LeBron James FA Profile: Chasing the White Whale

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is a free agent and the Mavericks have a lot of cap space. Do those two correlate? Well...maybe not.

Let's get something out of the way right now: the Dallas Mavericks are not going to sign LeBron James. He has an "Early Termination Option" this off season, which he may or may not exercise in order to sign another long term deal in Miami. Some amazing rumors say he, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh may all opt out and resign at lower deals in order to give the Heat room to sign Carmelo Anthony. But I'm not here to discuss the apocalypse.

So why even give LeBron a second thought if there is no chance? Because he's one of the best basketball players to exist in the history of the game, and we don't get a chance to write about him in a context that doesn't paint him as a villain. There are also probably a few people out there thinking "I don't want LeBron James to be a Maverick". Well... you sir or madam, are insane.

Strengths and Weaknesses

This feels like a trick question, because the only player in the world who comes close to LeBron's talent level is current MVP, Kevin Durant. The strength of James lies in the fact that he has the body of Karl Malone, with the vision of Magic Johnson, paired with the team understanding of Bill Russell. Durant may be one of the greats of all time when it's said and done, but James is so utterly dominating right now that it's hard to contextualize properly. The casual fan often has disdain for James precisely because he's so freaking amazing. In a "down" year in 2013-14, LeBron averaged 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal-and-a-half per game. He shot 57 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep, and posted a regular season PER of 29.3.

If anything, the weakness of James stems from the fact that he's so bloody brilliant. He's been in the league 11 seasons and put on over 40,000 minutes. To give this some frame of reference, Dirk Nowitzki has played 15 seasons and accumulated 46,000 minutes. LeBron James is tired. Being one of the top two players in the league means he's going to play as much as he's physically able. Over time, he's learned to conserve his energy because the regular season is too long for a guy who has played (literally) an entire extra season of basketball since joining the Heat once you factor in playoff games -- and don't forget several stints with Team USA.

My heart keeps telling me LeBron will be playing basketball until his late 30's, but it's entirely possible, even likely that his best days are behind him. Not that that should matter, because for at least 3-5 more years LeBron will still be better than all but perhaps a handful of players in the league.

Potential Fit with the Mavericks

Well considering Dallas doesn't have a decent small forward on the roster at the moment (Jae Crowder and Ricky Ledo are IT for the moment), an all time great would fit right in, if he were to decide to give Dallas a shot. His play making would fit perfectly with Dirk's ability to space the floor. After all, Heat teammate Chris Bosh is simply a less offensively talented version of Dirk when you boil it down. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis would each benefit from LeBron's ability to space the floor and drive towards the rim. Even whatever lug the Mavericks throw out at center would benefit. Like Dirk, James elevates those around him. He's also an All-NBA talent defensively when he's not exhausted.

  • Potential deal: Whatever in the Sam Hell he wants, for as long as the CBA permits.
  • Probability LeBron becomes a Maverick: 1%. Never say never, but this is a pipe dream.

Additional Reading

Ethan Sherwood Strauss looks into LeBron vs Father Time a bit, echoing some of the worries echoed above.

Jason Gallagher goes undercover as one of those guys who makes memes and it turned out fantastic.

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