FLASHBACK TO 2010
Dan Gilbert thought he had it all under control. Heading into the summer of 2010, the Cavaliers’ owner knew that his biggest star would test free agency. But what Gilbert also knew was that no offer could match one that would allow LBJ to continue his quest to bring a championship to his home state. Unfortantely for Gilbert, LeBron James had other plans. We all know how this story ends.
Dan Gilbert got lucky, let’s be clear about that. He was lucky that LeBron James forgave him after he sent a very strongly worded goodbye letter. He was lucky that the plight of Cleveland fans resonated with James. He was lucky that after 4 years, LeBron James would return home to the Cavaliers and bring a championship to Cleveland.
In the end it all worked out, but the script could easily have been different. LeBron James had a good gig in Miami. Four straight NBA Finals, back to back NBA Championships, and great chamraderie with fellow teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. What if LeBron James chose to re-sign with the Miami Heat? Safe to say the Cavaliers wouldn’t have enjoyed the success they had over these past three seasons.
Which brings me to my point. Picture yourself as Dan Gilbert in 2010, if you knew LeBron James was packing his bags, wouldn’t you at least want to get something out of it? Future first round picks? Young talent? A chance to set yourself up for future success? Think of what the market would offer up for a player of LeBron James stature, a once in a generation type talent. Don’t look now, Dan, but history may be repeating itself. But this time, you can play your cards right and be the one with last laugh. You know what they say,”Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Before you call me crazy and stop reading a Skip Bayless-type hot take, let’s take a look at what’s going on. First, turn your attention to LBJ’s supporting cast. Most recently, Kyrie Irving announced that he wants to be traded to become the face of a franchise. Kyrie’s done playing Robin to LeBron’s Batman, he wants to be the top dog. Even if the Cavs don’t end up trading Irving, his days in Cleveland are officially numbered.
Then, there is Kevin Love. For all you need to know, allow me to direct you to this meme. But seriously, LeBron has never been a huge fan of Kevin Love. Therefore, it would be foolish to think that LeBron is confident in him and K-Love’s ability to compete with the likes of the Warriors.
Well, what about future free agents? After being traded to the T-Wolves, Jimmy Butler is surrounded by promising young talent. They could very well be the future powerhouse of the league and JB would be foolish to leave. Even if Paul George’s run with OKC is a failure, his next destination is almost definitely Los Angeles to join another team with huge potential. See the trend? Players are flocking toward young talent. As good as LeBron James is, who knows how much longer he can continue this level of play. Furthermore, the Warriors dominance has teams now more than ever focusing on the future. But back to the main point, if LeBron James is not surrounded with championship level talent, he will walk. We’ve seen it done before and the writing is on the wall for it to happen again.
As crazy as it sounds, do the Cavaliers even want to re-sign LeBron James? Seriously, think about it. The Warriors aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even with the talent they had this year, Cleveland was only able to steal one game in a series that was dominated by Golden State. Losing Kyrie Irving would be a devastating blow that would severly hinder the Cavs chances of a championship. Re-signing LeBron James would likely take a multi year, 100+ million dollar contract, which could very well have the same effect as Kobe Bryant’s final contract. That’s a big investment on a player who’s window to dethrone the Golden State Warriors may have just closed. The Cavaliers could definitely put that money to better use elsewhere, like investing in young talent that will make the Cavaliers competitive in a post-super team Warriors NBA.
Finally, consider the market for LeBron James even at his age. Playoff teams would instantly become championship contenders with the addition of LeBron. How much would teams offer up for him? Three or four first round picks with an established building block? Maybe even more? Personally, I’m not sure because trading a LeBron James-type player is basically unheard of. It would be the equivalent of the Bulls trading Jordan or the Lakers trading Kobe while they both were in their primes. But one thing is for sure, teams around the league would be willing to mortgage their future for LBJ.
The reality is LeBron James has a no-trade clause; therefore, the Cavs couldn’t do anything without his consent. While James has already expressed his disinterest in waiving his no-trade, I have my doubts he couldn’t be convinced otherwise. If Kyrie Irving were to leave and the Cavaliers were unable to acquire enough talent to fill his void, they don’t have a chance to beat the Warriors. Not even close. They might not even get out of the Eastern Conference. Moreover, at 32 years old, LeBron isn’t getting any younger and doesn’t have the time to play possum until the Warriors dynasty has collapsed. He needs to be winning now, especially since he’s chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan.
A trade could be beneficial for both sides. LeBron James could move to a team that has a better chance to beat the Warriors and the Cavs could set up their franchise for success in a post-Warriors’ NBA. So if the Cavs do end up dealing Irving and James waives his no-trade clause, Dan Gilbert should actively shop the King. If history has told us anything, it’s that LeBron will be donning a new team anyway in 2018.