We knew the irritation ringing in our ears of the ‘LeBron going back to Cleveland’ narrative would be strong. The Cavaliers winning the first pick earlier this week, however, has transferred that attention meant for the offseason to the Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron’s return home–although it’s not even actually a return, since Akron and Cleveland are absolutely not the same place–is making its rounds, and it’s rekindled the still far-fetched belief that James wants to leave everything he built in Miami for a return home.
The selling point? A young, underachieving team that’s about to add on its third number one pick in four years. Since 2011, the Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett with their number one picks, while also using a number three pick on Dion Waiters, and a fourth pick on Tristan Thompson.
While selecting those players, the Cavaliers missed out on opportunities to draft the likes of Andre Drummond, Klay Thompson, and Victor Oladipo. They’ve also missed out on the postseason each year since LeBron left, despite being in a conference that just allowed a 38-win team to take a number one seed to Game 7.
It’ll be tough for Cleveland to screw up this year’s draft as they did last year drafting Bennett, who wound up with some of the worst numbers by a number one pick in NBA history. In Cleveland’s defense, the draft class was one of the worst.
In the draft class’s defense, the Cavs’ front office is also one of the worst.
This year, the Cavs will have the options of either selecting NBA-ready players in Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker or Aaron Gordon. They also have the option of trading that number one pick for an established veteran, in order to entice LeBron into a return.
They could even trade Kyrie, the ball-dominating point guard, for a complementary piece.
That theory is actually Cleveland’s strongest case if they’re that adamant about reeling in LeBron. If the past five decades worth of basketball have proven anything, it’s that a veteran roster will win you a championship.
You know? Rosters with veteran sharpshooters like Ray Allen and Shane Battier, and veteran defenders in Chris Andersen? Those win titles. Experience is one of the greatest traits a team can have in a championship run, and the Heat have strengthened that with back-to-back titles and a possible third one on the way.
What Cleveland is likely to have is a fun roster that’s either going to make the playoffs or fizzle out in the first round. And even that’s a stretch, what with the Cavaliers failing to even reach 35 wins last year despite having a starting lineup consisting of a number of top five picks.
It’s that brand of incompetence that’s going to keep LeBron far away from Cleveland, just as it did with every possible free agent the Cavs could have scooped up during his time there.
Let’s take a look at some of the players the Miami Heat brought in as free agents since LeBron James joined the squad back in 2010:
Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Chris Andersen, and Rashard Lewis.
Now, let’s compare that to the players the Cleveland Cavaliers brought in between 2003 and 2010, LeBron’s tenure with the squad:
Mo Williams, 34-year-old Antawn Jamison, 37-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Gooden, Ben Wallace, Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic, Anthony Parker.
Throw in the fact that the Cavs rejected a trade that would have brought in Amar’e Stoudemire, and allowed a young Carlos Boozer to walk, and you have a bitter cocktail of ill-advised signings and poor judgment.
The front office also tried to push the idea that Mo Williams was a legitimate secondary option on a championship team, and that a 37-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, who was a year away from retirement when signed, would be ready for the long haul of a title run.
You’d assume the fact that the Miami Heat having Pat Riley and the Cleveland Cavaliers not having Pat Riley would have put an end to these conversations by now.
You’d assume the history of obtaining the free agents he’s coveted would work in the Heat’s favor in this portrait doubters are constructing.
Time and time again, he’s got his man. He wanted Ray, got him. He wanted Shane, got him. He wanted Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James to take paycuts, and it actually happened. There is not another franchise, not just in the NBA but in professional sports, that is capable of pulling off such a move.
And for as much as I’ve heard about Dwyane Wade’s health, him dropping 20+ points on better than 50% shooting from the field on the league’s top defense, in Games 1 and 2, should stifle those claims about this being a last hurrah before he trots off into the sunset.
There isn’t a need to get into Chris Bosh’s value. Because as overstated as his rebounding troubles are, he more than makes up for it with the rare ability for a big man to shoot the three, and play elite-level pick-and-roll defense.
Instead, here we are, three, soon to be four, Finals appearances and two, soon to be three, championships later, and we have to hear about LeBron going back to the franchise that tried to tell him his Scottie Pippen was Mo Williams, and his Dennis Rodman was an over-the-hill combination of Shaq and Jamison.
It’s still early to tell what LeBron, or every other 2014 free agent, is going to do with their summers, especially with the 2013-14 season still not over. In fact, I thought we all decided we’d wait until the end of the season to begin speculating and furthering narratives that may have never existed in the first place.
No matter what happens, however, LeBron will have the same thought process he had in 2010, which is ‘What franchise is going to help me win a title this season and in future seasons?”
Perhaps the one that’s about to be the first team in over 20 years to make it to four consecutive NBA Finals? The one that’s going to have an entirely new roster of veterans next season? The one that will likely still have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
But I’ll leave that one for those with spare time, because the rest of the world–the one that matters–has a pair of conference finals and an NBA Finals to watch.