Wednesday night once again featured Akron, Ohio native LeBron James returning home to play the Cavaliers, the team he spent the first seven seasons of his remarkable NBA career. During his time in Cleveland, he became the franchise’s all time leading scorer, won two MVP awards, and led the franchise to its only appearance in the NBA, where they lost decisively to the Spurs.
The Cavaliers never really gave LeBron the supporting cast needed to win a ring. He singlehandedly carried the 2007 team to the Finals at just 22-years-old, best exemplified with his incredible performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he scored 25 straight points and 29 of the Cavaliers’ last 30 to beat the Pistons. The Cavs then acquired Mo Williams, Ben Wallace, and Shaq, the latter two well past their prime. Not exactly a championship caliber supporting cast. Come summer 2010, the Decision happened, and I guess you could say LeBron’s played pretty well for the Heat.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have been simply dreadful since LeBron left. But despite two number one overall draft picks in three years, the Cavs don’t seem to be headed towards a serious playoff contender. At best, they’re looking at grabbing the seventh or eighth seed. They’ve built around Kyrie Irving, but even he’s played erratically this season after making the All-Star team last year. The rest of their lottery picks have underwhelmed greatly. Tristan Thompson appears to be an average power forward, maybe decent if he maximizes his potential. Dion Waiters, who the Cavs selected at number four like Thompson, has been a huge disappoint, so much that the team has looked into trading the second year guard. Top pick Anthony Bennett has been terrible. Just atrocious. He’s averaging 2.0 points per game on 21.4% shooting. He has a PER of 2.32. Head coach Mike Brown has opted not to even play him in some recent games. Outside of Irving, there’s hardly any value on this current roster.
Ever since choosing to leave Cleveland, the Cavs have been linked to LeBron as one of the possible destinations when he opts for free agency this summer. King James wins a few rings in Miami, then goes home to finally bring a title to the championship-starved Cleveland fans. It’s a nice storyline. But it doesn’t make any sense. At this point in his career, all that matters for LeBron is how many more rings he can win. Whichever team gives him the best chance, he’ll sign with.
Along with the Cavs, the Lakers also frequently have their name linked to LeBron. But I can’t see him putting on the purple and gold and taking a backseat to Kobe for two seasons. The Cavs may be the second most likely destination for LeBron, but with the team’s current roster, he won’t have the same chance to contend that he’ll have with the Heat. Miami is in a position to three-peat this year, currently 12-3, sitting at second place in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will try to resign Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as well, and find additional role players like they’ve done with great success recently by acquiring Chris Anderson and Ray Allen.
LeBron is still only 28. He has a lot of basketball left in him. I’d say a farewell tour with the Cavs after this next contract seems more likely than him signing with them right now. The Cavaliers have failed in the draft to build an elite core. Why would LeBron return when the only help he would have is Irving? For his next contract, LeBron should opt to keep his talents in South Beach.