We already know that LeBron James could leave Cleveland after next season, but for Bill Simmons, it’s a near certainty. He explained how he sees it all going down on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. And his theory involves a lot more people than just LeBron James.
"I do genuinely, honestly, truly believe LeBron will be on the Lakers next year," Simmons begins. "I think that’s how this is going to play out."
The first piece of evidence: The Cavs are still in win-now mode.
"[LeBron] has not committed long term to the Cleveland Cavaliers," Simmons says. "Everything they’re doing is kind of short term, win-now, fix-it stuff. They tried to shop Kyrie for help. They claim they didn’t, but they did. They shopped Kevin Love all over the place. I think they’re stuck with this year’s team."
Second piece: He already delivered on his promise to bring a title to Cleveland.
"And win or lose, he brought Cleveland a title," Simmons says. "He has an out. He can finish his career in Los Angeles."
There are a bunch of other reasons why LeBron might move to L.A.
"His business is here, as we’ve discussed, his family has a giant house here, as we’ve discussed," Simmons says. "And most important, they have a ton of cap space."
But that’s only the beginning. Simmons sees a much bigger picture that could come together.
"What if I told you that 12 months from now, LeBron James, Paul George, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins will all be on the Los Angeles Lakers together?" he says. "Conspiracy Bill has some things that he doesn’t like about what’s going on. I think the LeBron James–[to]-L.A. [story], he hasn’t come out and denied it. Everyone’s talking about it in the league, it became public last month. He knows they’re talking about it and hasn’t said anything. Hasn’t said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m so tired of hearing this. I want to finish my career in Cleveland.’"
Plus, Los Angeles gives LeBron the best foundation for life off the court.
"[LeBron] came home, he brought them a title. He did an incredible amount of stuff with the scholarships in Akron and the college program. He’s amazing. It’s an unassailable resume if he leaves now. ‘I did my best, we spent a lot of money, and now I’m going to finish my career in Los Angeles and I’m going to try to become a billionaire.’ And I think that’s where this goes. I think he’s going to say, ‘My idols are Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. I believe I’m on the same level as those guys, and part of having an awesome career is the career after the career, and that’s what I’m starting to think about. I want to own an NBA team. I want to be a media mogul, I want to be a billionaire, and to do all this I have to be in L.A., and I’m going to go there now.’"
Wait a second. Back up. LeBron, Paul George, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins on the Lakers. Really? Here’s why Simmons thinks it could happen:
"Here’s the interesting part," Simmons says. "So, John Wall, represented by Klutch — Rich Paul — LeBron’s buddy. LeBron, it’s pretty clear he either owns Klutch or funded it or has a stake in it. You could have John Wall and LeBron. Paul George is going to the Lakers anyway. I mean, that’s not even a secret anymore. It’s just like, they might as well start selling his jersey. And I always thought John Wall and Boogie are a team."
It’s true that Cousins isn’t represented by Klutch or Rich Paul, but he has been friends with John Wall since their Kentucky days.
"I feel like 2018, I think that summer they’re like, ‘We’re a package deal,’" Simmons says. "So they go to L.A. If [the Lakers] can get rid of the Luol Deng contract, use first-round picks [in a deal] just to get rid of them. I don’t think they’d have to use Brandon Ingram. The market for getting rid of a contract is a first-round pick at this point. So you have Lonzo under contract and Ingram, which is about, I don’t know, $11, $12 million combined."
That could be enough cap space for all four guys, depending on where the ceiling is set and how they divvy up the money.
"Maybe like $96 million [in space] for the four guys," Simmons says. "LeBron takes less. LeBron takes $20 because they secretly promise him 2 percent of the team after he retires. He’ll make up the money. $20 million, so he leaves, let’s say, $75 million for the other three. They split it up, $25 million a piece. And the 2018 Lakers — John Wall, LeBron, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Boogie, and Lonzo off the bench. That’s something."
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.