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Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Updated: July 22, 5:32 PM ET
Teams will find a fit for LeBron

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

LeBron James wasn't invited to All-Star Weekend, but judging by the buzz in Atlanta, you would have never known.

LeBron James
If your team already has a parking spot reserved for LeBron, it ain't a good sign.

The draft is still months away, but the buzz is palatable. LeBron is more than just another great basketball prospect; he represents hope to the thousands of fans who are suffering through the Cavs' wretched turnover, the Nuggets' painful rebuilding process or Jerry Krause's latest edition of the, "Franchises, not players, win championships" tour.

However, now that another young kid, 7-foot Yugoslavian Darko Milicic is in the draft, the most asked question in Atlanta was, "Is LeBron James still the No. 1 pick?" If Darko is as good as advertised, would teams be crazy to draft a guard over a big man? Especially if they already had an established swingman?

There's a pretty simple answer to the question. Darko could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon and it wouldn't matter. Given the ticket sales and fan interest LeBron will generate, no team, regardless of its needs, is going to pass on him.

Trade who you have to trade. LeBron will get you sellouts for the next 10 years.

Play the LeBron Lottery!
Your favorite team may not have the league's worst record, but that doesn't mean they won't get LeBron. What are the odds of each team landing LeBron? Play the The LeBron Lottery to find out where he could be headed.

Still, there are skeptics.

Warriors' fans wonder why they would draft LeBron, when you already have the backcourt of the future in Gilbert Arenas and slam-dunk champion Jason Richardson. The Cavs have an even bigger log-jam with Ricky Davis, Darius Miles and Dajuan Wagner already fighting for minutes. And more than one writer has wondered how James could co-exist with Vince Carter after the nasty breakup with Tracy McGrady a few years back.

No need to worry. We're here to calm everyone down. Need to know how LeBron would fit on your lottery contender? We have the answers (in order of current worst record).

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs' three best players all play the same position as LeBron. Wouldn't they be better off with Darko? No way. James is from Akron and the Ohio native would instantly renew interest in Cleveland. Remember, LeBron draws more fans to his home games than the Cavs do. If LeBron comes to town, the Cavs have two options: They could make LeBron a point guard and keep everyone else around; or they could easily move Davis or Miles for a legit four.

Dajuan Wagner, Ricky Davis
If the hometown Cavs get LeBron, they may run Dajuan Wagner or Ricky Davis out of town.

2. Denver Nuggets
This is a no-brainer. The Nuggets' starting backcourt consists of an undrafted rookie, Junior Harrington, and a second-round pick, Vincent Yarbrough. Considering that the Nuggets will make a hard run at Arenas this summer, a backcourt of Arenas and James would immediately give the Nuggets one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.

3. Memphis Grizzlies
With all of the success Jerry West has had with Kobe, you think he'd pass on LeBron because of a little log-jam? Sure, he has Michael Dickerson signed to a longterm deal, Wesley Person for one more year, super sub Shane Battier waiting in the wings and rookie Gordan Giricek dialing from deep. But LeBron's potential blows them out of the water. Person will be gone in a year, Battier and Giricek have some trade value and Dickerson? Well, given his medical history, do you really think it will be an issue?

4. Toronto Raptors
McGrady had issues sharing the spotlight with Carter. Will Carter have issues sharing it with LeBron? Probably not. Carter has been begging the Raptors to get him a sidekick since T-Mac left for Orlando. Carter blames his bad press and recent injury problems on the enormous load he carries every night. After getting burned by the intense media glare at the All-Star Game, Carter would probably love to let LeBron take the heat for a while.

5. Miami Heat
Pat Riley has been looking for a savior since Alonzo Mourning went down with his kidney illness and LeBron may be the answer to his problems. Of course, there will be issues. Rookie Caron Butler has secured his position as the team's small forward and Eddie Jones is manning the two. Riley would love to move Jones to make room for James, but with Jones' $12 million salary, Riley probably won't have much luck. We keep hearing that 'Bron can play the point. Think he can beat out Anthony Carter?

6. Chicago Bulls
Krause thought he could win championships without MJ. He was wrong. Jay Williams has the potential to be special, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler may be terrorizing folks in a few more years and Jalen Rose can be clutch. But LeBron? Let's just put it this way ... the magic would be back at the United Center.

7. Los Angeles Clippers
I know what you're thinking. There should be some sort of rule against the Clippers reaping such a windfall. This team already has more young talent than any other team in the league. With that said, LeBron would be a pretty good fit. Shooting guard is the one area that the Clippers haven't found a star yet. Quentin Richardson and Keyon Dooling have been good, but neither player has the potential of LeBron. If the Clippers land the kid, you can pretty much expect them to dump the rest of their roster anyway. As long as Darth Donald is selling tickets, nothing else really matters.

8. Atlanta Hawks
LeBron would be godsend. Ira Newble may be a great defender and Jason Terry may be a great scorer but both have major flaws. Newble can't play offense, and, at 6-foot-2, Terry gets abused defensively. James' size and ability to handle the ball could be the missing piece for Atlanta. With Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Glenn Robinson and Theo Ratliff also on board, they'd have one of the most explosive teams in the NBA. And maybe, just maybe, James could double their nightly attendance from 12 to 24.

Latrell Sprewell
Would there be room for Latrell Sprewell and LeBron James in the Big Apple?

9. Seattle Sonics
They maybe the only team in the league that absolutely has no need for LeBron James. Their backcourt is stacked with Gary Payton, Desmond Mason, Brent Barry and Rashard Lewis. It's their front court that needs the help. While Darko would be a tempting fit here, Wally Walker and Co. aren't stupid. Mason and Barry would command a premium price on the trade market. Package those two together, land a tough, rebounding power forward and watch Payton's place turn into King James' court.

10. New York Knicks
The Knicks and LeBron? Who knew the league could freeze ping-pong balls? The fans would love it, but the Knicks would be stuck. Starting shooting guard Allan Houston and small forward Latrell Sprewell make a combined $101 million dollars over the next four seasons. No one in their right mind would take on those contracts, meaning the Knicks would probably either dangle LeBron and one of those bad contracts for an All-Star center, or just take their lumps, waive Spree and start rebuilding.

11. Golden State Warriors
Wouldn't this be ironic? After 10 years of stocking up on top prospects in the draft, and on the verge of finally contending for the playoffs, the Warriors finally strike gold. Forget for a second about all the log-jams adding LeBron would create. Arenas is probably gone anyway this summer. Richardson and Mike Dunleavy could bring in that dominant, athletic big man the team craves. However, you never know what Garry St. Jean will do. This is the guy who passed up Amare Stoudemire and Drew Gooden to draft Dunleavy, despite the fact that he had multiple guys who could play small forward and no stars at the four.

12. Washington Wizards
We know the league will miss Michael, but with all the talk about LeBron being the next Jordan, wouldn't it be cool if he actually replaced him? Put him in the lineup with young players like Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries and Brendan Haywood and the Wizards will finally have the solid foundation they've been trying to build for years. And just think of the cap room they'll save by dumping Jerry Stackhouse to make room for LeBron. It should be just enough to add another Jordan favorite, veteran point guard Andre Miller, to the mix. Suddenly, the future in Washington would be bright.

13. Los Angeles Lakers
Shaq, Kobe ... LeBron? C'mon David Stern. Let's save that for the All-Star Game.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.