I’m going to come right out and confirm that writing out this headline made me die a little inside. Unfortunately, such a ridiculous topic apparently has to be addressed.
If you haven’t been tuning in, the Cleveland Cavaliers are having a bit of a messy week. Owner Dan Gilbert decided having a championship winning GM wasn’t an ideal situation, so he let David Griffin walk out the door. He did so despite Griffin aggressively working the trade market, trying to acquire big name players like Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Meanwhile, Gilbert is awaiting word from Chauncey Billups to see if he’ll accept the offer to become Cleveland’s president of basketball operations despite not having any front office experience.
So, sure, if you’re a Cavs fan you’re not enjoying the offseason right now. Improvements need to be made to the roster if the team is going to topple the Golden State Warriors next year, and with LeBron James‘ contract expiring in 2018, many are worried this could be the final season of contention for Cleveland.
This situation will cause understandable anxiety, maybe even a few rash thoughts of panic. Of course, there’s a fine line between uneasy suggestions and making outright brainless proposals.
Claiming the Cavs should look into trading LeBron James is one of these outright brainless proposals.
You may be thinking there’s no way anyone would actually suggest this. I wish that were the case. However, there have indeed been an alarming amount of “trade James now while Cleveland can get something in return” takes, some of them coming from actual media members. And it’s pure idiocy.
Yes, right now there’s legitimate front office chaos to figure out. Yes, as of now Cleveland has been unable to add help to a roster which needs improvements if it’s going to try and take down the Warriors next year. And, yes, James’ contract expires next summer, giving him the ability to head elsewhere if he so chooses.
Despite all of this, the idea of trading him is asinine.
To get the obvious out of the way first, James has a no-trade clause. Even if someone within the (makeshift) Cleveland front office is openly suggesting this dumb concept, it wouldn’t be as simple as getting on the phone and trying to put something together. Someone would have to approach quite possibly the greatest player in NBA history and get his approval to be traded.
Moving beyond that, why would Cleveland even consider this?
Sure, the possibility of him leaving again for nothing is real. If he did such a thing, the Cavs would be left picking up the pieces.
However, time spent worrying about this will make you fail to realize a simple fact – this is still the best team in the Eastern Conference by far.
While the Cavs haven’t made an offseason splash yet, do remember they still have the same starting lineup which got them to the NBA Finals. They’re still a favorite to make it back to the same stage next year. This isn’t a situation where if Cleveland doesn’t make a move it’ll be lucky to clinch an eighth seed next postseason.
Panicking about the current front office situation and suggesting to proactively trade James is voluntarily slamming this team’s championship window shut for no good reason. Sure, James could pack up and leave next summer and send Cleveland into a massive rebuild. That said, are there really people who honestly think the best idea is to expedite that process?
Said geniuses also are failing to realize another blatant issue. To be blunt – did you know if you trade the best player in the league, there’s a 100% chance your returns will be worse? Turns out not every player in the league can guide a team to the NBA Finals for seven straight years.
Would it really be worth avoiding the (still only potential) departure of James if you know trading him won’t get you better players? Is sending this team back to the basketball stone age made easier to swallow if the Cavs themselves are the ones initiating it?
At the end of the day, while Cleveland still needs to get its front office in shape and make some improvements to the roster, we are in no way finding ourselves in a situation where desperately dealing LeBron James is even remotely a sound solution.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take some time and do whatever it takes to forget I ever had to address something this stupid.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook