Conference||Title chances|
Oh: "The Rockets improve by nearly 10 wins, get the No. 1 seed and at 38 percent they overtake the Warriors as the favorite."
|Houston (+275)||Wins||Win%||Conference||Title chances|
Oh: "The Sixers jump to 65 wins, No. 1 in the East and at 37 percent they would be nipping at the Warriors' 40 percent chance of winning the championship."
|Philadelphia (+300)||Wins||Win%||Conference||Title chances|
San Antonio Spurs
Oh: "The Spurs are expected to get back to being a 50-plus-win team if Kawhi Leonard is back healthy, and with LeBron they get the No. 2 seed in the West. Even though they are projected as the second seed, they actually end up with the highest championship chances at 38.5 percent."
|San Antonio (+1000)||Wins||Win%||Conference||Title chances|
Golden State Warriors
Oh: "In sims the Warriors are 'only' a 72-win team with LeBron, and their 74 percent chance of winning the championship still seems low."
|Golden State (+2500)||Wins||Win%||Conference||Title chances|
Los Angeles Clippers
Oh: "Despite a plus-16 win projection, the Clippers improve to just a 47-win team, and still not a serious Western Conference contender."
|Clippers (+2500)||Wins||Win%||Playoff chances||Conference||Title chances|
Oh: "A return to Miami gets them back to No. 1 in the East and a solid 14.7 percent chance to win the championship -- still well behind the Warriors, though."
|Miami (+3300)||Wins||Win%||Playoff chances||Conference||Title chances|
So the conclusion is that LeBron is really, really good. According to the simulations, any team he joins will have a significantly higher regular season win total, and most will have a legitimate shot at winning the NBA title. And if he joins the Warriors, well, get used to championship parades in the Bay Area.
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