LeBron James' decision to return home changes NBA landscape

LeBron James' decision to return home changes NBA landscape
July 11, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Now that LeBron James has made his decision to return to Cleveland, via Sports Illustrated in a nicely-reasoned letter explaining the move, NBA free agency should truly begin in earnest.

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It's expected that James' former Heat teammate, All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, will sign with Houston — though the Rockets have some business to take care of first, between finalizing their trade of Omer Asik to New Orleans, finding a landing spot for point guard Jeremy Lin and deciding whether to match small forward Chandler Parsons' three-year, $45-million offer sheet to Dallas — agreeing to a reported four-year, $88-million deal.

Carmelo Anthony should also make his decision soon and as of late, the Bulls are reportedly gaining momentum, a notion aided by the fact that neither general manager Gar Forman nor executive vice president John Paxson — and possibly head coach Tom Thibodeau — boarded a team flight Friday to Las Vegas for summer league, opting to instead focus on free agency, according to a source.

James' decision to return to his home state, once a far-fetched idea, started to gain more credibility in recent days and in the league MVP's letter, he not only discussed his preference to bring his family back home, but Cleveland's young roster, including All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, sixth-man scorer Dion Waiters, power forward Tristan Thompson (who is also represented by James' agent, Rich Paul) and one veteran, former teammate Anderson Varejao. One player who wasn't mentioned, however, was No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, fueling the idea that the Cavaliers will package the Kansas swingman in a trade to Minnesota for disgruntled Timberwolves' All-Star power forward Kevin Love.

Even if Love doesn't end up with the Cavs, unless Anthony chooses to relocate to Chicago, the team is now assumed by many observers to be the instant favorites in the Eastern Conference. The All-Star small forward's decision can be viewed in a few different ways: Anthony obviously can make the most money with the Knicks, where the familiarity factor also comes into play; the Bulls offer him a chance to compete with James for a title and the Central Division crown; and the Lakers get him out of the East, avoiding James and reaping the benefits of a proximity to Hollywood, which would aid his wife's career.

[MORE - Bulls, NBA ready for free-agent dominoes to start falling]

Meanwhile, Bosh, the least high-profile member of the former "Big Three," makes the Rockets a front-runner in the West alongside the All-Star duo of Dwight Howard and James Harden, particularly if Parsons is retained, and Wade now faces the choice of either returning to a mostly barren roster in Miami or coming off a postseason in which he's been revealed to no longer be an elite player, seeking out a new destination, likely for a discounted price tag. Although the two parties have never been linked, it is completely out of the question that the Chicago native and the Bulls are a match if the latter doesn't acquire Anthony, let alone Pau Gasol?

James handled his big decision in a decidedly more low-key nature this time around, but just as in 2010, the reverberations from his choice once again affect the entire league.