The NBA's most-coveted free agent should not be the free agent gracing the top of the marquee.
Kevin Durant is great and all, but if I could sign only one star this summer it would be ... LeBron James.
James can opt out of his contract and leave the city of Cleveland again if he wants. But I get it: He'd be committing career suicide if he decided to take his talents anywhere else. Cavs fans might want to set fire to more than his jersey.
Still, if I'm ranking free agents on my list and I want to win now ... James holds the top spot over Durant.
Sure, Durant, 27, is four years younger than James. He's built for this small-ball era, a 6-foot-11 forward who can score from every angle. He's become a tough competitor through the years, especially playing alongside Russell Westbrook.
But I'm taking LeBron because, well, trips to the NBA Finals just follow him around.
I'll take the guy who is getting me title shots -- even if his window to win now is only four, maybe five more years.
James is making his sixth consecutive Finals appearance and seventh overall in his 13-year career. He drove the Heat to four consecutive appearances and the Cavs to three during his two Ohio stints.
Yes, he's only won twice, earning both championships in Miami, but Durant is ringless.
Durant has one Finals appearance with the Thunder, losing in 2011-12 to ... LeBron and the Heat.
James makes his teammates better, from Lake Erie to South Beach, in a way Durant hasn't quite mastered.
Obviously, KD has been playing in a much tougher conference than LeBron, increasing the degree of difficulty in the journey. And it's why what just happened to Durant will sting his reputation for a while and feed the speculation of him leaving OKC for greener grass.
Having dispatched perennial heavyweight contender San Antonio, Durant and the Thunder had defending champion Golden State on the ropes -- and couldn't deliver the knockout punch.
Fair or not, Durant is seen as the superstar who could not carry OKC to the Finals even after the Thunder seized a 3-1 lead. In a critical Game 6, on his home court, Durant was 10-of-31 and 1-of-8 from three-point range in the loss to the Warriors.
Golden State, as expected, won Game 7 in Oakland for the right to face James and the Cavs for the second consecutive season.
Curry and the Warriors have now out-flanked Durant and the Thunder in the West.
Golden State's rise has led to rumors that there's a mutual admiration between the Warriors and Durant. The Warriors present one of the few places where Durant will have a better chance to win, along with perhaps San Antonio.
The inn looks full in Cleveland, but Miami could be an option for Durant if he wanted to live on the beach and not an iceberg.
Beyond wild speculation, no one knows if the outcome of the Finals against Golden State would have any immediate impact on LeBron's future.
There's a school of thought -- advanced by the Stephen A. Smith School of Hot Takes -- that LeBron would consider a return to Miami if he fulfills his promise and leads the Cavs to Cleveland's first major sports title since 1964.
It doesn't make any sense at this point, of course, and even Smith says LeBron's camp has shot down the boomerang theory.
You couldn't blame the Heat for wanting him back, though. Because the thing that makes perfect sense to me about James is this: If you want your season to end in the Finals, he'd still the best free-agent bet going.
Sports on 06/03/2016
Print Headline: Top free agent is James, not Durant