By now, the point has been made pretty clearly – the Cleveland Cavaliers have to do something to improve their roster this offseason. As currently constructed, they’re unable to match the firepower of the Golden State Warriors. Therefore, the team has no choice but to try and find a solution this summer.
Of course, said point also comes with a massive caveat – the Cavs are extremely limited in what they could even do to upgrade.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are all under max contracts. Tristan Thompson’s deal falls just a shade under the max salary. Cleveland in general is miles over the cap, with owner Dan Gilbert once again paying a hefty luxury tax.
Likewise, the Cavs are also limited in trade assets. The team doesn’t have any draft picks this year. Nobody is breaking down their door with trade offers for Iman Shumpert, Cedi Osman or Channing Frye. Love will attract some interest, but it’s doubtful any team is going to part with a better player in exchange for Cleveland’s stretch forward.
So, Cleveland’s attempt to counter Golden State’s signing of Kevin Durant is both necessary and damn near impossible. The team will need to get creative, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to strategizing.
There is, of course, a way the Cavs’ best player could help the cause. While Cleveland is facing its fair share of limitations in making roster upgrades, it would benefit greatly from some recruiting efforts by James.
James is well aware of how talented the Warriors are. He just became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in the Finals and it resulted in just one win. It’s likely he also realizes the difficulties lying ahead for Cleveland’s front office when it comes to closing the gap with Golden State.
Bottom line – it’s clear James needs help, but coming by it may be tricky. However, his attempting to recruit this summer could go a long way. If you need proof, you don’t have to look too far to see how effective this strategy can be. As frustrating as Durant’s addition to the Warriors was, it occurred, in part, because of Draymond Green calling him minutes after Game 7 of the 2016 Finals came to a close.
Not only would James following Green’s footsteps be helpful, you could also argue it being necessary. Cleveland’s aforementioned cap issues will impede on their chances to make any big splash signings. Any real help would have to take a pay cut. That said, it’d be a relatively easy sell. “I’ve been to the Finals seven straight years, come to Cleveland and you can go, too.” Everyone knows the Warriors are the team to beat, but also that joining James gives you the best shot at doing so.
This, of course, will require his assuring any candidates he’s not on borrowed time, that he isn’t heading elsewhere when his contract expires next year. That’s not exactly James’ thing and, outside of a pitch to Kevin Love in 2014, it never has been.
Obviously, if you’re a big name player and you’re not 100% sure James is staying in Cleveland for long, you’re understandably hesitant to commit. The second he leaves, the Cavs are a bottom seed in the East at best.
Now may be the time for James to sacrifice this, though. To make a pitch to a notable player. To say “yes, I’ll be here for a while.” To follow this up with “come to Cleveland and we can win some championships together.”
Cleveland currently remains James’ best option when it comes to teams which can get him to the Finals. However, right now the Cavs are built to be good enough to get that far before being buried by Golden State.
At the end of the day, it’s James’ choice. He can choose to let the chips fall where they may, assuming the opportunity to play alongside him will attract more than a few free agents. It’s honestly tough to believe there isn’t a list of players who wouldn’t jump at the chance to join the Cavs even if James doesn’t recruit them.
James is within his rights to do just that. At the same time, it’d be best he not forget the main reason he and his team just got thoroughly dispatched in the Finals was because Golden State’s top player – Durant – ended up there thanks to a timely recruiting pitch.