He’s gone. Again. And gone with him are the soaring dunks, the night-to-night intrigue, and the long playoff runs. But, LeBron gave Cleveland fans four straight years of Eastern Conference dominance and finally delivered that elusive NBA Title.
My only gripe with The King is that he forced the Cavs into “win-now” mode from Day 1 — due in large part to his lack of trust in Dan Gilbert — but then signed a four-deal with the Lakers, allowing them to go into a holding pattern this year instead of dealing their carefully cultivated assets to chase a proven All-Star.
Additionally, the Cavs were forced to sign J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson (both Klutch Sports clients) to large, long-term deals to appease LeBron. But then I remember: LeBron delivered a ring and Dan Gilbert, a big Trumpster, is left paying the enormous bills for this team while The King builds a media empire in Los Angeles.
So, now the Cavs are left with an interesting poo-poo platter of players. They can look to deal their veteran players with trade value — Kevin Love and Kyle Korver — for draft picks and unproven young talent.
Opening up an opportunity for young players will be the most important thing the Cavs do this year. Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and Larry Nance should get the opportunity to prove they are real NBA players. Cavs fan will look for any sign that Collin Sexton is the next Kyrie Irving, and it will be absurd but what else do we have?
The Cavs also have something they never did during LeBron’s tenure: CAP SPACE! They should look to use that space to take fliers on young players that haven’t panned out elsewhere. What would it take to get Justise Winslow? Is Nerlens Noel available?
Charlotte: we’ll take Batum’s contract but you’ll give us Malik Monk. WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOSE? LeBron isn’t coming back and we might as well become a fun young team who develops assets on good contracts.
After the LeBron left in 2010, the Cavs tried to replicate the Thunder model by tanking and drafting incredible talent. This time, they need to look at what the Celtics and Nets, yes the Nets, have done. Be prudent, scout international players and take rational chances. Alas, Cleveland is no longer the center of the NBA universe so it’s time to take stock of the rest of the league.
It appears there are a number of star players unhappy in their current situations: Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, and Jimmy Butler are a few who come to mind. Leonard and Butler will both enter free agency next year and have expressed interest in leaving so it might be wise for their teams to move them and try to recoup a King’s ransom.
The Trailblazers don’t have to move Lillard as he is signed through 2021, but after being swept in the first round last year it seems they need to shake things up Portland.
Of the three players mentioned above, Lillard intrigues me the most. He is signed for three more seasons at a reasonable number, he is a very durable player, and he is a proven playoff performer. He is the perfect modern-NBA point guard.
He can break defenders down off the bounce, he makes good decisions in pick and roll and he shoots the lights out. The obvious destination for Lillard is Los Angeles, where he could team with LeBron (a noted fan of the Oakland native’s game) and fill a similar role to the one Kyrie Irving flourished in with the Cavs.
As we move into Summer League and fans go on the rollercoaster ride that comes with rooting for 18 and 19-year-olds who are looking to make a name in the league, NBA fans should sit back and marvel at what the league has become. There are dozens of incredible talents across the league, daily drama and a dynastic team that everyone loves to hate.
The Golden State Warriors are going to win the championship this year. This is something we know in July and something we knew last July. But isn’t watching a team try and dethrone this generational force more fun than just about anything.
LeBron is throwing away a full season to give himself a shot at it in a year… that’s insane to think about.
So, players will continue to change teams and the Warriors will continue to win and if you don’t like that go root for a league that doesn’t fairly compensate players who are literally risking their lives to line the pockets of rich white men.