James slated as free agent in 2014
Will LeBron wear wine and gold again?
Questions surround whether LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will play against each other or side-by-side in 2014. Photo courtesy bleacherreport.com
A few weeks ago, a story broke stating the Cleveland Cavaliers' long-term plan was to re-acquire three-time, NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, who bolted Cleveland for Miami just two and half years ago, in the summer of 2014's free agency. In the days since, the story has spread like wildfire, posting offshoots on everywhere from ESPN to Yahoo! Sports. And as the quotes, rumors and innuendos begin to mount, one thing is for certain: this story makes sense.
As the Cavaliers currently stand, not only do they have the necessary salary cap flexibility to accommodate such a move, but the move is also ideal from a talent standpoint as well.
Led by second-year point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland is loaded with young talent. Irving, the 20-year-old, No. 1 draft pick from the 2011 draft, is already arguably the best player at his position and a top-10 talent in the league. Add in the number four picks from each of the last two drafts, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, and Cavaliers are bursting with young, dynamic players.
The three of them, as well as rookie center Tyler Zeller, were each selected among the top nine players in their respective classes and will represent the Cavaliers at the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend. Throw in veteran big men like Anderson Varejao and Marreese Speights and it is clear why Cleveland would be a desirable landing spot for their former star.
What the Cavaliers lack, however, is a strong wing presence, where James is not only a former scoring champion, but perhaps the premier perimeter defender in the league. Both of which Cleveland craves desperately.
For James, who grew up 40 minutes down Route 77 in Akron, not only would this be a chance for him to repair his reputation after 2010's infamous "The Decision", but it would also ensure him a good chance to remain a perennial title contender.
In the 2014-2015 season, directly after James is set to hit free agency, the league's new Collective Bargaining Agreement will kick in, severely limiting the ability of larger market clubs from outspending the rest of the league. Under the current structure, teams pay near a dollar-for-dollar penalty for going over the luxury tax (determined annually-currently around $72 million).
For Miami, this would account for nearly $11 million in taxes on their current budget. In 2014, however, that tax will more than double. Even worse still for big spenders, it further penalizes teams that have gone over the tax line in three of the prior four seasons (which Miami will hit this season). This results in a nearly four-to-one tax, totaling to around $44 million in taxes placed on them and jettisoning their $83 million payroll to around $127 million.
Put short, the era of Big-Three's, like Miami's James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and "Superteams" is over. This can be evidenced by the James Harden trade out of Oklahoma City or trade of Rudy Gay from Memphis. James himself recently questioned whether Miami will be able to retain their Big-Three combination.
Mathematics and logics aside, Yahoo! Sport's Adrian Wajnarowski reported that James' agent and childhood friend, Rich Paul, "has been privately telling people for two years of his intrigue with bringing the prodigal son back as the conquering hero in Cleveland."
All of this combines to form the perfect storm for James' return. The Cavaliers offer a young superstar, a roster full of young talent, veteran big men and 23 draft picks over the next six seasons, insuring a pipeline of young talent to fill out the roster each year. James brings championship experience, a desire to repair his tarnished reputation and the most dynamic talent in the league. Together, the two could do what neither was able to orchestrate the first time around - bringing a world championship home to Cleveland.
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