Kyrie Irving could be the best player that LeBron James has an opportunity to partner with if James decides to become a free agent during the summer of 2014.
But is Irving the key to luring James back to the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Based on the complexities involved in this potential decision that James has yet to put himself in a position to make, that answer is no.
It is certainly true that Irving, an All-Star point guard, helps makes Cleveland a markedly better free-agent destination for any NBA superstar. But to suggest that Irving will ultimately impact where the reigning MVP will spend the next chapter of his career is shortsighted.
Before we can truly evaluate the "options" for James, in terms of which team he might play for next, he would first need to opt out of his current contract. Assuming he does, the next most important factor would be how his Miami Heat finish the 2013-14 season.
Does James actually leave Miami to go anywhere, theoretically, after leading the Heat to a third straight championship? That scenario seems extremely unlikely.
What Irving does provide to the context of this discussion, however, is more of a reason for James to choose his hometown Cavaliers than he had back in 2010. If James decides to come home to Northeast Ohio, to rejoin the Cavs and play out the next several years of his career in Cleveland, Irving makes that decision more appealing.
The appeal of Kyrie Irving in Cleveland
LeBron James never had the opportunity to play with an elite point guard during his time in Cleveland. In two short seasons, meanwhile, Kyrie Irving has proved to be just that for the Cavaliers.
After earning a trip to the All-Star Game in 2013, Irving will have a legitimate chance to establish himself as an All-NBA player this year.
As a potential teammate moving forward, he is also someone who can be counted on with the game on the line. Last season, according to NBA.com, Irving led the league in clutch field goals made per game with an average of 1.4.
The 21-year-old point guard will also be surrounded by an improved collection of talent in 2013-14 and should only increase his production of 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per night as a result.
Comparing Irving to Dwyane Wade
A theory often cited for why James might choose Cleveland over Miami will continually revolve around the comparison of Irving to Dwyane Wade.
Wade was among the 10 best players in the league when James first decided to join him in South Beach. After a series of injuries, though—along with the wear and tear associated with spending the last decade in the NBA—Wade is far from the same player he once was.
Irving, meanwhile, has not yet entered his prime. In addition to being arguably more productive than Wade right now, he certainly projects to be better over the next few seasons.
While it's valid to suggest that Irving would be a better option as a teammate on paper, James' ultimate decision won't be as simple as that.
Wade helped James survive the media backlash surrounding his choice to leave Cleveland and secure two NBA championship rings in the process. Based on their relationship, the idea of James eventually leaving Wade to join forces with another superstar is more complex than simply deciding who is a better player.
If Heat Three-Peat, Nobody is Luring James Anywhere
Throughout the course of NBA history, the best player on the championship-winning team has never opted to leave on his own accord via free agency the summer after winning the title.
It's highly unlikely that James would be the first.
After winning three championships in a row, potentially, the notion of passing on a chance to extend that dynasty as far as possible by chasing a fourth is simply not believable.
Regardless of how the Heat roster projects into 2014-15, there is no player in the league capable of luring James to their team if he wins his third straight championship in Miami.
James Would Need to Want to Come Home More Than Anything Else
There is a long list of players who LeBron James could've won an NBA championship with based on how he's performed over the last two seasons. If he leaves the Heat to go anywhere at this point, it won't be to play with a particular superstar.
The key for James potentially choosing Cleveland revolves around a simple desire to return home more than any other factor.
More than the prospects of playing with Wade or even Irving, James would need to be overwhelmed by the goal of making things right with the fans he grew up around in Northeast Ohio.
His decision to come home would be an attempt to deliver a championship to Cleveland, rather than being lured by a talented young point guard. The implications of that decision, meanwhile, include many more factors than simply Irving's brilliance.