Dec 13, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) and shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2) Go to Youth and Depth
Obviously the Cavaliers fit into this option but they are not the only ones. First lets look at what James could be looking for after the Finals debacle where he tried to carry a Cavaliers like team that gave him little support. He watched a Spurs team full of players from 1 to 10 that could step up and keep the team moving forward. That team had a player on the block that could control the paint in different ways on both ends of the floor, Tim Duncan, a few guards who could control the game with the ball, Tony Parker, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobli, a variety of shooters, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli and players who played their roles well, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. That is a big wish list for James.
He also saw a team with veterans and a system that allowed role players to develop overtime. He can be one of those veterans but if he leaves need to find a place with a system in place that as time goes on the young players, even if they are second round picks, can develop solidly into their roles. There are a number of teams in the league who have young talent but haven’t put it together yet including the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans and the Cavaliers. The Washington Wizards have a young nucleus that has already made it to the playoffs as well. Windhorst also noted the need for a young team around him:
"The idea that James would opt out and leave for a younger team with greater upside, especially if he’s willing to take a pay cut, is another."
With this option James will have to weigh a great deal of factors. Are the young players developed enough that they can excel with the addition of the greatest player in the game? Will or does the coach have the support to put his system in place and keep it there? Does the coach emphasis ball movement and defense? How would going to a 3rd team in his career impact his legacy and brand?
All of these questions are important to James but in the end it seems for him the question revolves around rings and legacy. Do the Cavaliers with their youth upon youth roster have the proper make up for what James is looking for? Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are the dynamic guards, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson are the role players who have very specific roles that they do well and either Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker would add to the talent base. Embiid specifically could long term fill a Tim Duncan role. Jarrett Jack and Anderson Varejao provide the veteran presence while Sergey Karasev, Matthew Dellavedova, Anthony Bennett and Carrick Felix provide the depth of youth that could give James a long, long window. Even recently signed Damjan Rudez provides a specific role as a sharp shooting Euroleague player.
Any team adding the best player in the league would be a title contender. Adding James to the combination of youth, athleticism and shooting that the Cavs are trying to put together could make for a quick change for the franchise. For James a year of patience could lead to a years of contention with young players who are still developing, as well as the chance to draw veterans looking for a last chance at a ring. Unlike Miami all but Jack and Varejao should be getting better through James’ prime. The same is true for some of the other young teams, with the Wizards being a team, with James, that could compete for a title next year, but for Cavs fans there should be hope.
The Cavs will have to make a coaching decision and commit to that coach and their system while bringing in players in the draft and free agency that fills the need of the team. Whether James comes back or not the Cavs have the youth, depth and talent that should make them competitive for years to come. Adding James is the cherry on top, and the sundae.
For James the question comes down to which option does he believe adds to his ring collection and legacy. If he chooses youth does he want to be a player who played for 3 teams or does that limit his options to the Cavs or the Heat? Whatever decision James makes will make sense, as he is thoughtful and focused on his goals, but will the Cavs fans be celebrating or will the Heat fans throw another party for themselves?