A second straight lopsided Finals is only part of the picture, Windhorst notes, as the past 12 months have seen the loss of GM David Griffin, the trade of Kyrie Irving, a health scare for coach Tyronn Lue and two extreme roster makeovers. Mental mistakes from teammates in the Finals, highlighted by J.R. Smith‘s error at the end of Game 1, led to James wonder this week, “How do you put together a group of talent but also a group of minds to be able to compete” with the Warriors.
Cleveland enters this summer with no cap room and a once-promising draft pick that landed in the middle of the lottery. The Celtics and Sixers both took huge steps forward this season and appear to be the powers in the Eastern Conference for years to come, presenting a significant obstacle for James to ever reach the Finals again if he stays in Cleveland.
On top of that, Windhorst notes, there’s a trust issue with owner Dan Gilbert and a limited relationship with GM Koby Altman, who is barley older than James. In theory, the Cavs have the advantage of being able to offer a longer and richer contract than anyone else — five years at more than $200MM. However, James hasn’t inked a deal longer than two years since returning to Cleveland and seems to prefer the power he holds with short-term arrangements.
There’s more on LeBron as free agent speculation heats up:
- Expect the Cavaliers to see what they can get for a package of Kevin Love and the No. 8 pick in an attempt to convince James to stay, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The team passed on chances to deal Love at close to maximum value and will have a hard time obtaining even half of that at this point, Lowe adds.
- Matt Goul of Cleveland.com is running through several potential scenarios involving James and the team’s future. His first story involves James staying in Cleveland and the Cavs trying to improve by drafting a starter at No. 8 and adding a free agent with their $5.4MM mid-level exception. Goul identifies several unrestricted free agents 30 or younger who may be available at that price: Celtics center Greg Monroe, Nets center Jahlil Okafor, Suns center Alex Len, Mavericks center Nerlens Noel, Nuggets guard Will Barton and Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans.
- Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype examines eight potential free agent destinations for James: the Clippers, Heat, Spurs, Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Sixers and Celtics, as well as a potential future with the Cavaliers.