Dangerous Game: Cavs Going All In On LeBron Staying

Dan O'Shea

Everybody likes a little bit of risk in their lives every once in a while. It makes them feel alive, keeps the blood flowing and the heart beating. Some people like a minuscule amount of risk, like sneaking in their 11th item on the 10-items or less line like a modern day Evil Knievel.

Others bet the house and literally bet their house when they want to gamble on whatever prop bet crosses their path that day. What raises the risk is just how greatly it can impact your future. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’re taking a “bet the house” kind of gamble by shopping the Brooklyn Nets pick, and banking on LeBron James staying when he becomes a free agent next year.

When you’re the biggest star in the league, your decisions are going to make headlines. That’s why we’ve seen LeBron working out all summer looking like that one dude in your local Gold’s Gym that works out like an a-hole while you Snapchat him the whole time. It should come to no surprise that The Decision 3.0 is on everyone’s mind even though it’s a full season away. What should come to a surprise is how the Cavaliers are mishandling yet another situation.

After acquiring the last crown jewel of the infamous Celtics/Nets trade from Boston in the recent Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavs are already shopping it in a full-out “win now” mode move.

Honestly, shame on us for being surprised. We’ve seen the Cavs completely botch their GM process, waiting until the middle of free agency to hire the man whose job is to handle that very event, which may or may not have been a reason why their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving wanted absolutely no part of Cleveland anymore.

Even though the Cavs have done everything in the power to take a jackhammer to everything they’ve built over the past three seasons, they still miraculously ended up with a package that allows them to compete now while building towards the future. Naturally, they want to throw that Nets pick right on the bonfire and burn that too.

We currently reside during a time period where it seems you have to have a third of the Olympic roster if you want to win a championship. That kind of mindset gave us quite possibly the best offseason in the history of basketball, but it also leaves teams parched for talent no matter how many stars they may have on their team, and Cleveland is a perfect example of that.

Instead of enjoying the two-pronged path they have laid in front of them by pairing one of the best scorers in the league with LeBron James while still possibly adding a 19-year old stud of a prospect next season, Cleveland is going to bury themselves with star after star, or suffocate trying.

Trading the Nets pick would be as nearsighted as a person could possibly be. It’s the kind of vision for your franchise that is so close to being blind that they probably shouldn’t operate at the wheel when it gets dark. That darkness is looming as LeBron James’ future is still up in the air, yet Cleveland plans to use their only remaining block for the future as a bargaining chip.

The pick allows Cleveland to have a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter where LeBron steers his own car. Even if he goes West and the pick somehow falls out of the top-5, they still have a lottery pick waiting to at least begin the long march forward through life after LeBron for the second time. Trading it for another star or quality role player to help the Cavs compete may keep the King in court, or he can truly not care as championship opportunities will likely come his way no matter what.

“Anyway, James can afford to be sanguine about his future. Wherever he plays, championship opportunities follow. The Cavs don’t have that luxury. Which is why they were never going to blow up the proposed deal from the Celtics. That deal held the key to their future—their post-LeBron future. There was no chance they were going to walk away from that.”

– David Aldridge

No one in their right mind would walk away from the Nets pick and the chance for a bright future no matter what LeBron does, but we’re talking about the same guy who typed out a letter like a scorned ex-girlfriend when James went to South Beach guaranteeing a championship in Cleveland before he got one in Miami. Rhyme and reason went out the door a long, long time ago.

LeBron was reportedly fed up about the GM and ownership situation in the offseason, and giving the roster a makeover doesn’t change that right away. He could already be too far gone, to focus on what’s currently going on in front of him, or worse – he could hate the way things are now.

There’s no denying that Isaiah Thomas is one of the best offensive players in the NBA, but no one knows for certain just how good he’ll be as a sidekick. LeBron knew what he had in Kyrie Irving – a second banana who helped him go to three straight finals while bringing home the first title in franchise history. No one truly knows what we’re going to see out of this duo yet. At this point, we don’t even know if we’re going to see this duo at all.

His hip has been an issue since the deal almost collapsed a few weeks ago and is clearly still an issue. Some reports say he’ll miss the beginning of the year while others say he could miss the entire NBA season. Not only could he flat out not mesh with the current Cavs roster, but he might not be even close to the player that carried Boston through the season last year. Forget about LeBron for a second- why would Cleveland want to give an ageing, injured point guard a max contract? At this point in his career after all he’s done, why would IT take anything less?

People are also already overlooking the fact that a young prospect would actually help the Cavs if LeBron did decide to stay. For some reason, the possibility of having both LeBron and a top lottery pick never occurred to anyone. Sure, trading for someone who’s already established would be more of a help right away, but let’s stop acting like adding some of the top talent from the draft would make this team anything but better.

We saw Cleveland handle this is a similar fashion years ago when they traded No.1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love. That obviously worked out in their favor since they won an NBA championship, but there’s much more of a risk now. If Love didn’t play well for the Cavs or he stuck out like a sore thumb (more than he already does), they still had James and Irving to lean on. If the Cavs trade for a star and it backfires now, LeBron can leave, Thomas can leave, and there can be nothing but rubble remaining in Cleveland.

Everyone is too infatuated with the idea of building a super team. People are already pencilling in Dwyane Wade to join the Cavs as if it’s some sort of guaranteed thing just because the man decided to torture the internet and post some emoji eyes on Twitter. Even reuniting with LeBron isn’t written in stone yet.

Yet still, people are plugging in Wade and other stars like DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony as if this is all possible, or even the right idea. Many are focused on giving LeBron all the perennial All Stars in the world in order to take down Golden State, but no one is looking past a clash in the NBA Finals for what seems like the hundredth year, and acknowledging what life after LeBron could look like.

To put this in terms everybody can understand, the Cavs are currently the Titanic, and NBA free agency is that iceberg that takes the whole fuckin ship down. This story may not end up the same way, or it could very much snap the cruise ship in half and leaving everyone in Cleveland focusing on Browns football, which is synonymous with death in this scenario. What the Nets’ pick provides is a lifeboat. It gives the Cavs a chance to abandon ship and start a new life. Or, they can watch as free agency takes down their franchise once again, leaving them with no option but to tank towards a new future like the rest of the bottom-feeder franchises stuck in the freezing water.

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