Lebron James is the greatest basketball player in the world. Some might argue he’s the greatest of all-time. On the merits of his abilities, Lebron is a no-brainer pursuit for any general manager with aspirations of winning. But Lebron James has baggage. He left Cleveland the first time around, and will be leaving them again, in complete ruins, largely in part due to his overbearing influence (or stranglehold?) on team personnel decisions. Win now moves mortgaged the team’s future both times around. And there were numerous reports regarding issues involving accommodations for Lebron’s associates while he was with the Heat.
This all leads to Daryl Morey’s agency dilemma. Like so many other top men in various industries, Morey is on the verge of building something that might have gotten too big for him to handle. I think back to the days in the wake of Yao Ming’s final injury when Morey couldn’t even get Marcin Gortat to commit. Houston had sort of become something of a punchline in the commentariat, with Morey’s desperate attempts characterized by iPads and fan minivans. But the James Harden trade changed everything, and subsequently, Morey landed two top-10 superstars in Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, both of whom were in their primes at the point of acquisition. This summer, he’s in the discussion for Lebron James, and according to Vegas, may be a lot more than just “in the discussion.”
But is he entrenched enough to win a power struggle with James if it came to it? There’s no doubt in my mind that Morey is willing to take on that risk given what James would do to increase the odds for ultimate glory. It also helps that Lebron will be 34 and Morey has a younger superstar in James Harden already in his corner. In fact, in the league today, you could probably argue that there is no more robust GM-coach-star ecosystem than Morey, Mike D’Antoni, and James Harden. The Rockets have the infrastructure in place to mitigate whatever risks Lebron may carry. Chris Paul as a liaison doesn’t hurt, considering the success the team already enjoyed this season.
This would be the first time in Lebron’s career that he would not have total control over his team’s personnel decisions. But Lebron himself most likely knows that he’ll have to be a mercenary if he hopes to dethrone Golden State.