LeBron James free agency: Rockets would overtake Warriors with LeBron, according to SportsLine data

The 2018 NBA free-agent market is officially open for business on July 1, but the question on everybody's mind is what will LeBron James do.

Entering his 16th NBA season following eight straight NBA Finals appearances, James can opt out of his contract and become a free agent, which most expect him to do. There has been rampant speculation 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.

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.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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)WinsWin%Playoff chancesConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

28.4

34.6%

1.3%

13

0.0%

With LeBron

50.1

61.1%

99.4%

4

1.8%

Impact

+21.7

+26.5%

+98.1%

+9

+1.8%

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)WinsWin%Playoff chancesConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

29.3

35.7%

0.1%

13

0.0%

With LeBron

48.6

59.3%

87.0%

4

3.6%

Impact

+19.3

+23.6%

+86.9%

+9

+3.6%

Houston Rockets

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)WinsWin%ConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

58.4

71.2%

2

11.9%

With LeBron

68.1

83.0%

1

38.3%

Impact

+9.7

+11.8%

+1

+26.4%

Philadelphia 76ers

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)WinsWin%ConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

56.2

68.5%

2

9.0%

With LeBron

65.1

79.4%

1

37.2%

Impact

+8.9

+10.9%

+1

+28.2%

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)WinsWin%ConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

54.6

66.6%

3

5.5%

With LeBron

62.5

76.2%

2

38.5%

Impact

+7.9

+9.6%

+1

+33.0%

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)WinsWin%ConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

65.2

79.5%

1

46.9%

With LeBron

72.0

87.8%

1

74.4%

Impact

+6.8

+8.3%

+0

+27.5%

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)WinsWin%Playoff chancesConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

31.0

37.8%

0.3%

10

0.0%

With LeBron

47.1

57.4%

77.1%

6

1.1%

Impact

+16.1

+19.6%

+76.8%

+4

+1.1%

Miami Heat

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)WinsWin%Playoff chancesConferenceTitle chances

Without LeBron

42.7

52.1%

87.8%

7

0.1%

With LeBron

58.4

71.2%

99.9%

1

14.7%

Impact

+15.7

+19.1%

+12.1%

+6

+14.6%

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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