LeBron James: The Potential of the King in Cleveland

LeBron James could be a Cleveland Cavalier next season. Of course the operative word there is “could”. LeBron could opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. “The King” won back-to-back titles in Miami and has an excellent chance at a three-peat this season. Leaving Miami would be tough after a potential three-peat, but there are long-term questions about whether the Heat can continue to add pieces financially.

While the short-term potential in South Beach is tantalizing, the long-term potential in LeBron’s old home of Cleveland could be amazing.

Why Cleveland? Not only would James return to try and win a ring and a sense of redemption in his home state, he would also join an up-and-coming Cavaliers side.

Cleveland won’t exactly be pouting if their hometown hero stays in Miami. After all, they’re likely bound for the lottery again this season, and the potential to add one of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to a nucleus of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett is ridiculous.

Throw in Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao and Andew Bynum and you have a scary team.

(Let’s say that for all intents and purposes, the Cavs draft Exum, as suggested in this CBS piece, and start Varejao at center.)

How about this for a rotation-

PG Kyrie Irving

SG Dante Exum

F Anthony Bennett

F LeBron James

C Anderson Varejao

Bench-

G Jarrett Jack

G Dion Waters

F Tristan Thompson

F Tyler Zeller

C Andrew Bynum

F Earl Clark

Cheap, Ray Allen-like Signing

Players would be lining up to play for this team. Not only do you have LeBron, but you also have a soon-to-be superstar in Irving and another potential superstar in their draft pick. It might not be Exum who the team takes, but with the depth in the upcoming draft class, whoever the pick is, they’re going to have tremendous upside.

The long-term potential in Cleveland for LeBron is undeniable. What’s more is that if, at age 35, LeBron can’t physically carry the team like he carries Miami now, Cleveland can turn to Irving or their young draft pick as the focal point of the team. They can then use LeBron in a more complimentary, less physically taxing role.

I’m not putting it past LeBron to carry a championship contender at age 35, but who knows what will happen when he gets up there in age.

The short-term potential in Miami is better than Cleveland, but I’ll pose it this way, if you were LeBron, do you want to be playing with the declining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in your later career years? Or do you want to be playing with a younger, more exciting Cleveland team where you don’t have to do as much?

It should also be noted that Wade and Bosh are going to be paid a lot of money down the road, as is LeBron. Thus making it difficult to add more pieces to compete for rings.

LeBron to Cleveland. Makes a lot of sense.

 

 

The Lakers Search For a Point Guard

Derek Fisher is a veteran point guard. It’s probably safe to say that he is past his prime. That being said, the Lakers need a boost at the point. Steve Blake is currently nursing an injury and will be out for a while. Here are some trades that the Lakers could make to help themselves at the backcourt position not manned by Kobe Bryant.

The Obvious Choice- Steve Nash

Steve Nash to this day is still one of the better point guards in the league and is an obvious trade candidate.  Here’s how it could go down-

  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Darius Morris and Fisher. Fisher isn’t the player he once was. The Suns aren’t going to get a player to replace Nash in return. At least here the Suns get two manageable contracts that could very well be bought out (Walton and Fisher) plus a rookie who could have some upside for them (Morris).
  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers with Hakim Warrick for Walton, Fisher and Metta World Peace. The Suns get three buy out options as well as getting out of Hakim Warrick’s contract. This saves the Suns some serious money.

The Under-the-Radar Choice- Jarrett Jack

Jarrett Jack is a good point guard despite playing for the lonely Hornets. He is a solid all-around point guard who can score, rebound and dish it.

  • Jarrett Jack to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton and a future first round pick. Jack makes a whole lot of sense in LA. The Hornets do take on a little money with Walton and lose a lot of production, but they are going to have a down year this year. They basically swap out Jack’s playing time for younger guys with a smidgen of Walton. It should also be noted that Walton and Jack’s  contracts are almost exactly the same. The Hornets (read:   David Stern and his band of team-stealing-buddies) gain another first-round pick to add to their likely growing stash of picks, which, for most GMs of young, bad teams is what you would like. If the Lakers are hell-bent on winning another ring (honestly, what contending team isn’t?) then this first rounder probably will hold as much value as an early second round pick. If not, this might be a pick around number 20 overall. Or if some key players get injured (read Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) this might be, gasp, a late lottery pick.

The Guy From Cleveland- (Not Kyrie Irving, cool it Cavs fans) Ramon Sessions

  • Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher and a second round pick. Sessions also makes sense in LA as does Jarrett Jack. He is a guy who can rebound and dish it. His contract is not obnoxious or ridiculous in any sense of either word. He is a solid player who will help LA a lot. There is also the likelihood that Fisher might be bought out and return to LA. So you have Sessions for a late second round pick, and you give Derek Fisher a week off. Sounds good, lock it up Lakers.

Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and the Lakers all Wrapped Up Into One (and the defending champs, ho hum, note the sarcasm)

Disclaimer: This is all just a proposition. Just a made-up idea, it probably won’t happen. Don’t get too worked up Suns and Magic fans.

The proposed deal- (emphasize proposed)

Orlando Magic Acquire- PF/C Pau Gasol, C Andrew Bynum and G Darius Morris

Phoenix Suns Acquire- G Rodrigue Beaubois, PF/C Daniel Orton and SG Dominique Jones

Dallas Mavericks Acquire PG Steve Nash

Los Angeles Lakers Acquire C Dwight Howard, F Hedo Turkoglu and PG Jason Kidd

(Phoenix and Orlando also get everyone’s favorite trade fodder: draft picks)

Why it makes some sense- We’ll start at the top for this one (or by the list shown above).  Orlando gets two quality big guys (probably better than quality, more like All-Star, but we’re moving on) to replace another All-Star, Dwight Howard, who is leaving anyways at the end of the season. Just to be clear, this isn’t an even swap. Gasol and Bynum are good, but it takes a lot to replace Howard with one or even two players. Morris has been losing minutes in LA and the Magic could use some youth. Orlando also gets the aforementioned, terribly exciting to write about, draft picks! (Note the heavy, heavy, heavy sarcasm.)

Phoenix is the next team listed, so naturally we will talk about them. That’s not a ridiculous idea right? Back to Phoenix. The Suns return isn’t going to jump out at you. This is Beaubois, Jones and Daniel Orton. The latter being a young big with upside, a guy who Orlando sat on the bench for all of last season. Maybe they were looking for an Aaron Rodgers effect with Orton and Howard. Who knows? But Orton’s contract option was declined (if I’m not up to date in contract-speak, then insert correct term here). He’s going to be a free agent after the season. Phoenix could find some upside in him. After all Steve Nash did turn Marcin Gortat into a legitimate center. (That’s completely contradicting since I have Nash leaving Arizona, but it sounds good.)  Beaubois and Jones give the Suns some infusion of youth in a backcourt that includes Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price and Michael Redd. By the way, I toiled away at this on ESPN’s trade machine and Phoenix saves somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 million. And don’t-forget-about-the-picks.

Dallas gets an upgrade at the point, plain and simple. If Nash doesn’t work out, they can let him walk like they might let Kidd walk. Dallas might lose some picks in this situation, but to get Nash, I think they’ll take that risk.

Here is the one problem with this. If Dallas is intent on pursing Howard in free agency, or even in another trade this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if the Magic and Lakers agree on a deal, Dallas could still gain from it. And to be honest, the Lakers probably have better trade pieces (cough, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, cough) than the Mavericks do (cough,  Sean Williams and whatever Shawn Marion used to dye his hair, cough).

The Lake Show finally gets Dwight Howard. They also absorb Turkoglu’s contract as well as picking up Kidd to run the offense. This isn’t Howard and some throw ins. Turkoglu will help the Lakers’ instability on the wing next to Kobe. They also get a potential HOF point guard to distribute the ball. A good trade all around for the Lakers even though they didn’t get to unload Luke Walton or the player-formerly-known-as-Ron-Artest’s-contracts.

More trades for teams who aren’t making the playoffs.

Charlotte Bobcats- The Bobcats are bad. The team needs some kind of size. Byron Mullens has been nice, but they need more size, whether they’re contending or not (read not). The rest of their frontline consists of Tyrus Thomas, Mullens, DJ White, Boris Diaw and the rookie-name-sensation Bismack Biyombo. Mullens is 7 feet tall, Thomas is 6-10. But outside of that the rest of the guys are 6-9 and shorter. We also should mention that Michael Jordan’s team has DeSanga Diop. Problem is that the Bobcats don’t have a ton of assets. Someone might want Corey Maggette’s contract. Boris Diaw could be a nice rental. I’m assuming they would like to get out of Matt Carroll, Diop and Maggette’s contracts. DJ White could be another cheapish rental. Unless they want to unload DJ Augustin because they’re fully committed to Kemba (it’s plausible) there aren’t a whole lot of assets here.

Potential Deals-

F Boris Diaw to Miami for Whoever. Miami could certainly use another big, whether that be a more finesse option like Diaw remains to be seen. Miami could have troubling dealing for anyone, let alone the former Sun, because the only non-Big-3 players who didn’t sign this offseason (making them trade-able only after two months or March 1st) are Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Haslem and Anthony aren’t being dealt for other bigs. Neither is Cole or Miller. Pittman’s salary isn’t going to match up.

F Corey Maggettee and PF DJ White to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. Maggette gives Boston a big boost on the wing. A boost that is sorely needed in Boston. Sasha Pavlovic and Mickael Pietrus are nice back up options, but the Celtics need some bench scoring. Maggette immediately becomes the best scoring option on the second unit. He also becomes the fifth best player on the team. Yes, this is no screw up. Boston dealing one of their better big men (yikes) in O’Neal. White is younger and cheaper. White can play the four with KG at the five. White can play five with Brandon Bass at the four. Greg Stiemsma has been serviceable. This isn’t a complete loss. Granted this doesn’t help Boston at all for the future seeing as they have to pay Maggette next year, but it certainly would help this year.

The Detroit Pistons have some nice pieces. (Read: Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe). They also have some overpaid ones. (Read: Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.) It should be noted that Charlie V and Ben Gordon aren’t bad options, they just cost a lot.

How about this-

G Ben Gordon, F Charlie Villanueva and F Austin Daye to…….(fake, corny drum roll please…..) Atlanta for G Joe Johnson. Yes, this is terrible for the Hawks and the trade machine spits it out as their projected wins going down by five, but what if they trade their contractual albatross (Johnson) to Detroit for two contractual crows, so to speak. They also get a young guy with some upside (Austin Daye) who is a tweener in every since of the word.

Detroit gets a star player and All-Star to pair with Monroe, Knight and Jonas Jerebko. They also get a ticket-draw, so to speak, in Johnson. One that they desperately need. Think about that nucleus for Detroit, Johnson, Monroe, Knight and Jerebko, plus a likely lottery pick in a deep draft (probably another big man). Sounds pretty good right? Atlanta meanwhile moves to more of a Portland like blue-print. One lead scoring option who’s a good player ,not a superstar yet, (Josh Smith) and a flurry of secondary options that can contribute 10-20 points on a given night (Jeff Teague, Tracey McGrady, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Charlie V and Marvin Williams). That’s not too bad, right? Probably still good enough to make the playoffs in the East. Did I mention Atlanta saves like a bajillion dollars?

Next up is the Hornets. Did anyone think that they would be this bad without Chris Paul? They aren’t short of good players. Eric Gordon is a very good two. Chris Kaman is solid. So are Jarret Jack and Emeka Okafor. Point is New Orleans has pieces that some teams might be interested in.

Proposed trade numero uno-

C Chris Kaman to Indiana for …. picks. Indiana has the cap room and is supposedly looking for another center to play behind Roy Hibbert. Kaman provides a more than quality option for Indiana. If it is picks, then  they are TBD. I’m not sure what the asking price for a potential All-Star Center is in the NBA these days.

Or….

C Chris Kaman to Houston for PG Johnny Flynn, C Hasheem Thabeet and G/F Terrence Williams. All three lottery picks who could use a change of scenery. All are also buried on the depth chart by well, depth. New Orleans gets three young pieces with a lot of potential for a guy who is a rental for them at best.

SF Trevor Ariza to Boston for F/C Chris Wilcox, G Keyon Dooling , G E’twaun Moore and a second round pick. Ariza doesn’t have a bad contract by any stretch, but I’m sure the New Orleans management (read David Stern) will want to shed some cash. The Hornets get two guys on expiring contracts who are potential buy-out guys as well as some youth infusion of Moore and another pick. I still can’t stress Boston’s need for perimeter help. Ariza is a bit like James Posey, so maybe that will help the Celtics.

The Washington Wizards. What can be said about the Wizards. They play in Washington, they’re called the Wizards. No, but seriously, the Wizards aren’t very good. They have some cap room, which is a plus, but something probably has to be done about Rashard Lewis and his 21 million dollar salary. That is way too much for a player that isn’t a part of Washington’s future, let alone worth that much. John Wall is a great building block. JaVale McGee can dunk it home. Jordan Crawford and Nick Young can both score. There’s upside, they just need more players with that kind of upside. Plus they could use my favorite thing to write about… Picks.

Deals that might work (just a heads up, I’m running out of synonyms for that phrase)-

PF/C Andray Blatche and a 2012 first-round pick to Sacramento for PF/C DaMarcus Cousins. It’s somewhat of a swap of headaches. Yes,the Wizards give up a likely lottery pick and a potential number one pick. But think of the potential of John Wall and Cousins playing together again. Those two with the rest of their young nucleus, not to mention Jan Vesley. Yikes. Blatche still has some potential. Even though he’s injured now, it still could be there for Blatche.

Jimmer mania has moved to Sacramento. Sacramento is also on their second coach of the season. The Kings have a good nucleus with guys like Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer, guys like that. The Kings have a lot of cap space, so money isn’t an issue. Here’s what I would do if I ran the Kings-

Trade SG Francisco Garcia and C Jason Thompson to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF/C Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. As you can tell I think the C’s could make some moves to help their bench and these guy’s expiring contracts are currently the best assets that Boston can move. Thompson helps them a lot in the frontcourt, and if he doesn’t work out, his contract expires after the season too. Garcia gives Boston their overstated boost on the wing. Sacramento gets out of Garcia’s contract and saves even more money.

So, don’t lose it thinking these deals are going to happen. Some of them might and some of them have absolutely no chance.

Is Trading Your Young Players for a Superstar Advisable?

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, when and where they get traded, will haul in a boatload of pieces whether they be young talent or draft picks. We have seen it in recent years with players like Kevin Garrnett, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd and more recently Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Al Jefferson. Is it smart to mortgage most of your future for a guy who’s a superstar, but won’t do diddly by himself? Look at the recent examples of superstars by themselves. LeBron went to a Finals with the Cavs, but lost to the Spurs because his supporting cast’s front runners were Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall. Chris Bosh accomplished nothing in Toronto with Rasho Nesterovic and Jarrett Jack. Dwayne Wade won a title, but struggled after losing Shaq. Ditto Kobe. Then there’s the stars that have a good or even great supporting cast and succeed with it. Tim Duncan has run a dynasty in San Antonio with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili among others. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers won two titles in a row recently thanks to Pau Gasol and the rest of the Lakers. It pains me to say it, but Kevin Durant is building on what looks like a real good team now and later, but is also deep with the Oklahoma City Raiders. Nothing against Durant. He’s a great player and future MVP,  but seeing Clay Bennett succeed and me being from Seattle…. Well, you get the point. Point is that you need a solid if not spectacular supporting cast for your star. Not a smorgasbord mash-up of over-the- hill lottery picks and minimum salary guys who are used to fill out 5-5 scrimmages in practice. You need good players to step up when the star player is on a once-in-a-blue-moon-colder-than-leftover-turkey-sandwhiches-on-Black-Friday cold streak. You need the Robert Horry or the Tyson Chandler. I could go on rattling off players like this for ages, but the main point of this so far, 332 words of babble, is to convey the point that you need players who are good other than your star(s). If you’re the Clippers don’t sacrifice Eric Gordon for Chris Paul. Don’t cave to pressure and dump your good young players for a superstar. Here are two prime examples of this. You’ll probably know who these teams are, but play along.

Team A has two of the most prolific scorers in the NBA who are probably two of the top 10-15 players in the league plus another guy who is probably in the top 50 guys in the league.

Team B has one superstar on the team. Team B also has solid, if not great, role players surrounding him and can go at least ten guys deep and still beat you.

Now you read this and think that Team A is obviously the better team and had a better record and made it farther in the playoffs and blah blah blah. But team A is none other than the Super Friends New York Chapter. While Team B is the Chicago Bulls, a team who had the best record in NBA and went to the Eastern Conference Finals. If you remember correctly the Knicks got handled by the Celtics in the first round after getting crawling into the playoffs on a cold streak.

If you look at those teams’ transactions feeds you’ll see that the Knicks re-did the Nuggets team store Jersey section by sending Wilson Chandler , Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to Denver for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Willams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman.

Carter was a role player buried in the rotation, and Blakman played six minutes per game more than Mel Gibson did with the Knicks. So cross those two out.

Williams actually started some games for the Knicks,  but he only averaged four points. Williams and Carter’s contracts are up, so they are probably gone. Ditto Billups when his expires, because the Knicks want cap room to go after Chris Paul. Balkman would probably be gone if his contract didn’t extend for two more years.

The Knicks gave up a potential scoring threat in Danillio Gallinari as well as talented slasher Wilson Chandler, underrated center Timofey Mozgov and a point guard who was having an All-Star year in New York in Raymond Felton. I’m not saying the Knicks would have filled the rafters with banners with Gallinari and Chandler, but hypothetically let’s say the Knicks get Chris Paul if they didn’t acquire Carmelo.

Would you rather have Paul, Landry Fields, Chandler, Gallinari and Amare?

Or an aging Chauncey, Fields, Melo, Amare and Ronny Turiaf?

As much as I love Ronny Turiaf’s game, I’d go with the first starting five. Granted, this is all saying that the Knicks would come away with Chris Paul for some mix up of Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Andy Rautins, Mozgov, and picks. I don’t see the Hornets doing this in any way shape or form unless David Stern wants a league dominated by the Miami Heat versions 2-30.  So, maybe it happens that the Knicks would have to drag out this year with another 6-8 seed, with Melo still in Denver and lose in the first round and wait for Paul. Maybe they sign Tyson Chandler, and then we’re talking. Point is they’d be built around their superstar(s) and have a complete team, not two superstars and little to no depth.