It seems LeBron James is on the verge of turning his old franchise back into a perennial powerhouse atop the Eastern Conference once again.
Since he opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat and made himself a free agent, James’ agent Rich Paul has visited with a select group of teams over the past two weeks, informing them his client will demand a max salary slot for next season.
After shedding the contracts of Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev and Tyler Zeller on Wednesday in a three-team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers have cleared the necessary cap space (roughly $21.7 million available) in order to meet James’ demand.
The corollary of that, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, is that the Cavaliers are pushing for a Kevin Love trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a deal contingent upon James signing with Cleveland.
The trade would pair James and Love with young star point guard Kyrie Irving, who signed a max extension with the franchise last week for five years, $90 million. Irving was the 2014 All-Star Game MVP as well and is only 22 years old.
The big question for James’ legacy: Are Love and Irving good enough to help him add multiple titles to his resume?
It’s become a ring counting game for James in his quest to maximize his ability to win a championship each and every season, something that he would be unable to do going forward in Miami with a declining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who is reportedly seeking between $16-18 million with his new contract.
This whole setup for a return to Cleveland is the perfect redemption story for James. Returning close to home is one thing, but winning a championship for the franchise that drafted him would change everything.
How would Love and Irving mesh alongside James?
James automatically makes any team he goes to a contender, especially in the East, but with Irving and Love they could become the favorites to win the whole thing.
In Miami last year, James led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes played. As he turns 30 in December, that is something he would not have to do in Cleveland.
Love, widely considered a top power forward in today’s game, is a three-time All-Star and former rebounding and three-point shootout champion. He would ease the burden of James having to attack the backboard as often. As a career 36 percent shooter from three, he would stretch the floor even better than Bosh did (only 31 percent).
What’s most enticing for James in Cleveland has to be playing with Irving. He’s 10 years younger than Wade and is growing into an elite point guard, if not already. Though he hasn’t had much success in three seasons with the team, the 2011 Rookie of the Year hasn’t had much help either. He’s been the Cavaliers’ best player and led the team in scoring and assists in each season so far.
Irving is a young playmaker who can get his own shot fairly easy and create for others as well, it’s just that he’s never played with talent like James and Love. When he did, he won the All-Star Game MVP. He’d be a great fit off the ball as well and does not need the ball in his hands to make an impact.