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Cleveland Cavaliers Rumors: Is a Reunion in the Works After LeBron James Opts Out?
Around this time four years ago, LeBron James rocked the NBA and Cleveland Cavaliers universe by opting for free agency over re-signing with the team just a short drive up from his childhood home of Akron. One television special later, James “took his talents to South Beach” and set the city of Cleveland—both figuratively and literally—on fire with hatred and feelings of betrayal.
Four years later, the city James once spurned for a path paved with four trips to the finals and two NBA Championships is once again seemingly waiting for a decision from the superstar athlete. After opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat on Tuesday, many feel the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the front runners to land James’ services in free agency.
It’s funny how things can change in just four years.
After all the jerseys burned, the social media outbursts and extreme hatred displayed in his first trip back to Cleveland, the possibility of James returning to Cleveland to open arms from the fans seemed about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack. But as the Cavaliers assembled a roster of young players, moveable assets and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the opportunity for a reunion has developed into a real possibility.
The return of the man once known as the “King of Cleveland” is seemingly very dependent on current All-Star, Kyrie Irving, signing the max contract extension the team can offer on July 1st. With contradictory reports over the past couple of months on whether the Cavaliers would offer the extension and if Irving would accept it, an answer from Irving sooner rather than later could be a major selling point in bringing James back to Cleveland.
Outside of Irving, the Cavaliers have more to offer than some truly think.
Though rumors currently surround a potential trade, Dion Waiters is a young, explosive guard who can attack the hole and create his own shot with ease. The fact that there are Top 10 teams in the 2014 NBA Draft talking to the Cavaliers about acquiring him, instead of taking a player in a draft class once heralded as “the deepest in years,” should tell you how he is viewed around the league and outside of Cleveland.
The Cavaliers also have the ability to sign other players with their cap space, or pull off a blockbuster trade thanks to a few assets which are considered gold in today’s NBA.
Anderson Varejao (partially guaranteed), Alonzo Gee (non-guaranteed) and Scotty Hopson (non-guaranteed) all have contracts which teams in a bad cap situation would love to acquire. Varejao’s $9.8 million contract is only $4 million guaranteed, while Gee’s $3.2 million and Hopson’s $2.4 million are non-guaranteed. What that means is that a team could trade away roughly $15-16 million in salary, and only have to count $4 million of it toward their books—thus clearing $11-12 million in the process, and possibly avoiding a hefty luxury tax penalty in the process.
What a move like this could do for the Cavaliers is open up the possibility of acquiring a big-name player, if they are willing to take on the contract. Last year, Chris Grant made a deal similar to this by sending Andrew Bynum’s $12 million contract to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng. The Bulls promptly cut Bynum because of his $6 million partially guaranteed contract. In the process, Chicago saved around $8 million and even more than that in the luxury taxes they avoided.
Finally, the No. 1 overall pick is a major chip in this entire luring James back puzzle. With a plethora of rumors out there regarding what the Cavaliers could do, the team has an opportunity to take a potential cornerstone of the franchise in the draft, or acquire a big-name player via a trade. One name that has been constantly linked to the Cavaliers for the No. 1 overall pick is fellow All-Star, Kevin Love. Many people have discussed as a pipe dream the trio of James, Irving and Love playing together, and now it seemingly has become an even bigger possibility.
James opting out of his contract today will in turn cause thousands of articles to flood the web in regard to why each team is the best fit for him. There will also be articles stating why the Cavaliers are a bad idea because he already left there and they hired a head coach without any NBA coaching experience.
But at the end of the day, when you look at the combination of young players, assets and the fact that his home is just 40 minutes down the street, the Cavaliers have a very realistic opportunity to bring James back to Cleveland this offseason. And if it happens, new general manager David Griffin will have the opportunity to conduct one of the biggest offseasons in the history of Cleveland sports—hopefully leading to that championship that has avoided the city since 1964.
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