Ever since the start of this past NBA season, there has been much debate about where LeBron James will be playing next season. Many already thought LeBron would be leaving the Cavaliers for the second time in his career before the Cavs got swept in the NBA Finals. That Finals loss has led many people to believe there’s no chance he returns to the Cavs. LeBron James has said he still wants to be in championship mode at this point in his career, and he should be because he’s still the best player in the world. It’s my personal belief that if LeBron stays in Cleveland with who they have now, he won’t win another championship. He could recruit players to Cleveland to play with him, but I don’t think that’s likely. It’s more likely LeBron leaves and then recruits players to go with him to his new destination.
If LeBron is going to recruit players, he shouldn’t just recruit anybody. There are some specific type of players LeBron will need in order to win a championship in today’s NBA. One type of player is a shooter. The second type of player is a defender. The third type of player is someone who can be a shooter and a defender. For the past few years LeBron has been on teams where he has had to carry so much of the load on both sides of the ball. This year was especially bad. He didn’t have reliable shooters and pretty much nobody could play defense. Wherever LeBron goes, that has to change.
I’ve created a list of players who are free agents this year who LeBron James should recruit regardless of where he chooses to sign this offseason. There are two big names on this list who we have already heard rumors about. Paul George and Chris Paul are the two stars available. The other guys I’ve chosen aren’t considered stars, but they’re solid players who can actually give LeBron James the help he needs to win another championship.
We’ve heard for a while that Paul George wants to go to the Lakers. Well it turns out LeBron is also considering going to the Lakers. If LeBron were to end up signing with the Lakers this offseason, it would be easy to recruit Paul George. Even if LeBron doesn’t sign there, Paul George is someone LeBron has to target. One great thing about Paul George is that he already knows how to take a back seat to another star. Being in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook showed me he can do it. George has experience being the guy, but now he knows what he has to do to make it work when he’s not the top dog anymore. That would be the case with LeBron James. Paul George fits perfectly as a player LeBron needs to win a championship not only because he can play second fiddle, but because he can shoot and he’s a great defender. George shot 40% from behind the three point line last season. He knows how to move without the ball, so he just has to put himself in a position for LeBron to give him an open shot, which we all know LeBron can do very well. We also know Paul George can create his own shot, which is something LeBron’s recent teammates haven’t been able to do.
Probably what’s most important about playing with Paul George, is his defensive ability. LeBron had to do so much offensively that it took a toll on him defensively. LeBron will still carry the offense, but with Paul George, LeBron won’t have to guard the best offensive player anymore, especially when that player is Kevin Durant. Paul George can guard the best offensive player. Even if LeBron is still guarding the best offensive player, Paul George can lock down someone else. We’ll use the Warriors in this case. You could put LeBron on Durant and Paul George on Thompson. You could put George on Durant and LeBron on Green, or Thompson, or Curry. Regardless of who they guard, having Paul George on the floor would give LeBron some confidence that he has another teammate who can really get it done.
I’d say LeBron and Chris Paul getting together is pretty likely, considering they’re good friends. Although Chris Paul is a completely different player than Paul George, I’d say there’s a lot of similarities between the two. Chris Paul knows how to take a back seat while still being a star player. He did it last season with James Harden. He also has the ability to step up when he needs to. It’s not like James Harden was the better player every game. When Harden was having a terrible night, which he often did in the playoffs, Chris Paul stepped up. Just like Paul George, Chris Paul can create his own shot. Again, LeBron really needs that out of his teammates. Chris Paul is also a great defender. Having Chris Paul on the floor could also give LeBron confidence when they’re facing opponents top guards. Chris Paul is no defensive slouch against bigger players either.
Where Chris Paul differs from Paul George the most, is with his ability to pass the ball and create shots for others. It wasn’t just scoring where LeBron hasn’t received much help. He also carried the load in creating others shots. Both Chris Paul and LeBron James are incredible passers, so they could create great shots for each other and their teammates. LeBron would have no problem moving without the ball if he knows he’s got a player like Chris Paul who can either hit him at the right time or create his own shot. If LeBron could get Chris Paul and Paul George to play with him, he’d have some pretty good help going into next season.
We’ve got the stars out of the way, so now we go to the role players. J.J. Redick is a starting caliber shooting guard, but he’s not a star. That’s okay though because he fits what LeBron needs. Redick is coming off a year in which he averaged a career high in points per game (17.1). J.J. can score. He’s got a career three point percentage of 41.5% and shot 42.0% this past season. Much like Redick did with Ben Simmons, he would be able to move around, get open, and wait for LeBron to hit him for an open shot. J.J. Redick isn’t know for his defensive ability, but he’s not a liability on defense. Redick is an underrated defender. Although it’s nice to have, LeBron doesn’t need superstar defenders. What he needs are players who can be relied upon on defense, which is exactly what J.J. Redick can do. A three point sniper who can play solid defense. LeBron needs to get J.J. Redick.
I think Trevor Ariza would be a great fit on the same team as LeBron James. He’s similar to Paul George defensively, he just can’t create his own shot anywhere near as well. Having Ariza would give LeBron a 3 and D player, which is perfect. Ariza was tasked with guarding Kevin Durant in the playoffs. Despite the points Durant had, Ariza didn’t make it easy on him. That’s all you can ask when guarding a player like that. Ariza averaged 1.5 steals this past season, which shows he’s pretty good at creating extra possessions. On the other side, Ariza shot 36.8% from three point range, showing he’s a reliable three point shooter. Even if he’s not a star, LeBron would love to have a reliable player at both ends of the floor.
Julius Randle is the one guy on my list who’s a little different than the other players. Randle is not a three point shooter, but he did shoot 57.5% from two point range this past season. Randle is a big man who really came on strong last season, showing he’s getting better and will continue to get better. While it’s nice to have a bunch of three point shooters, it’s also nice to have someone who can score down low. Randle’s 16.1 points per game and his field goal percentage show he can be a reliable scorer inside the arc. Although he doesn’t have the three point shooting ability, Randle would be an upgrade over Kevin Love inside (49.4% from two point range). I feel like Randle is much more aggressive than Kevin Love is. LeBron needs that too. An aggressive player. In addition to his scoring, Randle brings a rebounding presence (8.0 rebounds per game). For a big man, Randle also has some nice passing skills which can be used to create open shots out of the post.
LeBron James is very familiar with Danny Green. He’s been one of the key players for the Spurs for quite some time now. Green is another player you could consider a 3 and D guy. He’s got a career three point percentage of 39.5%. Green can knock down shots. He’s never been the star player on his team, but he knows how to work with stars surrounding him. On defense, Danny Green can get it done. After the 2016-17 season, Green was named to the All-Defensive Second team. He can make his presence felt defensively, which is what LeBron needs from his teammates. Danny Green would give LeBron another guy to not have to worry about on defense. He could be confident that Green can get the job done, even when he’s guarding some of the league’s best shooting guards.