Bulls figure to be low on the list of LeBron's preferred destinations

  • Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James argues a call with referee Jason Phillips during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Cleveland.

    Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James argues a call with referee Jason Phillips during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Cleveland. Associated Press

Updated 6/9/2018 6:57 PM

A sunset dinner cruise on Lake Michigan.

Face time with Scottie Pippen ("Hey, I'm 6-0 in the Finals, too").


Mansion shopping with Chance the Rapper or Barack Obama. Maybe both if they're available.

A tour of the Advocate Center, where Lauri Markkanen just happens to be in the gym, draining a long string of 3-pointers.

Yes, the Bulls could make a viable free-agent recruiting pitch to LeBron James. In theory, at least.

If James decides to leave Cleveland following his sixth career NBA Finals defeat, the next step is anyone's guess. James has the power to single-handedly make some team a Finals contender, especially if they play in the Eastern Conference.

An argument could be made that the Bulls have a promising nucleus already, plus the flexibility to add more pieces if James chose Chicago. Don't forget, the Bulls were the early favorite to land James in 2010 free-agency and he called Derrick Rose to discuss the possibility a few days after the Cavs lost to Boston in the playoffs that year.

It won't happen, for a couple of reasons. First of all, James isn't likely to see the Bulls' young nucleus as a ticket to beating the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls might have a bright-ish future, but James is likely to remember last year's noncompetitive games at the United Center and the Bulls trying to lose games late in the season. He needs a little more win-certainty at age 33.

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The Bulls also are not likely to make James a target. By trading Jimmy Butler last year, they set in motion a slow, gradual rebuild and made sure to set expectations low. They intend to pursue that path, not go all-in on a long-shot free agent.

If James told the Bulls he wants in, then it's a different story, but also more of a science-fiction story; one that is unlikely to become reality.

James choosing his next team is the storyline that will captivate the NBA world this summer. At this point, there is no clear favorite, but let's consider the possibilities:

Cleveland: Not out of the question he'll stay at home, considering he has kids closing in on high school. The Cavs seemed hopeless at times this season, but general manager Koby Altman did pull off a drastic makeover at midseason, so better changes are always possible. Cleveland also has the No. 8 pick in the draft, right behind the Bulls, from last summer's Kyrie Irving trade.


Houston: This could be the NBA's next superteam, but the Rockets would likely need James and free-agent Chris Paul to take substantial discounts. Houston owes Eric Gordon $13.5 million this season and Ryan Anderson $41.7 million over the next two years. Good luck moving that contract.

L.A. Lakers: With James branching into television and film production, Los Angeles could be a desirable destination. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball might bring some veterans in a trade and by dumping Jordan Clarkson on the Cavs at midseason, the Lakers have a better chance of luring Paul George as a teammate. Lavar Ball wouldn't object to James stealing his thunder, would he?

Philadelphia: This would probably be the easiest path to a winning situation. By signing J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson to one-year deals, the Sixers have the cap room to sign James outright. He could drop right into a lineup of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz. Trust the process.

Boston: People like to mention the Celtics as a possibility, but they're capped out. Maybe Cleveland could trade James for Kyrie Irving.

Miami: Dwyane Wade could promise to not retire, but it would take some major miracles to create any cap space.

San Antonio: The team culture fits, but the Spurs have no cap space and trading Kawhi Leonard for James would leave a supporting cast of Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge.

L.A. Clippers: It's still Los Angeles, right? Now if the Clips could only go back in time and not spend $64 million on Danilo Gallinari.

New York: Broadway LeBron isn't going to hinge his NBA farewell on Kristaps Porzingis coming back from a torn ACL.

Most of the NBA's better teams don't have cap space to sign James as a free agent. So if the Bulls got involved, it would probably be to do a little bargain shopping with a team looking to unload salary.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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