In a way, we need to give credit to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With three straight NBA Finals appearances under LeBron James, this has clearly been one of the best Eastern Conference franchises. As time goes on, eras obviously end at some point in time. I explained this concept within my second mid-week take on Tuesday evening, right before Cleveland blew a 21-point lead to the Orlando Magic and lost in shocking fashion.
There are plenty of reasons to believe the Cavaliers are in the twilight stages of their dominant run in the East. My correspondent Chris Wood further explained this theory, noting that this could be an instance in which James is knocked out of the postseason in early fashion.
Contradicting reports have put the Cavaliers in the firing line of the media. In the most recent incident, three things were reported out of Cleveland’s headquarters:
- LeBron James actually didn’t want Cleveland to ship off Kyrie Irving. Perhaps he wanted to use Irving to get back into the Finals one more time, or James believed there was potential to mend a broken relationship.
- James has fit into a role of a coach in a sense, but has taken it too far by lashing out at two Cleveland executives this past week. This could be polarizing for potential suitors for LeBron down the road during free agency.
- The Cleveland front office has involved LeBron in a handful of decisions regarding the team, but are beginning to exclude him from particular conversations. This could be trouble, especially since James has already committed to the franchise heading into next season.
Those are a lot of talking points, but where does Cleveland even go from here? The biggest name on the current NBA Trade Deadline market involves DeAndre Jordan, but is he really that push the Cavs need to surpass the Celtics and (most likely) the Warriors?
In recent news, the Cavaliers actually offered J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, and a first round pick in exchange for DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers went on to reject the offer, and I don’t blame them. Aside from the first round pick, what part of that deal seems somewhat attractive? In my eyes, Smith and Thompson are merely viewed as role players with a low ceiling, and nothing more.
In the 2018 calendar year, Cleveland is now at a sitting record of 7-10. Having once controlled the Eastern Conference with ease, the team now sits as the #3 seed. During that same exact stretch, the Cavaliers have undergone a point differential of -135 in just a mere seventeen games.
Sure, some fans will say the absence of Kevin Love is a factor in the lack of consistency Cleveland is pertaining, but were they all that great with him on the roster? In my sole opinion, even with Love in the starting lineup, this is a team that simply cannot compete with the likes of others in their conference, let alone the top tier Western Conference competition.
Always next year though, right? Think again. The Cavaliers are scheduled to owe $43 million in tax penalties in the summer of 2018. This essentially doesn’t mean a whole lot, aside from the fact that the Cavaliers will have a hard team reeling in talent to play with LeBron James. In addition, the Cavs will likely lose a fair amount of their current talent.
Names scheduled to hit free agency this summer are Isaiah Thomas, Jeff Green, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon. While most of these players are well past their prime, Thomas will likely be seeking a max contract from either the Phoenix Suns or Brooklyn Nets. The Cavaliers simply won’t have the cap room to reel Thomas back into a Cleveland uniform by the start of the 2018-19 season.
With no cap room to work with, does James ultimately undergo a “Kobe” effect? This would mean, in a vague sense, that the front office would be forced to solely rely on James for their success, which results in the superstar wasting his later years in the NBA. As a Lakers fan, watching Bryant’s legacy be picked apart by critics for a lack of management in the later years was difficult to watch, but I could see the same occurrence for James.
The Cavaliers contain the oldest NBA roster, with the average age of a player on the current roster being over 30-years old. In fact, Cleveland is the only NBA franchise with an average age over 30. The front office has separated themselves from younger talent, and if James does make his exit down the road in 2019, this will soon be a team without a face.
If you’re asking me, Cleveland has too many issues to solve. I find myself somewhat shocked that James is committing to Cleveland in 2018, simply because I don’t see improvements taking place upon the offseason. From the front office to the players on the sidelines, this is an era that is finally coming to an end, mark my words.
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