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    LeBron and Carmelo (06/18/14)

    John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
    By John Ewing
    Carmelo to Miami, LeBron to Cleveland – how would these moves change the NBA? We simulated the season to find out.

    The 2014 NBA free agent class will be star studded as many of the league's top players will have a chance to opt out of their contracts. Two of the biggest names, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, have not only be linked to each other, but to nearly every team in the league looking to become an instant title contender.

    Speculation has Carmelo leaving the Knicks to join the Heat's Big 3 while other rumors have LeBron leaving South Beach to return to Cleveland, the city he spurned in 2010. How would the landscape of the NBA change in these scenarios?

    We simulated the 2013-14 NBA season, including the playoffs, to find out. We tackle each simulation independently with the assumption that all players are healthy and the only changes are noted otherwise. This includes Chicago enjoying a full season from Derrick Rose and Brook Lopez suiting up for all of Brooklyn's games.

    Carmelo to Miami

    Why Melo would go to South Beach:
    Joining Miami's Big 3 would give Carmelo his best chance of winning an NBA Title. In four years in New York, Anthony has advanced past the first round just once.

    Why Melo would be crazy to give up the money:
    Anthony could potentially sign a guaranteed deal worth nearly $130 million in New York. According to ESPN's Amin Elhassan, Anthony would be leaving $70 million on the table over the next four years to sign with the Heat.

    Simulation Results:
    The Big Four in Miami would be a force to be reckoned with. Miami's Dream Team with the addition of Carmelo would finish with the best record in the league – 63 wins, 19 losses.

    The Heat would enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs and be one of the most dominant teams we have ever simulated. Miami would be 75 percent likely to reach the Finals and 49 percent likely to win the NBA Championship. For context, the 2012-13 Miami Heat were more than 50 percent likely to win the championship.

    Miami struggled offensively against San Antonio in this year's Finals. Adding Carmelo would be the offensive boost the Heat need to overcome San Antonio's stingy defense.

    Projected Playoff Results – Carmelo to Miami

    Region Seed Team First Round Conf Semis Conf Finals NBA Finals
    Eastern 1 Miami 97.6 88.2 75.2 49.0
    Western 1 San Antonio 88.8 69.3 50.0 25.6
    Western 2 Oklahoma City 79.1 51.8 23.6 9.1
    Eastern 2 Chicago 86.4 56.2 13.9 5.9
    Western 3 LA Clippers 69.3 31.5 11.4 4.0
    Western 4 Houston 60.9 17.6 7.0 2.5
    Eastern 3 Indiana 67.6 32.0 5.4 1.6
    Western 5 Golden State 39.1 9.4 3.7 0.6
    Western 6 Portland 30.7 9.7 2.2 0.6
    Eastern 4 Brooklyn 50.2 5.9 2.3 0.5
    Eastern 5 Toronto 49.8 5.2 1.6 0.2
    Eastern 6 Washington 32.4 8.3 1.2 0.2
    Western 8 Memphis 11.2 3.8 1.0 0.2
    Western 7 Minnesota 20.9 7.0 1.1 0.1
    Eastern 8 Atlanta 2.4 0.8 0.2 0.0
    Eastern 7 Charlotte 13.6 3.5 0.2 0.0

    LeBron to Cleveland

    Why LeBron would return to Cleveland:
    The Cavs have one of the best young point guards, Kyrie Irving, in the league. Cleveland also owns the first overall pick in this year's draft.

    Why LeBron will not return:
    Cleveland's front office has done a good job of filling the roster with young talent but most of it has failed to meet expectations. Furthermore, a No. 1 pick does not guarantee success; see Anthony Bennett, last year's first overall pick.

    Simulation Results:
    There is no denying LeBron's talent. Add King James to any team and they become an instant title contender. If the Cavaliers are able to bring LeBron ‘home', Cleveland not only wins the Central division but also finishes with the best record in the Eastern Conference – 57 wins, 25 losses. That would be an improvement of 24 wins from last season.

    As the No. 1 seed in the East, LeBron would lead Cleveland to the NBA Finals. In a rematch of the 2007 NBA Finals, LeBron and the Cavaliers would face the San Antonio Spurs, the reigning champions. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, eight years later, the results would be the same.

    Adding LeBron is enough to reach the NBA Finals but Cleveland does not have the talent or depth to beat a balanced San Antonio team.

    Projected Playoff Results – LeBron to Cleveland

    Region Seed Team First Round Conf Semis Conf Finals NBA Finals
    Western 1 San Antonio 87.6 66.3 48.6 34.4
    Eastern 1 Cleveland 89.2 65.9 40.4 18.4
    Eastern 2 Chicago 82.4 62.0 34.4 14.6
    Western 2 Oklahoma City 79.4 53.0 23.3 13.3
    Western 3 LA Clippers 69.4 31.4 12.1 6.4
    Western 4 Houston 59.0 19.6 8.4 3.9
    Eastern 5 Toronto 67.0 24.1 11.7 3.5
    Western 5 Golden State 41.0 10.4 3.7 1.8
    Eastern 6 Washington 51.0 16.6 5.4 0.8
    Eastern 3 Indiana 49.0 15.2 4.4 0.7
    Western 6 Portland 30.6 8.7 1.6 0.6
    Eastern 4 Brooklyn 33.0 7.2 1.9 0.5
    Western 7 Minnesota 20.6 6.9 1.4 0.4
    Western 8 Memphis 12.4 3.7 0.9 0.3
    Eastern 7 Charlotte 17.6 6.1 1.2 0.2
    Eastern 8 Atlanta 10.8 2.9 0.6 0.0

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