The “banana boat team” refers to the idea that friends Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James,Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul could all play together on the same team at some point during their careers. Earlier this year, LeBron acknowledged that he would like to play with his friends before his career ends. Now that we know the exact terms of his deal with the Cavaliers, it appears that this team could be coming together in the coming future.
The summer of 2018 could be a legendary one for the NBA. All four of these stars could hit free agency, along with Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant(granted he will most likely opt out after this year), and Andrew Wiggins among others. But to focus on the four friends for a moment, it is a little tricky, but definitely possible for them all to be free agents after the 2017-2018 season. Let’s take a closer look at their respective contracts to see how it could happen, and some problems that could emerge.
First up, LeBron James. He signed a three year deal with the Cavs, with a player option after the third year. This is pretty straight forward. LeBron just has to exercise his player option after two seasons, and he would be a free agent. Obviously, LeBron would have to leave the Cavaliers, and probably take a pay cut. Those are two pretty big road blocks. However, LeBron has already delivered a title to his hometown. If he wants to leave, how mad can Cavs fans really be? Sure, they can be angry, but they got their ring. The pay cut might be the bigger issue. Recently, James has been against taking pay cuts, but perhaps he would be willing to take less to play with his friends. While it may seem unlikely, anything can happen in the next two years.
Carmelo Anthony also has a fairly easy path to becoming a free agent. He has a player option for the 2018-2019 season, so all he would have to do is exercise that option and he would be able to hit the market in the summer of 2018. Now, Carmelo supposedly really likes living in New York, as does his wife La La. They might not want to leave New York. However, Carmelo might really want a chance to win a ring in his career to cement his legacy, despite his recent Olympic comments, and this team would be a great chance to do so. Anthony might also not be comfortable with taking a pay cut.
Chris Paul’s contract runs through this season, and he has a player option for the 17-18 season. He could either exercise that option, or hit free agency after this season and sign a one-and-done deal that would let him enter the free agent market after the 2017-2018 season. Now, Paul might not want to leave L.A., a place he will have potentially played their for seven seasons. On the other hand, there has been plenty of rumors about tension in LA, and after the next year or two he could be done dealing with the drama. Taking a pay cut could be an issue for Paul as well.
Finally, Dwyane Wade signed a two year deal with the Bulls this offseason. He has a player option for after this year. So, like Paul, Wade could be a free agent after 17-18 if he either stays with the Bulls for both years, or exercises the option and signs a one-and-done deal again. Taking a pay cut is the main issue for Wade most likely. He has been taking discounts in Miamifor a while now, and this past offseason he had enough. Wade will most likely have no problem switching teams now that he has left Miami, but the pay cut could be a sticking point(especially if he isn’t pleased with LeBron for making him leave money on the table).
Now, the next question is which teams can afford to put this group together. The Knicks are a possibility, but they would have to trade Noah, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, and other smaller pieces. They would be able to keep Porzingis, but not for long as he would need a new deal soon. The Bulls are another possiblity. Jimmy Butler would need to be moved, but they could get a good package from the Celtics, or some other teams. Robin Lopez would have to go as well. The Lakers would be a little more difficult, as Deng, Mozgov, Clarkson, and Russell would most likely have to go. That would gut the team, but it’s probably something LA might consider. Miami isn’t a real possibility, as they would have to blow their team up to assemble the banana boat squad, but never ignore Riley. Finally, Brooklyn is a strange possibility because they could have over $80 million in cap space if they don’t sign anyone long-term, trade Lin, and renounce some players. I would highly doubt they would team up in Brooklyn, but hey if they really want to play together they should be open to anything.
All in all, the idea that all four of these players could be on the market at the same time isn’t very far-fetched. However, other road blocks are present. Taking less money will be a problem, but if all of these guys want to play together, sacrifices will have to be made. Each will have to take less money at some point if they want to play together. But they will compete for a title, something Melo and Paul don’t have, and the money they can make off the court will be pretty good. Again, I don’t think this is necessarily going to happen, but the possibility is there. The banana boat team is a fun idea for NBA fans, and there is now a path to it happening.
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports Analyst