2014 Free Agency: LeBron going home

LeBron James is back in Cleveland.  Well, once he gets back from the World Cup Final he is.

LeBron rejoins the Cavaliers on a two year, $42.1m contract with a player option for the second year.  Essentially, it’s a one year deal.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer explains the contract here.

Let’s be very clear here.  LeBron James is not just signing for the Cleveland Cavaliers because he wants to “go home”.  He is going there because, through sheer dumb luck or perhaps malevolent forces, the Cavs managed to get three number 1 draft picks in the last four years (along with the 4th overall in 2011) and, as a result, put together a team that is considerably more likely, with the addition of LeBron, to contend for the 2015 NBA title than the creaky Miami Heat whose only pre-decision-2 moves were to sign Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger.  Two guys who have, in recent years, “gotten into it” on court with LeBron.  Two guys that, consequently, LeBron probably doesn’t like.  Reports from Dan LeBatard also suggest that LeBron’s entourage had issues with Pat Riley.

LeBron is leaving Miami, a team that got utterly smacked in the 2014 NBA finals and looked completely broken in the process, to move to the only team he could leave Miami for, Cleveland, because Cleveland has a better and younger roster.  A roster that will surely contend for the 2015 NBA title.  Where they will still come up against either the San Antonio Spurs or whatever team beats them to the Western Conference title.  Of course, they will first have to get past a very strong Chicago Bulls roster that may…will?…have Derrick Rose back next season.

LeBron was never even likely to head to a third NBA team, like Chicago or Houston.  His legacy, all too evidently a huge issue for him in his “letter” to Sports Illustrated, could not be that he was a mercenary, moving teams to chase titles.  Indeed, why would the best player in the game do that?  Why wouldn’t the team he was on just put a contender around him?  Well, Miami tried and basically succeeded for four consecutive years.  This is why LeBron framed his return to Cleveland as a return home, a return which he had many good reasons for: personal reasons.  But the best reason was that the Cavs are just better than Miami at the moment, as a result of having LeBron on their roster.

In a weird way, the Cavs being badly organised has actually rewarded their hubristic owner Dan Gilbert with the best player in the world, despite that recently-removed comic sans rant that appeared on the Cavs website after LeBron took his talents to South Beach.  Gilbert claimed that he apologized to LeBron in a one-on-one meeting, despite reports that the letter was still an issue for James mere hours before he made his decision.

On the other hand, the Miami Heat are actually a fairly well-run team and have proven it with their moves since LeBron left.  They threw a ton of cash to nab Chris Bosh from under the noses of the Houston Rockets (who have had, frankly, a shocker this free agency – trading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, two key backups, to free up cap space to chase Bosh as well as letting Dallas overpay for the most handsome man in basketball, Chandler Parsons before deciding not to match a guy who had been theirs for $900k had they just taken up their team option on him) for a max deal, before signing Luol Deng to a two-year $20m deal.  Ray Allen following LeBron to Cleveland looks very possible, but they will probably retain the majority of their players from last season and will be sort-of-contenders next season, at least for the conference title.  They are also well-positioned to make a run at Kevin Love when he hits free agency next summer and Kevin Durant the following summer.

It’s just that they’ve lost the best player in the game.

The interesting thing about this round of NBA free agency is that most players have gone where the money is.  Indeed, LeBron has done this – moving on a max deal to become the best paid player on his team, something he has never been before.

Elsewhere the aforementioned Parsons has joined Gordon Hayward in the overpaid white boys club, Parsons moving a few hundred miles north on I-45 on a 3 year $46m deal (overpaid, but well deserved, incidentally, for one of the standout players from the 2011 draft and a second rounder at that), Hayward being retained by the Jazz on a 4 year, $63m deal.  Carmelo Anthony has re-signed with the Knicks after spending too long waiting to see what LeBron was going to do then deciding that he would just take the enormous amounts of cash that New York could and would offer him under the pretense of looking forward to working with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher.  Vince Carter managed to nab himself a three year deal with Memphis, despite being 37 and best known as a leaper.  Dwyane Wade could have learned so much from Vinsanity…

Pau Gasol has joined Chicago, giving them a formidable front court trio of Gasol, Noah and Gibson (Carlos Boozer looks likely to be one of the final amnesty candidates of this CBA to make space).  Paul Pierce has made the rather surprising move to Washington, providing a young team with some veteran leadership.

Remaining free agents include Ray Allen, Lance Stephenson, DeJuan Blair, Greg Monroe, Evan Turner and Dwyane Wade.


About

Andrew was something of a latecomer to the game of basketball, having given up rugby after leaving high school. Joining Edinburgh’s fabled Pentland Tigers, he quickly moved on to the East Lothian Peregrines in the Scottish national league before moving to Belfast where he played with Queens and then with Belfast Star. After a year in the superleague, he moved back to Scotland and played with the Scottish Rocks in the BBL. He “retired” (the McDermott rule for using the word “retire” instead of “stopped playing” does require you to have been paid to play, so technically he retired) and moved to Seattle where he began life as an academic, which currently sees him working at University College Dublin. He is a legitimate non-frontrunning Miami Heat fan, having taken up following the team in 2001.

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