How Kyrie Irving and LeBron James Could Team Up for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
For fans of the game of basketball, these two names conjure up visions of elite handles, shooting, playmaking and other endless highlights.
While they currently make their basketball homes 1,242 miles apart, could we feasibly see both teaming up in the near future?
It's certainly possible, if James wants to continue his winning ways.
First off, I'm going on record saying I don't want James to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the sole fact that I want to see the Cavs win a championship with the team they've been putting together since James left and not rely on him to come back and "save" them.
That being said, it pains me to say James and the Cavs would be a perfect fit.
For one, the Cavs' weakest position is at small forward, where they've trotted out the likes of Jamario Moon, Jawad Williams, Joey Graham, Anthony Parker and others in the past couple of years to little or no success.
When James left the Cavs in 2010, their roster was loaded with veterans who were on the backside of their careers. Antawn Jamison, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O'Neal, Parker and Mo Williams were all fine role players, but none possessed the talent like Irving.
Unlike all the other former teammates James had in Cleveland, Irving has superstar potential.
At just 20 years of age, Irving is already an All-Star, Rookie of the Year and Rising Stars MVP award winner.
He's currently sixth in the NBA in scoring at 24.0 points per game. Mo Williams provided the highest scoring next to James in Cleveland, but at just 17.8 points per game in 2008-09.
Combine the production between Irving and James, and you have a scary two-headed monster to contend with.
The two combine for 51.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, 12.4 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Both have PERs over 23.0 and shoot better than 42.0 percent from deep.
So how exactly would they complement each other?
For one, both can handle the ball with ease. This gives the other more spot-up shooting opportunities while also drawing defenders and opening more driving lanes for the other.
Consider this: In the two years James and Mo Williams played together in Cleveland, Williams shot 43.6 and 42.9 percent on three-pointers. This was no doubt thanks to James drawing defenders and kicking the ball back out to a wide-open Williams. Never before or after those two seasons has Williams even hit on better than 39.8 percent.
Irving is already an excellent shooter from deep, connecting on 42.9 percent of his shots from outside the arc this season. What could this number be with James drawing an extra man and leaving Irving open more often?
We're not even mentioning what this would do for players like Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee and others when it comes to opening up lanes and shot opportunities.
James is also one of the league's best defenders and fast-break scorers.
A tighter team defense means more turnovers caused, which leads to increased scoring opportunities, often on the fast break.
As we've seen in the past, Irving is an excellent scorer or facilitator when running the floor...
...and James can start and finish whole breaks by himself.
One thing James struggled to do in Cleveland that Irving has excelled at is finishing games.
"Mr. Fourth Quarter," as we so lovingly call Irving, has already hit five game-winning shots in just one-and-a-half seasons.
It took James nearly three seasons to hit one.
According to 82games.com, Irving is shooting 51.4 percent in "clutch time," while scoring a remarkable 56.9 points per 48 minutes of clutch-time play.
Compare this to James, who shoots just 45.3 percent and scores 34.1 points over the same amount of time.
When it comes to the end of games, James would have someone to defer to and not have to worry about taking the last shot, something he may actually prefer whether he admits it or not.
In the summer of 2014, when James can opt out of his contract, his main sidekick Dwyane Wade will be 32 years old. Wade's scoring has gone down each of the past five seasons and doesn't look to be going up anytime soon.
Irving, meanwhile, will be just 23 years old and heading into what looks to be the prime of a very long and successful career.
Which one would you want to play with?
The Cavs as a whole should provide a much better supporting cast than the Miami Heat by that time, with so much young talent on the roster currently.
Who would be the best 1-2 in the NBA?
One other advantage Cleveland has over Miami in signing James comes down to the almighty dollar.
The Cavs will have ample cap room in 2014, with only $32.9 million committed to existing players according to hoopsworld.com. This is compared to the $58 million the Miami Heat have dedicated to their players, excluding James.
While teams are allowed to go over the soft salary cap when re-signing their own players, a new tax rule may deter Miami from bringing back their big three.
In the same year that James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can opt out of their contracts, a new repeater tax will take affect. According to an article by sportsillustrated.com, Miami's tax could be as high as $48 million due to their team payroll. This is extra money the Heat would owe the league, in addition to the high salaries they'd already be paying their players.
The Heat certainly wouldn't want to get rid of James because of money restrictions, but it could mean the end of Wade or Bosh in Miami. How much would James want to return to the Heat, knowing that Wade or Bosh would be gone?
If James does decide to come to Cleveland, however, you can bet his decision will be based largely on having Irving as a teammate.
Irving and James together would be a lethal combination and would help take each other's games to the next level.
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