The Cleveland Cavaliers came into the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night with a 1.7% chance of winning the rights to the number one overall selection in next month’s draft. By the end of the night, Cleveland had seemingly done the impossible and was awarded the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, marking the third time in four years they have done so. There were many who believed Cleveland was being rewarded for the misery they experienced when LeBron James left as a free agent in 2010 with the two most recent number one overall selections – with this year’s (1.7% chance), the term “rigged” has been mentioned often around the league.
Now that the Cavaliers’ are locked into the top overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, the “LeBron James should opt out of his contract and return to Cleveland this summer” talk has been a popular story in the sports world. While a majority of the news is just media-driven hype, there are many credible sources who believe it is a real possibility. I for one do not see how a LeBron James return to Cleveland makes any sense for him and let me tell you why:
1. The Miami Heat Organization - Make no mistake about it, the Miami Heat are one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports. Pat Riley is a legend around the NBA and has been for decades now. His pitch for LeBron to initially sign with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 was simply putting all of his championship rings on the table suggesting “if you want to win titles then you come play for me.” Owner Micky Arison has proven he will do whatever it takes to bring multiple championships to the franchise by paying millions of dollars each year in luxury tax – something most owners around the league refuse to do. Erik Spoelstra has been with the organization since 1995 and the head coach since 2008. The Miami Heat preach the importance of loyalty and family and go about their business as true professionals year in year out.
2. The Cleveland Cavaliers Organization – While the Miami Heat are the one best organizations in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to be considered one of the worst. Owner Dan Gilbert was openly critical of LeBron James leaving as a free agent in 2010 and even went as far as blasting him with a personally written letter claiming among other things, LeBron was “selfish” and “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former “king” wins one.” Since 2010, LeBron has led the Miami Heat to two NBA Championships, an Eastern Conference Championship, and currently chasing another ring in the playoffs. At the moment Cleveland has no coach, as they just fired Mike Brown (again) following another disappointing season. Why would LeBron want to bring a man like Dan Gilbert a championship after openly blasting him in the media? Why would LeBron want to go to a team that has no current head coach as they look in the college ranks for their “savior?” The Cleveland Cavaliers organization is as dysfunctional as it gets and LeBron is well aware of it.
3. The Miami Heat Roster Flexibility – For all of the talk about teams around the league having cap space, the Miami Heat will most likely have just as much as anyone (assuming LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all opt out). Chris Andersen ($1.4 million) and Norris Cole ($2.1 million) are the only two contracts that are locked in for the 2014-2015 season. What this means is that the Miami Heat have the flexibility to do whatever they want this offseason and have two solid role players locked in at very manageable money as well. Should James, Wade, and Bosh all take less than the maximum to stay in Miami (which they already did once), the Heat will have the ability to sign other stars such as Carmelo Anthony or build a younger more athletic lineup around the big three trio. As we well know, Miami is a destination that is on the radar of most free agents around the league and having the opportunity to play for a championship year after year makes them a very attractive place to play.
4. The Cleveland Cavaliers Roster Flexibility – The Cleveland Cavaliers did a great job at creating some cap space over the last year or two but still find themselves with seven players locked into contracts for the 2014-2015 season. Kyrie Irving is quickly developing into a star but has legitimate injury concerns as he missed almost all of his one year at Duke, 31 games as a rookie in 2011-2012, 23 games the following year, and 10 games this past year. LeBron James is well aware of these numbers and he has to wonder if a 22-year-old kid who is already having trouble staying on the court would make the best running mate. The rest of the Cavs’ roster is filled with young talent who have all in one way or another failed to meet expectations. Throw in another 19-year-old rookie (number one overall pick) to the mix and you have a very young, immature, and inexperienced roster. LeBron James is in the prime of his career right now where each season is title or bust – is he really going to rely on a bunch of kids to get him to the promise land?
5. The 2014 NBA Draft – The Cleveland Cavaliers will pick first in the 2014 NBA Draft, so what? I have a hard time believing that the number one pick is any better than having the number two or three pick in this draft. Without question, the top three prospects in this year’s draft are (in no particular order) Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and most would agree Julius Randle is right there with them as the fourth best prospect. Early reports are suggesting that Cleveland is leaning towards taking Embiid with the number one overall pick which is a huge risk considering the back injuries he experienced this past season at Kansas. Andrew Wiggins looks like the “safest” pick but his effort and motivation come and go (what happens when he gets paid?). Jabari Parker will have a hard time contributing on the defensive end because he is too small to play in the paint and too slow to play on the perimeter. Julius Randle will be a bully down low but if he fails to develop a jump shot he will not become the 20-10 star he has the potential to be. Cleveland may have the first overall pick but in my eyes, anywhere in the top 3-4 is just as valuable. Sometimes it’s better to let other teams make decisions for you (see Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft).
Tags: Miami Heat