It's inevitable that talk of LeBron James returning to his home and playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers ramps up over the course of the next year, especially next season when LeBron and the Miami Heat make their annual trip up to Cleveland.
Sure, LeBron left on poor terms with the Cavs, he upset Dan Gilbert with the way he left, and the fans were naturally upset when he took off. But talk will linger, and a return isn't as far-fetched as it may sound at this point.
The more I see of Kyrie Irving, the more I believe LeBron will return to Cleveland.— Chad Finn (@GlobeChadFinn) February 21, 2013
While he is on a championship-caliber team right now, LeBron will in all likelihood opt out of his deal at the end of next season for more financial flexibility. The top two teams on his list to sign with following that are going to be the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It might not look like the most ideal situation right now, but at the end of next season, Cleveland will feature the league's most dynamic young point guard coming off his third season in the NBA. Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will have another year of development. It will also have two first-round draft picks from this year's draft.
Not only that, but Cleveland also has the rights to first-round draft picks from Memphis (with a ton of strange protections on it) and rights to Miami's 2015 first-rounder (top-10 protected). Miami's pick might just become valuable without LeBron James on the team.
So say that, plus the possibility of bringing a title to Cleveland, is enough to lure him back. What then? How fun will it be to see him and Kyrie Irving playing together, and how will a team featuring them even work?
Well, to start out, we'd have to get past the point in which the entire state of Ohio parties nonstop for the entire summer. That's the first thing that's going to happen, and it's going to take a lot to subdue that kind of excitement.
Moving into the season, the big story would be the same old thing that we've heard before: Whose team is it?
Of course, there's a case to be made for Irving. He is a top-tier player in the league, and LeBron did unceremoniously bolt for Miami. But there's no way anybody could trump LeBron at this point in his career. Whatever team he goes to is going to be "his" team.
It's a problem that was blown out of proportion when there was the debate between LeBron and Dwyane Wade when they first teamed up on the Heat.
In reality, the only intriguing part of their partnership would be how the pair would play together.
On the surface, they're both terrific players with the ball in their hands, but they are also good passers and leaders.
After all, LeBron James was able to lead a Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals with a 31-year-old Zydrunas Ilgauskas as arguably the second-best player on the roster. The starting lineup was Big Z, LeBron, Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes in 2006-07.
At only 19 years old last season, Irving had already assumed the role of leader for the struggling Cavs. He put up remarkable numbers on a Cleveland team which finished 21-45.
Irving would still be the point guard if the two were to join forces, and although LeBron has proved that he is a more-than-capable ball-handler and facilitator, he has also proved that he is versatile.
Could you see LeBron playing in Cleveland with Irving?
As he gets older, he could conceivably take his game more to the post. Once he got the ball in the post, he could dominate any defender in a one-on-one setting, or he could use his incredible court vision to set up wide-open teammates once the double-team inevitably came.
Waiters would see many more open shots, both would have plenty of space on the floor with Zeller shooting jumpers, and the rest of their team would benefit from stellar ball movement and endless open shots.
Beyond that, imagine the pair of them working together as a pick-and-roll combo. It would rival anything Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could come up with. Not only is LeBron a big enough target and extremely mobile, but Kyrie is also such a good ball-handler that the two of them would be nearly impossible to stop.
We're still more than a year away from any kind of inkling of where LeBron will end up after he likely opts out of his contract with Miami, but it would sure be a ton of fun to see him pair up with the league's most jaw-dropping young player.