CREIGHT EXPECTATIONS

Patrick Creighton: Why LeBron To Houston makes the most sense

Lebron James would look good in Rockets red. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After the Cavaliers got embarrassed in the NBA Finals, there should be no doubt that LeBron James is on his way out the door.  The only questions are where to and for how much.

The three teams most linked to James are the Lakers, the Sixers and the Rockets.  The Lakers and Sixers both have cap space to sign James outright, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they fit LeBron’s wish list.

What we know about LeBron is that he wants to win championships, and win them now. The Lakers and Sixers offer lots of young talent, but young talent that isn’t necessarily ready to challenge the Warriors this coming season.  James isn’t looking to wait, nor is he looking to raise a bunch of kids and hope they get where he wants them to be.

LeBron would be the only veteran star in Philly, alongside a talented but injury prone Joel Embiid, a good young player in Ben Simmons who can’t shoot, and a big unknown in Markelle Fultz. Also, the snafu involving former team president Bryan Colangelo can’t be in their favor, as head coach Brett Brown is now interim president.

The Lakers also offer young talent, but it’s VERY young, and not likely ready to combat the Warriors.  Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are only 20 years old, and Kyle Kuzma is 22. While LeBron may be able to take a second star with him (Paul George or Boogie Cousins?) that’s a lot of child raising for James, who has always been more interested in veterans than kids.  Add in LaVar Ball’s constant commentary, and it’s not hard to see the downsides to LA for LeBron.

All of this brings us to the Rockets. Houston already has one superstar locked up in James Harden, and has Bird Rights on Chris Paul making it most likely he re-ups in Space City (as president of the NBPA who just got the Over-36 Rule changed to the Over-38 rule so he could get one last max deal, bank on it).  Houston is the only one of the three teams where LeBron knows he doesn’t have to carry the load for the duration of the regular season. Houston has an established head coach & general manager, which neither of the other two teams can offer. Rockets new owner Tilman Fertitta will pay the dollars to bring a title to Houston.

Without a doubt, LeBron’s best chance to beat the Warriors is in Houston.

Now, the only way James makes it to Houston is by opting in to the final year of his deal, and the Cavaliers trading him to the Rockets. While it seems like this would be the most complicates route, it’s also the route that makes the most sense for Cleveland.

Rather than lose LeBron for nothing to the Sixers or Lakers, the Cavs can get assets from the Rockets to assist in their newfound rebuild.  A package built around Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker makes the most sense for Cleveland, as both of those players have reasonable contracts and have value – the kind of value that nets a first round pick in a trade by the deadline.  Any deal would also likely require two first round picks from Houston (2019, 2021), the inclusion of young developmental bigs Chinanu Onuaku and Zhou Qi, and some salary filler (Nene?) to make sure that both teams comply with the 25% rule since they are both salary cap taxpayers.

That creates a potential of four first round picks plus two young bigs for losing LeBron to jumpstart the rebuild.  Even if they are later 1st round picks, four first round picks > no first round picks, every single time.

As an added bonus, by flipping Gordon and Tucker for picks by the deadline, and presuming that Kevin Love would also be dealt for draft assets, the Cavs could reduce their cap not only out of taxpayer status, but completely under the cap to about $78M.  George Hill could also be dealt for draft assets because he’s in the final year of his deal, but worst case scenario is that he plays the year out in Cleveland, the Cavs renounce his rights at the end of the season, and they remove another $19M from the cap, bringing their cap down to approximately $59M after one season from over $130M.  When you consider that massive change in cap allocation plus the 6-7 first round draft picks they could realistically acquire, this is an absolute no brainer for The Land.

LeBron gets to the best team to help him win in Houston, Cleveland gets jumpstarted on their rebuild with tons of picks and loses a boatload of salary in one season.  This is what we call a win-win.

The only #NewMath required will be the money you need for your season tickets, which will be going up if the Rockets are paying James ($35.6M), and re-signing Paul & Clint Capela with Bird rights to cover that massive salary and tax bill.  

Having LeBron with Paul and Harden will be worth it.

Patrick Creighton hosts “Late Hits” weeknights 7-9p on ESPN 97.5 Houston, and “Straight Heat” weeknights 9p-12a CT on SB Nation Radio & SportsMap 94.1 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1

 

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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