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When LeBron James decided to move back to Cleveland, the balance of power in the East shifted from South Beach to Ohio. In our previous article, we discussed how each East team would finish if LeBron played for them. However, the more interesting scenarios would be LeBron heading West, because as we all know, the NBA’s Western Conference is the tougher and better place to be in the NBA.
So let’s find out how each team would do if LeBron were on their roster:
Once again, let us assume that there are no salary cap restrictions and no salaries to be considered. Let us also use the current lineup of the NBA teams as of August, 2014. Other than those assumptions, let us plug LeBron James into all of the Western Conference teams and see how they’d finish with the King on their side. For the purposes of this discussion, we have arranged the teams in order of best record during the 2014 NBA season.
San Antonio Spurs (62-20)
There is a saying that goes: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Well that’s what would have happened here if LeBron moved to Texas. The San Antonio Spurs are the favorites to retain their NBA title this upcoming season. If we add LeBron James, that would make them sure bets to win the 2015 NBA title. James is a great individual player, but he’d fit so well with the Spurs because we know he is willing to pass that ball to an open teammate.
Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)
The team with the NBA’s best dynamic duo would have the best one-two-three punch in the NBA with LeBron in town. So how would you defend an Oklahoma City Thunder team with LeBron on board?
That’s not our problem, but here’s a dilemma: Last play of the game and down by a point. Who do you go to: Kevin Durant or LeBron James? The answer is none of them, because chances are that Russell Westbrook would be taking that shot himself.
All kidding aside, LeBron would give this team unlimited offensive firepower and a shot in the arm in defense. James does make them NBA champions too, and a dynasty could follow if Durant stayed after 2016.
The Los Angeles Clippers have more than enough talent to win the NBA title. Unfortunately, they haven’t made a big splash in the last two playoffs, mainly due to inexperience. LeBron would change that and would make them immediate title contenders.
Forget Lob City, this team would make it more like the Showtime Lakers of the ’80s, not just in playing style, but in dominance too. The 2015 title would be a huge possibility for this team.
Houston Rockets (54-28)
The Scenario with the Houston Rockets here would be similar to that in Miami, where James led them to back-to-back NBA titles. A younger version of the Big Three would be formed, although the main difference is that this Big Three has a more defensive center and more aggressive 2-guard. Would it lead to a 2015 NBA title? Just like the top three teams in the West, having LeBron makes this team a title winner right away.
Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
James gives the Blazers a second playmaker that would also help improve Lillard’s offense. James would give this up and bring the playoff experience they would need to get to the next level. Going all the way to the 2015 Conference Finals would be a sure thing, but beating the Spurs there would be tougher than expected. That being said, if this team did win the West, it would beat any Eastern Conference team fairly easily.
The headline in the Bay Area would be: “Splash Brothers Get Big Brother.” Imagine how many assists James would record here with the Dubs. All he’s got to do is take that ball to the hoop and kick-out to either side of the court with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson just waiting to shoot the rock.
Curry is a terrific point guard, but LeBron’s playmaking skills are out of this world. For sure, Curry would have an improved shooting percentage with LeBron sharing and doing most of the playmaking chores. Again, the Golden State Warriors would be very good with LeBron, but reaching the Conference Finals in 2015 would be the reasonable expectation for this crew, with the Spurs waiting for them there.
Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the most consistent teams that are one big star away from winning the NBA title. LeBron James gives them that, and more.
If Memphis could surround that frontline with good three-point shooters, then they could go all the way to the NBA Finals and beat any team in the East. With their current lineup though, this Memphis team would give the Spurs a tough seven-game series in the 2015 Western Conference Finals, with Game 7 being anybody’s game.
Dallas Mavericks (49-33)
It would have been perfect if LeBron moved to Dallas in 2015, because Tyson Chandler is back. Having James would give the Dallas Mavericks a very dangerous playoff team. The scoring trio of LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, and Monta Ellis would be lethal.
Dallas is considered a contender in the West with the return of Chandler. James would solidify that and give them the assurance to reach the Western Conference Finals. It would be 50/50 from there, as Dallas would likely face the Spurs. If the Spurs click like the machine they are, they would win a quick series. However, if it goes to a long series, Dallas, with LeBron giving more depth, should be able to win it and go on to win their second NBA title in franchise history.
Phoenix Suns (48-34)
The Phoenix Suns nearly made the playoffs last season despite not having a marquee superstar. Goran Dragic will continue to develop as a player, but the Suns don’t have enough good players to even win a first-round series in the tough Western Conference.
The Suns with LeBron leading the way could make a run for the eighth playoff spot next season, but wouldn’t be good enough to beat the Spurs or Thunder in a seven-game first-round playoff series.
The good news is that having LeBron James would have made Kevin Love stay. Adding LeBron would also make young point guard Ricky Rubio happy, because he now would have a recipient that could finish off his sensational passes. That should make the Minnesota Timberwolves a cinch to land one of the last two playoff spots in 2015. Again, this team doesn’t have enough talent to make a deep run in the playoffs, even with King James.
Denver Nuggets (36-46)
The Denver Nuggets have a solid team that doesn’t have a true superstar. However with LeBron James in town, the Nuggets would make the playoffs.
In Denver, LeBron would have to revert back to LeBron Version 1.0 of Cleveland to be able to lead this team. It would be a tougher job to do for a 30-year-old LeBron, who is now used to being surrounded by great players.
Like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron would probably abandon this ship after two or three years because they would be a perennial seven- or eight-seed in the West.
New Orleans Pelicans (34-48)
Davis is the NBA’s next big thing, and having LeBron by his side would make him develop faster as a legit go-to guy.
The Pelicans would be a playoff team in 2015 with LeBron, but they wouldn’t be title contenders unless they added one more star in the summer of 2015.
The combination of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and Ben McLemore is very talented. That being said, chemistry is what the Sacramento Kings need, and adding LeBron wouldn’t exactly solve that.
With this current lineup, plus King James, wouldn’t even make the playoffs at all. Unless they trade some pieces and get players who play well together, not even the King would make these Kings a contender.
LA Lakers (27-55)
It’s pretty hard to imagine how two huge personalities would fit in one city, even in one as big as Hollywood. However, business-wise, the trio of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Jeremy Lin would be a commercial hit.
LeBron would enjoy the bright lights of Los Angeles, but don’t be so sure how Kobe would react to sharing media attention with an equally huge star. That being said if you had a duo of Kobe and LeBron, forget about rankings because that team could beat anybody on any given night.
The thing is they may not be able to win on a daily basis because of Kobe’s age and lack of manpower. 2015 outlook? The Los Angeles Lakers would make the Conference Finals and challenge the Spurs in the West.
Believe it or not, we do believe the Utah Jazz could reach the 2015 Conference Finals with LeBron James.
With LeBron aboard, guys like Gordon Hayward and Steve Novak could go down to the 2-spot and shoot the three-ball. Since LeBron is a playmaker, Exum could also play off the ball. There is a lot of versatility here, which would make this team one to watch out for once it developed with James.