LeBron to…Minnesota?!?

John Hollinger writes in his latest PER Diem (Insider subscription required) that LeBron’s best bet for long term success may not be in Cleveland…or New York…or New Jersey/Brooklyn…

And it’s especially worth noting that if the Cavs are back in the 45-50 win range this season, King James might be a much more portable commodity this coming summer. If he’s looking at a Cleveland lineup with one majestically talented player and several spare parts, one would think the comparison to such arrangements in New York or New Jersey wouldn’t be dramatically different.

But those aren’t close to being the most palatable changes of uniform available. For instance, it bears mentioning that joining the Chicago squad LeBron’s team lost to Thursday night would be dramatically different. With a young star point guard, quality big men and lots of secondary help, the Bulls — who could get as much as $20 million under the cap if John Salmons opts out of his contract, conveniently opening a spot in the lineup for LeBron at the same time — would offer a more clear opportunity for long-term success.

Let me throw out an even crazier proposition — Minnesota. The Wolves will have the cap space to make a run at LeBron, depending on a few variables — or at the very least can get there fairly easily if they know there’s a chance for a player of this caliber. (Declining an option on Ryan Gomes, for instance, is done much more easily if it allows you to replace him with the best player in the league.)

Minnesota is generally thought of as one of the NBA’s least-desirable relocation options, but let’s consider it from a winning perspective. Who would you rather play with for the next five years: Al Jefferson or Anderson Varejao? Kevin Love or Ilgauskas? Ricky Rubio or Mo Williams? Jonny Flynn or West? Ramon Sessions or Daniel Gibson? Next year’s fourth pick or next year’s 24th? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong — the T-Wolves would be a good fit for LeBron, but he’d be a pretty good fit anywhere. I just don’t see him taking his show from one cold, small-market Midwestern city to another cold, small-market Midwestern city. If he doesn’t stay in Cleveland, then there seem to be three real options:

1. Brooklyn Nets
With Devin Harris and Brook Lopez locked up for the next few years, the Nets have two All-Star caliber players already on the roster at two of the toughest positions to fill — point guard and center. Is the penetrating Harris the perfect fit alongside LeBron? Not necessarily, but if the Nets can find a sharpshooting off guard (Courtney Lee?) and face up power forward (a la Rashard Lewis), the Nets would really be in business. Plus, the move to Brooklyn would take away the stigma of playing in New Jersey.

2. Chicago Bulls
It would break the city of Cleveland’s heart if LeBron fled to the Windy City. New York or Brooklyn? Cleveland fans wouldn’t like it, but they’d understand. But if LeBron heads to Chicago, home of the team that stepped on the Cavs’ throats so many times during the Jordan era, the city might explode. From a pure basketball point of view, it’s a nice fit. They already have Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and maybe Tyrus Thomas. Chicago is also a threat to pry Dwyane Wade out of Miami.

3. New York Knicks
This is more about MSG and the spotlight than who the Knicks have on the roster. Playing in Mike D’Antoni’s system would be nice, and if the Knicks can unload either Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries, they’d have enough cap space to sign another free agent to max deal. This might be a case of the Knicks having to coax Chris Bosh out of Toronto or Amare Stoudemire out of Phoenix before being able to convince LeBron to sign on the dotted line.

We’re only a couple of weeks into the season and the talk is already starting. The Cavs have plenty of time to morph into a 60-win team, but right now they don’t look it. And the longer they struggle, the louder the drum beat is going to sound.

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