Things have been mildly positive on Cleveland Twitter this week, specifically regarding the possibility of LeBron James staying with the Cavaliers. Some of this was sparked by a story from Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where it was revealed James’ team has been in contact with the Cavs over the past few days. Though nothing of substance has come from these talks, it’s still more communication than we saw back in 2010.
As a result, some think this indicates James may not want to leave Cleveland after all. If this is indeed the case, the Cavs are going to need more from him than just preliminary talks with his team. The only way Cleveland can truly make enough moves to convince him to stay is if he’s willing to give some level of commitment.
Though it sounds trivial, it’s also something James is always hesitant to do. At the same time, Cleveland’s attempt to appease his desire to stay will be far more difficult if he’s not willing to tip his hand.
To be fair, I’m not saying James needs to straight up tell the Cavs “I’m staying, let’s discuss roster moves.” There’s a 0% chance of this taking place. That said, even giving a slight indication of his intentions could improve the team’s chances of upgrading the roster.
As mentioned, the front office may already be hesitant to make moves without knowing his plans, simply because it doesn’t want to be stuck with a bloated roster and no superstar to center it around. The scars of 2010 are still present, likely leading to apprehension towards win-now tactics such as trading the player Cleveland selects at tomorrow’s draft.
If, however, he’s willing to provide some insight, even a list of moves the team could make which would convince him to say, it gives the Cavs something to work with. Knowing the possibility of him staying is very real, the front office can be more aggressive this summer.
To instead prefer to stay in Cleveland, yet not provide even the slightest assurance of this will hurt the team’s attempts to make significant roster improvements.
Not only will the front office need some sort of commitment from James, so, too, will any players Cleveland tries to acquire.
There have been a handful of rumors indicating James is gauging interest around the NBA when it comes to players joining him in Cleveland. This at the very least lends credence to the belief he hasn’t closed the door on staying with the team.
That said, it’s tough to believe there are many players out there willing to commit to the Cavs without knowing if James is even going to be there next year.
Sure, Cleveland could work around this and solely focus on the trade market. Considering the salary cap hell the team finds itself in, this is essentially the only way the it can make significant upgrades. However, this is also a difficult route to take without any indication of James’ preferences.
Consider a situation where the Cavs trade for a star player who happens to be entering the final year of his contract (i.e. Kawhi Leonard). It’s difficult to believe they’d be willing to part with prized assets without getting some sort of confirmation the player they’re getting in return is willing to sign an extension.
Putting myself in this hypothetical player’s shoes, I’m incredibly hesitant to commit to an extension if the next few years of my life are spent on a Cavs team without James. As a result, it’s doubtful Cleveland would be able to sway trade targets on expiring deals to make any promises. Likewise, I struggle to believe the front office would proceed with a deal despite this out of fear James could still end up departing.
As you can see, without getting some assistance from James, the Cavs’ attempts to make legitimate roster improvements are hindered. Likewise, James can’t hold Cleveland accountable if he’s not open to letting the team know he’s willing to consider sticking around.
Again, this is all based on the faint belief James would prefer not to relocate. That said, as nice as it would be for James to want to stay in Cleveland, the team will still have a difficult time improving the roster if he’s not willing to help the cause.