It's only February, and speculation about LeBron James' plans this summer, when he can opt into free agency, are already at a fever pitch. The newly-minted 30,000-point scorer is said to be souring on the Cavs and eager to ride out of Ohio at his first opportunity.
The Lakers have long been mentioned as potential landing spot and teams like the Rockets, Suns and Sixers could be in the mix. But Wednesday ESPN dropped a new, game-changing team name into the mix: The Warriors.
Here's ESPN's Chris Haynes explaining why:
James' distant relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is well-chronicled, and the instability in Cleveland's front office has been of concern to him, but the Warriors' strong organizational structure and the prospect of more championships would be an enticement that most veteran players would consider.
James and his business team have been known to covet structure, if he were to leave his hometown team. With Golden State, an ultra-aggressive general manager in Bob Myers, the ownership group as a whole and coach Steve Kerr are the epitome of that.
If LeBron did some how join the Warriors, the defending NBA champs would have to make some changes first. ESPN mentions the possibility of dumping Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in order to clear up the cap space needed to sign LeBron to a max deal. Draymond Green could get the boot too, possibly in a sing-and-trade deal for LeBron that sends the former Michigan State star back to the Midwest.
Whatever the Warriors would do to make room for LeBron, they'd likely leave Steph Curry and Kevin Durant alone in an attempt to establish the greatest trio in NBA history.
In reality though, there's little chance LeBron flies west and lands in Oakland. Not only are the puzzle pieces difficult to fit together, but LeBron would be subjecting himself to the same insults that Durant heard when he joined the Warriors.
LeBron cares about winning, but he also cares about his legacy, and it's hard to imagine him giving millions of NBA fans license to call him soft.
Another question worth asking: Would the Warriors be better with LeBron than they are with Thompson and Green? The answer is almost certainly yes, but it's not a slam dunk. Thompson and Green compliment Curry and Durant. Adding another scorer who wants the ball in his hands could complicate things in Golden State.
At least, that's the conventional wisdom. This time next year we could know the answer.