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It's an interesting argument either way. But in your opinion, did the Cavs-Lakers trade make it more likely that LeBron James stays in Cleveland, or did it actually help the Lakers clear a path to sign James themselves this summer or next?
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Steve Aschburner: To me, the Lakers were going to do whatever it took to position themselves to woo LeBron James when he’s available whether Cleveland helped in that endeavor or not. No real change, then, from the West Coast. But big change in northeast Ohio, where taking the ax to a moribund Cavs roster was essential to stay in James’ good graces. Maybe Cleveland won’t win another title or even reach the Finals with its new supporting players, but it surely was going nowhere with the previous group. That’s why I said on NBA TV that Thursday was less Trade Deadline Day than early Valentine’s Day, with the Cavaliers courting LeBron with flowers, chocolates and a Hallmark card. He and his new crew, though, will have to take care of the jewelry.
Tas Melas: I give the edge to Cleveland. This day will be known as the trade deadline when the Cavs opened the door for the Lakers to sign LeBron, but they already had room to sign him this summer and would have made the requisite moves (trade Jordan Clarkson, stretch Luol Deng, etc.) around the draft if both Paul George and Bron had tickets to LAX. In truth, this day was about the perpetual power LeBron James holds over the Cavs’ front office. He signs 1-year deals for this very effect and 35-year-old GM Koby Altman handled it marvelously. LeBron now has the youthful exuberance around him that he could get by signing in LA without having to move his family and life across the country.
Shaun Powell: Maybe the correct answer is: Both and Neither. Let's explain: The Lakers cleared up enough room to sign two A-list free agents or perhaps three if they make some additional financial decisions next summer. This allows them to blend young players (Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram) with ready-to-win veterans. But the Cavs drained the swamp of players who were bad fits/bad contracts without sacrificing quality and also kept the 2018 Brooklyn pick, which helps them both now and in the future. Bottom line is LeBron will pick whomever he wants, and the team that gives him the best chance of winning. Which means he's going to the Houston Rockets.
John Schuhmann: I believe those who say that James wasn't (and isn't) going to make a decision about his future until the season was over. But it was clear, by the lack of effort he displayed on defense, that he was not fully engaged with the Cavs as they were constituted prior to Thursday. The changes made can only help the on-court performance and the chemistry and, therefore, help the team's chances of retaining its star. The Lakers did give themselves the chance to sign two max free agents this summer. But a Lakers team with James, another max player, and their collection of young guys probably isn't as ready to compete for a championship as next season's Cavs would be should he stay in Cleveland.
Sekou Smith: I don't believe the happenings at the trade deadline did anything to sway LeBron one way or the other. To suggest something like gutting a team at the trade deadline would do anything interrupt or even impact the calculation of LeBron's master plan ignores his NBA history. He doesn't make his decisions on the whims of others or by taking the temperature of things at the moment. I've felt all along that it will be tough for the Cavaliers to keep him in the fold, especially if he's decided that he doesn't want to continue grinding away in a situation that he cannot control (to the extent that he's comfortable with how things run from top to bottom). At this stage of his career, I don't know what the strongest motivators are for LeBron. The title-chaser who went to Miami isn't the same guy who will make his choice in July. Trying to predict what happens for this summer's version of The Decision is for those who are gluttons for punishment. And yes, my gut tells me he's gone ... but I have no clue where he might end up.
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