The Cleveland Cavaliers have about $17 million in cap space to spend this summer, but could clear up around $23 million to offer a max contract. In the following few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might pick up during the free agency period. Today, we profile LeBron James. Click here for more free agency profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: LeBron James
Prior Team: Miami Heat
Weight: 250 lbs.
2013-14 Per Game Stats: 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 56.7 FG%, 37.9 3PT%, 75 FT% (77 GP)
Career Per Game Stats: 27.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 49.7 FG%, 34.1 3PT%, 74.7 FT% (842 GP)
This is the part of the post where I am supposed to break down LeBron’s offense, defense, intangibles and his fit relative to the Cavaliers. However, let’s be honest: Everyone knows LeBron’s game. The man is the best basketball player in the world. He’s been the best basketball player in the world for years, and, amazingly, he does nothing but get better. Despite the Heat’s loss to the Spurs in the finals, LeBron was magnificent. He posted a line of 28 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals while shooting 57/52/80. In fact, the only thing you might be able to criticize him for is the fact that he didn’t shoot more. James took almost as many shots as Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined (91 to 115), but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about LeBron James, it’s that he’s simply not that kind of player.
For his career, LeBron has taken 30 or more shots in a game just 32 times (both regular and postseason). Those numbers are remarkable at first blush but even crazier when you consider the fact that Kobe Bryant had four games of 30 or more shots in 2012-13; his last healthy season (over the course of his career: 122 games). There’s no doubt that LeBron could carry the load offensively, but it’s really just not how he’s wired. LeBron is closer to Bird than he is Jordan. That’s why he left for Miami in 2010, and that’s what teams need to realize this time around. Yet that is still lost on far too many people.
LeBron has supreme confidence, but that doesn’t mean he’s naïve. He, more than anyone else in the world, knows what kind of player he is. The situation that LeBron walks into is going to have loads of offensive talent, potential defensively and another small forward capable of helping him out from time to time. Now, this is the part where I point out that the Cavs have one of the most talented point guards in the league in Kyrie Irving; that they have a bunch of athletes capable of throwing out multiple defensive looks at the defense; that they just drafted, arguably, the best small forward prospect since James himself. I’m supposed to throw all of that stuff out there, point to it, point to it again, and then say LeBron would be crazy for passing that up. But here’s the thing: LeBron should pass that up…if he still intends to win multiple championships.
Young teams don’t win championships. The common rebuttal is that any team with LeBron James on it is a title contender, but LeBron is not worried about himself. LeBron knows he can count on himself. The question is can he count on his teammates? That was the problem in Cleveland, and he knew he could count on Wade and Bosh to come through when it mattered. Maybe he has doubts now, but again, LeBron is not stupid. He has years of evidence, including these playoffs, of Wade and Bosh showing up when the lights were the brightest. Everyone points to the Finals as a sign that Wade is done, but the man was playing some of his best basketball of the season up until about Game 4. The roster in Cleveland? Completely untested. There’s no telling who will disappear, and that makes the Cavaliers risky. At this point in his career, I’m not sure it’s a risk that LeBron is willing to take.
Would LeBron fit this roster? Absolutely. LeBron fits any roster, but in Cleveland it would be seamless. He could swing between the small and power forward slots, depending on who’s in the game, and he would always have at least two reliable ball-handlers to share the load. As far as intangibles are concerned, he’s a four-time MVP and two-time champion who has continued to improve each and every season. He’s a bona fide leader that will finally give the young players a veteran to model themselves after. Again, he’s a perfect fit, and that’s before even getting into the marketing of it all. LeBron leaves Cleveland only to come back four years later to lead them back to the promised land? The story writes itself. Unfortunately, the story glosses over too many details, too much of the nitty-gritty, and when truly examined, just has far too little substance.