In the second “Summer of Lebron”, a lot of teams will want to make a pitch to him, a select few will be able to, and only one will land the NBA’s best player. Over the next couple days I’d like to make the case for the major players in the King James sweepstakes, starting with the case for a return back home: to Cleveland.
With the selection of Andrew Wiggins on Thursday night, the Cavaliers successfully drafted and added their third first overall pick since Lebron left for greener pastures in the form of the sunny beaches of Miami, putting together what is probably the only team in the league with three number one picks on their roster. That’s a lot of young talent all in one place (despite the bust that last year’s number one-Anthony Bennet-has been thus far, there’s still undeniable talent there, and with the addition of his young countryman Wiggins, perhaps Bennet will settle in a little better in his sophomore season.
When Lebron left, his best teammates at the time in Cleveland were Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, both of whom averaged 15 ppg that last season together with James. Today, he’d be walking on to a team with Kyrie Irving in his prime, and Wiggins, who most believe will be not only a solid defender on day one, but someone who develops into a top talent in the league over the years. This would give the Cavaliers a recipe for both immediate and long term success.
Lebron, as the best player in the league in the middle of his prime, would be the team’s unquestioned leader. With a talented point guard like Kyrie, Lebron could work more from the post, and become a forward that averages 30+ ppg easily. Kyrie would be the second option, able to put up something like 20/10 from the perimeter. Wiggins wouldn’t need to be relied upon for his offense, he could play either the 2 or 3, get used to NBA speed playing defense on the best perimeter player, and take the pressure off both Lebron and Kyrie on that end of the floor, allowing them to conserve more energy for offense. Insert any big man who can rebound, as well as Waiters at the 2, if you play Lebron at the 4 and Wiggins at the 3, or Bennet at the 4 if you play Lebron at the 3 and Wiggins at the 2, and you’ve got a pretty formidable starting 5, one that can probably bring a team out of the eastern conference next season, and perhaps one deep enough with the addition of a few veterans on minimum contracts to unseat the current champion Spurs.
The team would be good for a long time, as Lebron eventually played into his later prime and past it, Kyrie would become the leader in his prime, and then Wiggins, while Lebron faded to third option in his later years. As the team’s first option ages and becomes it’s second, it’s second improves and becomes it’s first, and then eventually the switch is made with it’s third. All the while, the players grow more comfortable playing together, growing together, and winning together. A winning recipe for many years to come.
Beyond the basketball reasons, the sentimental reasons for a return to Cleveland, make for a rather obvious PR win for James, who sometimes seems like he could use that. Many feel almost no other choice but the Cavs-if he leaves Miami at all-is defensible from an emotional standpoint, and if this influences his choice at all, then Cleveland will have to be the first choice, to fully reverse the process and take his talents away from South Beach.