Mike D'Antoni is the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and he has a star-studded team at his disposal. However, the NBA free-agency pool reaches a boiling point in two years when LeBron James can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat. One wonders if the Los Angeles Lakers will shell out the big bucks to lure the three-time MVP and NBA champion.
According to a report by ESPN's Michael Wallace last month, James is committed to the Miami Heat and not even thinking about his impending free agency. This isn't at all surprising, seeing as how he is the reigning MVP and finally won his first ring last season. If anything, the man is focused more on winning a few more rings and less on where his next contract will come from.
However, let's just assume that James does opt out of his contract. Will D'Antoni have enough incentive to lure him to the West Coast?
Keep in mind, two years from now, the Lakers will still have Steve Nash under contract. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the following players will be off the books: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. As talented as all three players are, team management will let Gasol and World Peace walk, and if prior reports are true, Bryant will retire.
Also, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that the Lakers are able to extend Dwight Howard after the season. Even if the aforementioned players leave after 2013-14, the team will still look pretty dangerous with Nash and Howard in town, assuming Nash is able to stay healthy.
Now, here is another important factor to consider. With the NBA's new luxury tax laws about to take effect, the Miami Heat could soon be in trouble. Unless team owner Mickey Arison wants to write out a hefty check to the NBA, he's going to have to break up his Big Three.
If this does indeed happen, Miami's odds of winning a title could seriously dwindle. Much of their strength does come from their deadly trio, who accounted for two-thirds of the team's offense last season.
Thus, with one of the reasons James even came to Miami possibly gone, what incentive would he have to remain in South Beach without a winning formula?
In Los Angeles, assuming Bryant does retire, James would provide the fans with an instant savior to the franchise. Even better, imagine if Bryant chose to stay on for another season and James still decided to join the Lakers. The two would provide a deadly tandem on the court, and the five-time champion would help James adjust to life in LA and slowly hand over the reins.
More importantly, think of the type of game James plays in Miami and the type of offense that D'Antoni always employs. The three-time MVP is already used to playing something of a fast-paced game with the Heat, and his overall athleticism would make him a star with the Lakers and D'Antoni as his coach.
Just imagine. James would continue to put up great numbers, but at an even faster pace. He will only be 29 by the time he is able to opt out of his deal and could have plenty of prime basketball years left in him.
That all being said, with the Lakers having a lot of money coming off the books in the next two years and the Heat potentially needing to shed payroll before that, the odds of D'Antoni and his run-and-gun offense luring LeBron James out West seem pretty good.
The man's game is borderline perfect for the new Lakers coach's philosophy, and with the win-first mentality of the team's front office, chances are that James would have a prime supporting cast waiting for him, be it developed Lakers youth or seasoned veterans.
Thus, fasten your seatbelts, NBA fans. Come 2014, it could be time for "The Decision: The Sequel."
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