The LeBron James Destination Nobody is Talking about – Portland

lebron-to-portlandOne of the biggest themes throughout the 2017-18 NBA season has been where LeBron James will end up. And common guesses include the Houston Rockets, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, or simply re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But one free agency destination that hasn’t really been discussed is the Portland Trail Blazers. And former teammate Richard Jefferson believes that this could ultimately be one of LeBron’s top picks. Let’s discuss why Jefferson believes this along with what the Trail Blazers have to offer James.

Nike could be the Answer to Luring LeBron

LeBron has a lifetime deal with Nike that’s believed to be worth over $1 billion. He also has a strong relationship with Nike co-founder Phil Knight. These are two factors that make Jefferson feel like Portland, Oregon would be the perfect fit for James.

Jefferson, who played with LeBron on Cleveland from 2015-17, discussed the matter on ESPN’s Jalen & Jacoby.

“Obviously LeBron has a connection to Oregon because of his relationship with Nike,” Jefferson said. “Phil Knight being a really big LeBron fan, I think wants to get him up there. I mean, they could build a whole new campus up there. Portland has now entered into the unfounded, irresponsible speculation of free agency around LeBron.”

While this sounds plausible, Jefferson admits that he doesn’t really have a lead on what James will ultimately do through free agency in the summer.

“I could see him doing anything, because no one knows,” said Jefferson. “Marc Stein [ESPN reporter] doesn’t know, I don’t know, you [Joe Jacoby] don’t know, no one knows. No one knew he was going to Miami, hence the television show ‘The Decision.’ No one knew he was going back to Cleveland.”

How would a LeBron-Portland Union Look?

The Nike aspect makes it possible that LeBron could consider Portland. It also helps matters that the Trail Blazers had a solid season, finishing 49-33 before being swept in the first round. The latter indicates that Portland has a ways to go before they’re an elite contender, despite earning the third seed in the West.

Landing LeBron would immediately make them a legitimate title contender. And Portland has excellent building blocks, with All-Star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. They also have good role players in center Jusuf Nurkic, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and guard Shabazz Napier.

lebron-portland-trail-blazersBut as Jefferson and Jacoby alluded to, one of the biggest challenges will be clearing enough cap room for James. The team’s payroll is over $118 million, which is the 11th highest in the league. LeBron has already stated that he won’t take less than the max, meaning Portland would have to make significant roster moves to clear up enough to sign him.

Their worst contract is Evan Turner at $17.8 million for next season. While Turner is a nice role player off the bench, he’s being paid double what he’s worth. They’d likely have to package draft picks with Turner in order to trade him.

Center Meyers Leonard has another bad contract since he’s due $10.6 million in 2019. He only plays 8 minutes per game and is another situation where draft picks would be required for a trade.

Lillard and McCollum are due $26.1 million and $23.9 million, respectively, next season. McCollum has been mentioned in trade talks, simply because the two guards have similar strengths and weaknesses. But any trade would have to bring back smaller contracts if James is indeed interested in Portland.

Sixers Open 2019 NBA Futures at +350 Odds

joel-embiid-sixers-starThe 2018 NBA Finals are still taking place, with the Golden State Warriors holding a 1-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. That said, it’s no surprise that our GTBets futures have Golden State at -1700 to win the title.

But some of the major Las Vegas sportsbooks are already looking ahead to the 2018-19 NBA season.

Not surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors have opened as 2019 favorites at +125. Their core of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will be intact for yet another potential title run.

The Houston Rockets check in with the second best odds at +350. They pushed Golden State to seven games and may have won if not for an injury to starting point guard Chris Paul.

The Philadelphia 76ers are tied with Houston for the second-best futures odds at +350. This is somewhat surprising when considering that Philly was knocked out of the second round by Boston. The Sixers have a strong young core in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Markelle Fultz. Plus, they have a chance to sign LeBron James n the offseason.

“When you have LeBron in free agency, you have to be careful,” said Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker John Murray.

“You’ve got Philadelphia, Miami, the Lakers and even Houston as potential destinations [outside of Cleveland]. We cut all of those teams’ odds down, and we’ll raise back up the teams he doesn’t sign with.”

Boston Celtics, LA Lakers Lead the Rest of the Pack in 2019 NBA Futures

kyrie-irving-celticsThe Boston Celtics open with the fourth-best championship odds at +800. Boston pushed LeBron James and the Cavs to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They could possibly be undervalued when considering how well they did without their two best players.

The biggest surprise in the 2019 NBA futures is that the L.A. Lakers are tied with the Miami Heat for fifth at +2000.

The Lakers finished 35-47 and don’t currently offer any reason to suspect that they’re destined for greatness. But LA is one of the favorites to land both James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George in free agency.

“We like some of the younger players on the Lakers and think there’s a pretty good chance they get Paul George,” said Murray.

“They’d draw a lot of action and probably would have the third-best odds in the West behind Houston and Golden State if LeBron went there. Without him, they’d probably be in the 60-1 [+6000] to 80-1 [+8000] range.”

Miami finished 44-38 and made the postseason. But they were quickly bounced in the first round by the Sixers. Their odds are higher than many other teams because they’re dark-horse favorites to land LeBron.

Lakers Odds Reflect Cavaliers’ Rise in 2014 Offseason

The Lakers having such high odds due to free agency rumors is nothing new. The Cleveland Cavaliers saw a similar increase in their futures amid rumors that LeBron James was leaving the Heat to join the Cavs. Cleveland, which finished 33-49 the season before, saw their odds move from +4000 to +300 after James signed.

Another incident like this happened in 2016, when Kevin Durant was rumored to leave Oklahoma City to play for Golden State. Vegas sportsbooks saw a flurry of betting activity on the Warriors at between +300 and +150. The Warriors would open the season at -150 after the Durant signing.

As for Cleveland now, they’re currently sitting at +3000. The Cavs aren’t the lead favorite to re-sign James this offseason. And if he leaves, Murray sees Cleveland’s odds falling to around 50,000.