What I’m about to cover is pure speculation, but what if the Cavs traded LeBron James? All the current talk surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers is about their age, which, according to basketball.realgm.com, is the oldest in the league, with an average of 30.1. And all the talk surrounding LeBron James is about where he’ll go after this year with the Cavs.
It’s no secret that LeBron James is among the best players in the NBA, if not thee best. At his current age (33), people are just beginning to approach James’ greatness, but he is still MVP caliber, when it comes to his NBA talent. It’s also no secret that James has led histeams to 7 consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. While I will readily admit that James is one of the very best in the NBA, one of the best players the NBA has ever seen, and a true asset to any team he is on, I also think his Eastern Conference competition has always been watered down. That opinion aside, leading your team to 7 consecutive NBA Finals appearances is no joke. But when I hear the “talking heads” referring to the situation of the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, all the talk is about where LeBron would go, and not about what the Cavaliers will do.
Now, before I delve into this, it’s extremely important to make it known that this is purely hypothetical, and LeBron James actually has a No Trade Clause in his contract. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means James has the ability to call off any trade he didn’t want. So, with that information out of the way, what if the Cavs, even with the No Trade Clause, were able to trade LeBron James?
For the Cavaliers to succeed with a trade of LeBron, it would be about building pieces for the future. Perhaps that would mean 2, 3, 4, or even 5 years of rebuilding, but with James’ current abilities and age, the Cavs could obtain multiple pieces, which would secure them for their post-James era, rather than just becoming the Cavaliers we all remember from pre-James, and even after James left to go to the Miami Heat.
How It Could Be Done
In order for the Cavs to succeed in a trade of LeBron James, they would have to make sure it was a team James would go to. While the “talking heads” on major sports networks firmly believe James will go to the Los Angeles Lakers, I, personally, do not. First off, I don’t believe James will set foot in the Western Conference because the competition is too fierce, and, as the years go on for James, he is not looking to increase his workload, especially during the regular season. If he were to go to the Western Conference, he would need to face teams such as the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s not the competition James wants to face on a nightly basis, and would prove to be a competitive environment for playoff positioning. Therefore, I truly believe James would nullify a trade if it were to a Western Conference team – so let’s call that off completely.
That means, we are now focused solely on Eastern Conference teams. Personally, I don’t believe James will go to a team who’s in the midst of a rebuild, such as the New York Knicks. Though it would suit James to play in Madison Square Garden, and I truly believe James would actually handle the New York media quite well, knowing that the team he went to would most likely need to lose draft picks and/or younger players, James would need to make certain that the team he went to was prepared to get into the NBA Finals, and prepare to compete to actually win it. In my opinion, that means teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and even the Philadelphia 76ers. And, yes, in that particular order. Let’s take a look at each of these teams, and why each makes sense:
Miami Heat – James has played here before, and prior to leaving, was loved and admired by the Miami fans. They, and Pat Riley, would accept him back in a heartbeat. Add the fact that Erik Spolstra, the Head Coach whom was the Head Coach while James played in Miami, is still there, and actually has the team in first place in the Southeast Division, with a record of 26-18. Add James to that mix, and you probably add another 10 to 15 wins to that record. James is more than familiar with Miami, loves the atmosphere, and would also be able to attract other veterans to play there, whom may not already have championships under their belt. This, in my opinion, is the most likely of sources for James. Let’s face it, Pat Riley would do virtually anything for an NBA Championship, which would most likely include shedding draft picks, and even shedding younger talent, in order to take a run at a couple more titles. If the Cavs are intelligent enough to trade James before he chooses to just up and leave again, I give this a 95% chance.
Boston Celtics – Though James has built up a nice rivalry with the Celtics, if you think about it, the rivalry isn’t that well aged, and isn’t much of a competition. Up to this point, the Celtics have never really threatened the stature of the Cavs. While a trade to the Celtics would mean that Kyrie Irving would need to leave, the Celtics are a team that has made it a practice of making some interesting trades and deals. They are known for the ability to draft, and, in order to restore greatness to Boston Basketball, would most likely be willing to part with parts of their future, in order to make a championship happen. They know they have a window (as all teams do) and they don’t want to miss out on that opportunity. If the Cavs do a trade, I give this an 80% chance.
Toronto Raptors – The Raptors are quickly becoming very competitive, and are actually entering the same talks the Cavs and Celtics are in, when it comes to the playoffs and the NBA Finals. That doesn’t exactly mean much when it comes to facing a Western Conference team, when going for the NBA Title, but it does say they are getting better. Record-wise, they are just behind the Celtics (34-11) with a 30-13 record. If the Cavs pulled off a trade, I would give this one a 50% chance of happening.
Philadelphia 76ers – It’s been a long time since the 76ers were relevant. Sure, they had a run when Allen Iverson was there, and they even got to the NBA Finals during that run, but they got destroyed against the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, and really haven’t been relevant since the days of Dr. J. But they are finding their footing. They are getting better, and they have all the pieces to become a title contender very soon. Yes, I said it. If you added LeBron James to this mix of youngsters, or even shed some draft picks as well as some of those youngsters, but held onto a few of the youngsters, while LeBron brought in veterans without titles, you would be talking about a very, very dangerous team. I give this one a chance of 30%.
All of these trades, of course, would take intelligence, and you don’t find much of that amongst office leadership in the NBA, or any sport for that matter. But, in my opinion, the Cavs would do themselves justice if they were to surprise the NBA world, give up on the NBA Finals this year and perhaps the next 3, 4, or even 5 years, and do a quick rebuild, by trading LeBron James.