The biggest misconception out there right now in my opinion is that the supporting casts in Cleveland, Chicago, New Jersey and Miami give LeBron the better chance to win than in New York. This is completely unfounded in my most cases, and although there is still plenty of time for rosters to be shaken up before next season tips, let's take a look at each team's roster along with each player's 2009-2010 PER.
Cleveland- Shaq is likely gone for sure after this season. If LeBron were to resign, this leaves the Cavs (who traded their 1st in this year's draft the Washington) with a projected starting lineup of-
PG- Mo Williams 16.18
SG- Anthony Parker 9.95/Delonte West 13.86
SF- LeBron 31.19/Jamario Moon 12.68
PF- Antawn Jamison 17.33/JJ Hickson 15.26
C- Anderson Varejao 15.87
Williams and Jamison are overpayed role players who both had atrocious playoffs, and another year older. Parker is a bench player on most teams, good shooter who has severely declined on the defensive side of the ball. West had a poor season and an very poor playoff performance. Hickson is a solid young player and a possible starter on some teams, but many of his baskets are easy looks off of LeBron dimes. Varejao is an excellent pick and roll player and defender, and the only player who, if I'm making a team, I actually want. In my opinion the only possible reason for James to stay in Cleveland would be the loyalty factor, which unfortunately can't be overlooked.
Chicago- The Bulls are in position to offer LeBron a max, and that would be the end of their cap space. They hold the 17th pick in this year's draft and will likely look to address their huge void in perimeter shooting. In my opinion they will likely shop Deng heavily for a cheaper, better shooting SG or SF. The idea that Cleveland would give Chicago the oppurtunity to sign two max free agents by accepting a sign and trade that would send Deng to Cleveland for James is absolutely ridiculous.
PG- Derrick Rose 18.69/Kirk Hinrich 11.61
SG- LeBron James 31.19/Flip Murray 11.71
SF- Luol Deng 16.14/James Johnson 10.43
PF- Taj Gibson 13.82/James Johnson 10.43
C- Joakim Noah 17.96
The latest buzz has been that Chicago is the best place for James to bolt for because of their core of Rose and Noah. A Rose/James backcourt would be a disaster in my opinion. Both players dominate the ball and need the ball in their hands to be effective. Neither is a good enough perimeter shooter to play well off of the other, and the team as a whole would have a severe lack of perimeter shooters. Deng is a solid starter, but his lack of a consistent 3 point shot makes him a poor compliment to Rose and James, and he is not worth his sizable contract. Gibson is a nice player, good rebounder and solid defender but a guy more suited to coming off of the bench. I'm a big Noah fan, and his energy and defense make him a quality starter on any team. If Chicago can nab a player like Butler's Gordon Hayward with the 17th pick, and somehow acquire more shooters they become a much scarier option to Knicks fans.
Miami- The Heat will have space to sign two max free agents, and will almost assuredly resign Dwyane Wade. They hold the 18th pick in this year's draft, and will likely look for an upgrade at PG or C.
PG- Carlos Arroyo 12.38/Mario Chalmers 10.74
SG- Dwyane Wade 28.1/Daquan Cook 7.50
SF- LeBron James 31.19/Dorell Wright 14.56
PF- Michael Beasley 16.16
C- Joel Anthony 10.25
Should the Heat acquire James, PG would be a minor issue as Wade and James would dominate the ball. Still, if the Heat were to acquire Eric Bledsoe in the draft, they shore up a position of need. Beasley has been an enormous disappointment, and his lack of maturity and motor bring into question whether he will be anything but that. Center is a huge position of need. The bench is extremely weak. Miami seems an unlikely destination for James to me, as their roster is absolutely awful and I'm not sure James would embrace sharing the spotlight with number 3. Still, his relationship with Wade, Pat Riley maybe returning to coach and the lure of South Beach make them a definite option.
New Jersey- The Nets have the ability to offer James the max, and have the best shot at the #1 selection (i.e. John Wall) in this year's draft.
PG- Devin Harris 16.28/Keyon Dooling 11.6
SG- Courtney Lee 12.88/Dooling 11.6
SF- LeBron James 31.19/Terrance Williams 11.58
PF- Kris Humphries 16.37/Yi Jianlian 12.32
The Nets will add a quality player in the draft, even if they don't land Wall. Still, the theory that LeBron would base his decision to play in NJ on the drafting of an unproven rookie like Wall or Turner is farfetched. Harris had an awful year and is a lock to be traded should the Nets draft Wall. I question if a Wall/James backcourt would even work (similar problems to a Rose/James backcourt). Brook Lopez is a fantastic young player and a legit 2nd or 3rd option on a championship squad. Unfortunately, the good news for Nets fans ends there. The Nets were obviously god awful last season, and lottery pick Terrance Williams was unwatchable. Lee is a decent young player, but the rest of the roster are scrubs. The move to Brooklyn (if it ever happens) is several years down the road. The Nets remain a longshot for James' services.
New York- The Knicks have the ability to sign two max free agents, and hold no 1st round selection.
PG- Toney Douglas 14.95
SG- LeBron James 30.19/Bill Walker 14.64
SF- Danilo Gallinari 14.89/Bill Walker 14.64
PF- Wilson Chandler 13.76
C- ?/Eddy Curry -1.84
The Knicks will have to use their two 2nd round picks and the MLE to acquire much needed size should they sign James and another max free agent. Chris Bosh has to be the target to bring to NY along with James. I am assuming that Walsh will exercise the team option on Walker's contract since he is incredibly cheap to retain, and he showed an impressive stroke from the perimeter last season. Douglas' lack of court vision expected from a starting PG would be negated by James ball handling ability, and Douglas would provide great defense and shooting ability from the 1. Gallinari improved his defense throughout the season, showed great improvement on the offensive end towards the end of the season, and a healthy back next year season could mean a breakout year. Chandler needs to be traded this offseason, he is a terrible fit in Mike D's system and perhaps Walsh could acquire a 1st round selection for him. The Knicks will likely look for help at PG as C, and Bledsoe and Alabi need to be targets of Walsh. The Knicks can offer James the greatest roster flexibility, but that same flexibility could hurt them as they only have four players locked up for next season. Still, doesn't anyone else think a lineup of Douglas/James/Gallo/Bosh/Alabi could do some serious damage in the East right away and improve significantly in following seasons? If James is willing to wait a couple of years, bringing Bosh along to NY could mean several championships down the road. The bench is a huge question though, and the Knicks management needs to execute this offseason and prove that there is a solid foundation in place.
I think it will come down to New York and Chicago, but both teams have serious work to do this offseason to mold their teams to James' liking. My gut says NY, but we'll see.