By John Stoeter
The decision that sent Lebron James packing to South Beach in 2010 can ultimately be the same decision that sends him packing his bags back to Cleveland in 2014. During Lebron’s spell in Miami, the team has been to four straight NBA Finals appearances while winning two of them. So what seems to be the problem? Similar to his Cleveland days, Lebron has little to no help surrounding him.
In the 2014 NBA Finals Lebron scored 28.2 PPG, leading the Miami Heat in scoring. The other two members of the so-called big three averaged 29.2 PPG. Unfortunately for Lebron and the Heat, this was Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade’s combined PPG for the series. Well Bosh and Wade must be producing elsewhere then, correct? False. Bosh and Wade went on to average only 9 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game during the 2014 NBA Finals. Sure, if each one did that individually then that doesn’t sound all too bad. However, these were their combined statistics, whereas Lebron James averaged 7.8 rebounds and 4 assists.
The combination of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade only averaged 1 more point than James while producing fewer assists and only averaging 1.2 rebounds more than the king. At this point, Lebron must be quoting his inner Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, saying, “We need your help!!!!” Seriously, minus Lebron, the Spurs made the Heat look like a Michael Jordan-less Tune Squad.
In a must-win Game 4 in Miami, Dwyane Wade shot 3-13 from the field and only scored 10 points. Chris Bosh scored 12 points but managed to grab only 4 rebounds. Lebron out-rebounded the starting squad by his lonesome. In a win-or-go-home Game 5, Chris Bosh shot 6-14, going 0-5 from behind the three-point line while only producing 13 points. Dwyane Wade shot 4-12, only manufacturing 11 buckets. Lebron went on to lead the team in scoring with 31 while also leading the team in rebounds and assists. The Miami Heat’s lack of offensive production has to at least have Lebron squabbling the options of taking his talents to Cleveland. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a decision part two.
The Cleveland Advantage
The combination of Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins has to at least spark the interest of Lebron James. Kyrie Irving is a premiere PG in the league and his 20.8 PPG has to at least attract Lebron James slightly. And if you remember Kyrie Irving stole the show by winning this years MVP in the all-star game. The kid seems to be big time and is dripping with potential. The ability for James to actually come off the ball and play a true SF/PF position would be very beneficial for him. Most importantly, it would be very beneficial for his legs and his body. As we have all seen in the previous year’s finals, Lebron struggles with severe leg cramps. And although there are many reasons behind this, you have to like the idea of Kyrie Irving being able to reduce the stress of Lebron James and his legs. More than likely Lebron will still have the ball the majority of the time. But the idea that he can actually play with a great PG for once instead of a multitude of mediocre ones has to be intriguing.
Now let’s get to the Andrew Wiggins factor of the Cavaliers sales pitch. The phenom freshman from the Kansas Jayhawks has been raved upon since his high school days. Similar to another number one draft pick by the Cavaliers named Lebron James. Before his transition to college, many experts dubbed Andrew Wiggins to be the next Lebron James. Not to mention, it is believed that Andrew Wiggins’ game will transition very smoothly into the NBA. An NBA-sized court will allow Wiggins to move with more spacing which he seems to be a lot more comfortable doing. The trio of James, Irving, and Wiggins has the capability of a true big 3 with some athletic scoring ability. Not to mention, unlike the Miami Heat of 2014 which was running on lack of cartilage and fumes, this team has youth behind it.
But the biggest benefit to a possible Cleveland return for the king is that it’s home. The decision for Lebron James to return to Cleveland is simply deeper than a good team with a chance of winning. A couple weeks ago Lebron posted videos on Instagram of him and his buddies from Cleveland. He is quoted saying, “Man I miss my dogs! Can’t wait to get home for the summer.” Lebron stills owns a home there and returns every summer to vacation. The majority of his friends and family still reside in Cleveland and the surrounding areas. It seems to me that Lebron would love nothing more than to return to Cleveland and win their first major professional title since 1964. The hometown villain could become a hero and cement his legacy in Cleveland sports forever. As the saying goes, “there’s no place like home.”
First, let’s address the youth of this team. Andrew Wiggins is only 19 and Kyrie Irving is just 22. While there have been rookies who have risen to stardom and help win titles before, it is very uncommon for a team this young to do so. The major core of this team would be 24 and younger besides Anderson Varejao. I don’t believe James will want to come to a team in which he feels he will have to coach throughout the season. In my opinion, James will be more interested on a team where he can contend immediately. Lebron is interested in rings, not coaching young stars and molding their future. This Cavaliers team hoisted a 33-49 record last year and have yet to receive a winning season since the departure of James. Although they have had much “luck” in the NBA draft, they have been bad enough to receive three number one draft picks in the past four seasons. And not to mention, this is the same team that wasted the 2013 number one pick on Anthony Bennett.
Also, this is the same exact organization that failed to provide James with any extra help or relief necessary to provide a serious NBA Finals run. Seriously, there were seasons in which Larry Hughes and an old washed-up Shaq and Ben Wallace led the team in salary. Does Lebron really want to risk his future on another bad management fiasco in Cleveland?
The other big question mark on this team is newly hired head coach David Blatt. The man is a widely successful European coach. But who knows if his style of play will translate into a successful offense in the NBA. I believe that all these question marks surrounding Cleveland will be a little bit too much for Lebron James to commit to. Maybe in a few years as this team matures we will finally see a return of the king in Cleveland.
In Riley We Trust
Lebron James will have a sit-down with Pat Riley today. He will announce his doubts and uncertainties for the following Miami Heat season, but all in all it’s about winning, and I believe that Lebron trusts Pat Riley enough to make the moves around him in order to create a roster capable of another championship run. At the moment the heat only have four players currently committed to this season’s basketball team. These players consist of Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. This so far looks like a much better and youthful team to build around Lebron. But if you add in the fact that Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are likely to sign with the Heat again if Lebron does, the average age of the roster starts to take a significant hit.
In order for Lebron to resign with the Heat, I believe they have to get some true scoring power or make a trade for a guy like Marc Gasol. A true center in Miami is a must-need. If Chris Bosh can go back to shooting his mid-range shot and playing PF then the Heat immediately look better. Taking Bosh away from grabbing boards and adding in a center who can do that will ultimately be a significant upgrade for the team. Lebron will trust in Riley and his genius mind and go on to play another season for the Miami Heat.
The Rumor Portion
Everybody loves a sweet rumor so let me end with a wild prediction. It was reported earlier that after speaking with Lebron James, Chris Bosh and his agent have started to at least take offers from other teams. One offer being the 4 year/88 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets. Lebron James needs more star power and scoring in Miami. However, he knows that the Heat will not rid themselves of Dwyane Wade. Even though Wade has a bum knee and looked like a shell of himself in the previous NBA Finals; his job is safe. The guy is hero in that city and loved by all. He has been a part of all of the organizations championships and it’s pretty safe to say that his job is locked up.
So here is where it gets interesting. What if Lebron was toying with Chris Bosh in order for him to leave town? Maybe Pat Riley and Lebron James discuss a evil maniacal plan to rid themselves of Bosh and his salary. They make the announcement that Lebron won’t be returning to Miami, creating a frenzy in the free agent market. Chris Bosh makes the decision to sign with the Rockets. Which, personally, I find to be a great pick up. And it leaves the Rockets as a number one favorite out of the west. Bosh with his mid-range and Howard with the rebounds and defense would create the best PF/C combo in the league.
But back to the Lebron sweepstakes. After a day or two of pandemonium it’s announced that the Heat sign Carmelo Anthony to a deal, which was the evil plan created by James and Riley. Next thing you know, the Heat are back in business with another big blockbuster free agency. Thus leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers heartbroken, playing the role of scapegoat while Lebron James returns to the Miami Heat organization.
The Miami Heat roster could look something like this:
C: Whoever, it doesn’t matter
Let’s say the bench looks something similar to this.
Throw in whoever else they decide to add to the mix. Now that sounds like some serious championship contention and an immediate upgrade for the Miami Heat and Lebron James.
John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @Stoeter850.