A few weeks ago, I wrote a column which concluded that LeBron James would stay with the Miami Heat given its success—2 NBA titles. I didn’t take into consideration LeBron’s strong ties to his home state. After James announced that he was coming home to Ohio, the balance of power has suddenly shifted to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are now instant contenders with the world’s best player in the fold.
James joins a team that has had much luck in the NBA lottery. Since he left in 2010, the Cavs have been a bottom-dweller failing to reach the playoffs for 4 straight seasons. This resulted in 3 No. 1 draft picks namely Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, and recently, Andrew Wiggins. This means that James has a young core of talented guys that he can lead and give Cleveland their first ever championship.
The Cavs’ starting line-up is projected to be Irving, Wiggins, James, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao—a unit that will run roughshod over opponents including those in the Western Conference. Former teammate Mike Miller has also signed with the Cavs to backstop James not on the court but more in the locker room.
While the talent around James is quite impressive, this group has never had a winning season. Simply put, they don’t have the experience and mental toughness to get over the hump. James brings his talents and more to the table. He returns an NBA champion and he needs more veterans around him to help with the young guys. He needs to inculcate a culture of winning, a culture he enjoyed in Miami.
Recently, it was reported that the Cavs, upon the urging of James, may be angling to trade No. 1 pick Wiggins for Minnesota center Kevin Love. If this pushes through, James will instantly have a teammate that will directly complement him. Love, who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists last season, spaces the floor well with his shooting, controls the boards, and is an excellent passer. A James/Love duo would be almost unstoppable. Trading Wiggins would also free up more playing time for Dion Waiters, James Jones, and Miller.
Out in the East, the Cavs only have a few real rivals. The Chicago Bulls have upgraded their line-up with the signing of former All-Star Pau Gasol. Gasol gives the Bulls more scoring punch, something they sorely need. With a healthy Derrick Rose and the defense-first coach Tim Thibodeau, Gasol will thrive in this system and keep the Bulls in the hunt.
Erstwhile rival Indiana Pacers have taken a step backward when they lost guard Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets. Stephenson was a shot-creator, ball-handler, and penetrator that kept the stagnant Pacers offense flowing. Without Stephenson, the Pacers are a middling playoff team at best and will have a difficult time creating offense.
The East is wide open and is for the taking. James will definitely lead the Cavs deep into the playoffs and have a shot at a 3rd championship. This is James’ goal, his dream, his destiny to bring one home to the Cavs.