The seemingly impossible has happened. LeBron James left Miami in NBA free agency and returned home to Cleveland. How does this impact the landscape?
Carmelo Anthony no longer faced with aging Heat
Money of course was a primary draw for Carmelo Anthony to return to the New York Knicks. That and faith that team president Phil Jackson could get the team competitive quickly. Such a plan was quite feasible as long as James stayed in Miami. There he played on a very good team, but also an aging one with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh into their 30s. It meant that with effort and the ravages of time Anthony would soon have his shot.
That is no longer the case. Now the 30-year old is faced with the prospect of James, who is a year younger than him, joining a young core in Cleveland comprised of All-Star Kyrie Irving and uber-athletic rookie Andrew Wiggins. That’s not even counting the very real prospects of the Cavs pursuing 25-year old All-Star Kevin Love. Such a team should keep James competitive for years to come. It is a situation where Anthony has to know time is against him and he must do whatever it takes to get on the best team he possibly can this NBA free agency. Could that mean a move to Chicago?
San Antonio Spurs should pump up pursuit of Pau Gasol
Obviously the Cavaliers don’t have Kevin Love yet, but even without him the LeBron James-Kyrie Irving union makes them instant title contenders. The fact they are a considerably younger and healthier team is something the defending champion San Antonio Spurs cannot ignore. In their own quest for a repeat, they had hoped their biggest threat in the Eastern Conference would be the same Miami team they drubbed back in June. Now this new configuration in Cleveland presents problems, and calls for a sizeable counterstroke. In other words, if they weren’t pushing very hard to gain the services of Pau Gasol before, the time has come to get more aggressive.
Rockets could emerge in West with Chris Bosh arrival
Another thing the Spurs must worry about is what James’ exit from Miami will do to their own conference. With LeBron not there anymore, veteran forward Chris Bosh is fully expected to accept the max contract offer presented to him by the Houston Rockets early in NBA free agency. His addition would be huge next to Dwight Howard and James Harden, provided they are able to do it in time to retain restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. With that kind of starting lineup, Houston will become the favorite to unseat the Spurs out West and perhaps challenge James and his Cavs in the Finals.