Are Cavaliers Smart to Consider Filling Bench with LeBron James' Heat Buddies?

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Are Cavaliers Smart to Consider Filling Bench with LeBron James' Heat Buddies?
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Being LeBron James' friend has its advantages. 

There's (likely) free Nike gear involved, chalk-toss lessons to dabble in and, sometimes, the promise of a job.

This is the kind of pull the NBA's best player possesses. When he signed with the Miami Heat in 2010, some of his buddies came along for the ride over the course of four years. Now that he's returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, things aren't any different.

In the wake of the Prodigal Son's return home, the Cavs are turning to some familiar, James-endorsed faces. 

Mike Miller could be on his way to Cleveland, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman: 

Chris Broussard of ESPN.com has the Cavs targeting Ray Allen, too:

Even Chris "Birdman" Andersen is in play, per Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico:

All three of these players have two things in common: They played with James on the Heat and won at least one championship alongside him.

Soon enough, they may all share a third link by partaking in his return to Northeast Ohio, which is to be expected. And considered awesome.

Right?

 

Obvious Benefits

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Bringing in a bunch of James hanger-ons has its perks. A happy King equates to a championship ring—not really, but you get the point. There's (almost) nothing the Cavs shouldn't do to keep him happy. 

James is, once again, their championship lifeline. If he wants them to sign Miller, they should sign Miller. If he wants them to reel in Allen, they should do just this. 

If he wants them to claim Carlos Boozer himself off amnesty waivers—should he get there—offer Ricky Davis a guaranteed contract and convince Zydrunas Ilgauskas to come out of retirement, they should absolutely do it. 

This is the power James has. That's just reality. Whatever he asks of the Cavs, they're obligated to consider. And it just so happens what he may be asking and expecting is within reason.

The Cavs need shooters like Allen and Miller. They're overrun with ball-dominating players at the moment, most notably Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett. None of those guys are considered full-time, off-ball scorers. 

Waiters converted just 42.1 percent of his spot-up shot attempts last season—though he did bury 42 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers—according to Synergy Sports (subscription required); Bennett only nailed 26.7 and 23.3, respectively.

As a team, the Cavs were deep-ball challenged last year. They hit a middling 35.6 percent of their bombs, the 18th-best mark in the league.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images
Cleveland needs players who can shoot better than Bennett and others.

Allen and Miller add instant long-range threats to the rotation. Shooters are requisite for any James-piloted team, and they are two of the best. 

Miller shot a blistering 45.9 percent from deep last year with the Memphis Grizzlies. He also found the net on 45.3 percent of his standalone threes. 

In what many considered an off, topsy-turvy year for Allen, he still connected on 37.5 percent of his shots from behind the rainbow. More than 40 percent of his spot-up treys went in as well. He would be a great fit in Cleveland, like SB Nation's Kevin Zimmerman explains:

From a pure basketball perspective, Allen would be a perfect fit in Cleveland. He wouldn't have to log heavy minutes with guard Dion Waiters also on the squad, and his shooting would complement Waiters and rookie Andrew Wiggins.

Cleveland, like any team that would sign James, would be an instant title contender. The pressure for Allen would be minimal, and his chances of adding another level of leadership to a young squad would be beneficial in the process of chasing after a title.

Signing Andersen fits into the Cavs' plans, too. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are Cleveland's primary big men right now. Thompson cannot play center. Standing 6'8", he's undersized for a power forward as it is.

Birdman gives the Cavs an adequate, endlessly energetic center who, even at 36, can run the floor, grab rebounds, block shots and make opposing dribble penetrators pay for thinking they can emerge from forays into the paint unscathed.

These are needs that Allen, Miller and Andersen would be filling. They're not rotation-cloggers who create logjams. The Cavs need what they do if they're hoping to become instant contenders.

That's the goal here to an extent, despite what James told Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins:

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head.

More old heads are exactly what James and the Cavs need.

No matter what he says, no matter what the Cavs maintain, James' arrival shifts focus. This isn't about developing young talents like Wiggins and Bennett. This isn't even about James hoping he can make Thompson and Irving better. This, first and foremost, is about winning, about bringing a championship to Cleveland.

Landing savvy veterans who have worked with and played alongside James in the past pushes the Cavs' present ambitions even further. Adding them is also realistic, unlike a certain bearded someone Cleveland is chasing.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Acquiring Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves became a more realistic dream when the Cavs signed James. The general consensus was and remains that he would have no bones committing to Cleveland long term if it meant chasing championships with James. 

Such sentiments aren't extinct. But the Cavs aren't going to land Love for pennies on the dollar. It will take assets.

It will take Andrew Wiggins, who Marc Stein of ESPN.com says isn't available:

The Cavs' most recent attempt reflects said stance. According to Broussard, they offered Waiters, Bennett and a first-round pick for Love. That's not going to get it done. And, again, the Cavs are unwilling to include Wiggins in an attempt to get it done.

"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," Cavaliers head coach David Blatt said, via ESPN.com.

Committing to one, two or all of Miller, Allen and Birdman is simpler, cheaper. 

More realistic.

 

Potential Hangups

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Not to say there aren't any issues. 

Miller is 34 and appeared in all 82 games for just the second time during his career last season. Allen is pushing 39 and tracking toward retirement. Andersen isn't going to be good for more than 20 minutes per game.

Subpar play from the Heat's supporting cast is part of the reason why they couldn't make it past the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Disappearing acts from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn't help, but the bench couldn't provide the necessary impetus either. 

Investing multiple years and serious money in fading players also doesn't help Cleveland's flexibility. The Cavs still need to put other pieces around James as time wears on. Constraining themselves by offering contracts to friends of their best player is counterintuitive.

But that's assuming the Cavs don't do this the right way. And it seems like they're doing this the right way based off Miller's two-year, $5.5 million offer. 

Two-year pacts are fine. Seeing these players accept pay cuts to play with James is fine. There is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with what the Cavs are doing right now. 

 

Calculated Risks

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What didn't work in Miami isn't going to work in Cleveland.

Assembling an identical, shallow model would only come back to bite the Cavs in their collective behind. But that's not what they're doing by lusting after James' allies.

This version of the Cavs is already deeper than the team James was manning in Miami. There are question marks plaguing many of their youngsters, but they have plenty of other options.

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Varejao is a legitimate center who won't be playing out of position like Bosh did, thereby increasing the burden placed upon Andersen's shoulders. Waiters and Irving aren't Wade; they aren't on maintenance programs. The Cavs, in turn, don't need Allen and Miller to log heavy minutes and assume unwarranted roles.

None of these players, none of James' chums figure to be expensive cornerstones. They're sensible acquisitions that would deepen the rotation of a team on the brink of becoming a powerhouse. 

A team that becomes an even more formidable contender by befriending those who James already likes.

 

*Stats via Basketball-Reference and Synergy Sports (subscription required) unless otherwise noted.

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