Powell: I Haven't Seen Compelling Evidence That LeBron Will Leave Cleveland

The Cavs are fading in the East, but staying home might be James' best option

March 15, 2018 - 9:15 am

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The Cleveland Cavaliers (39-28) are 5-6 over their last 11 games and have slid to fourth in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they’re just a game ahead of Washington (39-30), which is fifth.

Yes, the Cavaliers might go from three straight NBA Finals appearances to not even having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Cavs don’t turn things around – and fast – could this be James’ last season in Cleveland?

Maybe, maybe not.

“I just haven’t seen any kind of compelling evidence that he’ll leave Cleveland,” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Could he go to the Lakers? Yeah, but who’s going to go with him? Would that give him automatically a better chance to win a championship? Now you got to go through Houston and the Warriors? Does he go to Houston? If he goes to Houston, then arguably he’s not going to be the quote-unquote main guy on that floor. How does James Harden mesh with him? We know Chris Paul probably would, but now you’ve got three guys who are used to having the ball in their hands. How would that work? I’m not saying it wouldn’t, but is LeBron receptive to that?”

James might welcome the help, but he’s also averaging 26.9 points, 9.0 assists, and 8.5 rebonds per game. He’s having another MVP-level season.

And Cleveland, by the way, loves him.

“It’s a comfort zone for him,” Powell said. “He wouldn’t have to move again. Yes, he doesn’t owe Cleveland anything. He already won a championship there. If he were to go to any of those other teams, I don’t think anybody in Cleveland would hold it against him. But to be honest with you, I don’t know if LeBron knows what he’s going to do.”

What he would like to do is get back to the Finals and beat Golden State – or Houston, or whichever team he has to face. 

If Powell had to pick right now, he would take the Warriors to win the West.

“Obviously Steph Curry needs to be 100 percent,” he said, “but let’s assume everybody is healthy – Golden State, Toronto, Houston. You’re still looking at the Warriors. Given their (depth), the fact that they have three, maybe four solid stars, and they’ve done it before, I think you still have to say that all things being equal, this is still their championship to lose.”

The Rockets (53-14) lead the Warriors (52-16) by one-and-a-half games in the West, but that doesn’t mean they would beat Golden State in the playoffs, especially given the postseason track record – or lack thereof – of James Harden, Chris Paul and Mike D’Antoni. The same could be said for Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan when it comes to beating Cleveland.

“I know they’ve changed a few things up this year,” Powell said of the Raptors (50-17), “and you could argue that this is their best regular season since Vince Carter – maybe even in franchise history depending on how many games they end up winning. Also, the Cavaliers are vulnerable. The Celtics don’t have Marcus Smart. Obviously they’re not going to have Gordon Hayward. So basically, the table is set. If they don’t get to, at minimum, the Eastern Conference Finals, I never want to hear anything about the Raptors again.

“And the same argument you make for the Raptors you also got to make for the Rockets,” Powell continued. “If we’re going to sit here and say that the Raptors have something to prove – and they do – we also have to say that the three most important individuals on the Rockets also have something to prove.”