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Yes, LeBron James is guaranteed to thrive with the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James would be guaranteed to thrive with the Washington Generals.
James rejoining the Cavs instantly morphed them into conference favorites, and maybe more if the team can land Kevin Love. But even without Love, LeBron has never been paired with a point guard of Kyrie Irving's caliber and has never played under a coach as thoughtful as David Blatt.
His stats read like fiction by now: a true shooting percentage that has crept upward every year since 2007-08 with just one exception, and up to 65 percent last season. During his Miami tenure, he averaged 27 points per contest on only 18 shots. He led the Heat in points, assists and rebounds per game every season except 2010-11—when he finished third in rebounding. He's racked up 169 win shares in his career and has failed to post a PER over 30 just twice since 2008-09.
In Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Andrew Wiggins, James—in conjunction with Irving—has a cast of his own to lead to new heights. He'll have a center who can score, a promising 23-year-old power forward, a volatile 22-year-old guard and a rookie who drew LeBron comparisons (subscription required) before the two became teammates.
The capability of his surrounding cast is the primary difference between James' first Cleveland go-around and this one. But another difference?
LeBron is finally fit to lead them.
Now approaching his 30s and with two championship rings to his name, this LeBron is far from the one who yanked off the wine and gold jersey for the final time—or so we thought—in 2010. In his four years away, he has honed his craft and his mindset, maybe even with this homecoming in the plans all along.
As of today, the Cavaliers are a team filled with questions. Will Wiggins pan out? Can Waiters show maturity? Will Irving live up to his $90 million deal? Where is the defense going to come from?
But, oversimplified as it may seem, James' presence answers nearly every one.
Who better to mentor the next LeBron James than the King himself? In what world would James tolerate Waiters chucking away possessions? Perhaps the easiest role in the NBA is being James' co-star; he brought Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden to the Finals—where can he realistically take Irving?
Cleveland has hardly ever been the best basketball situation for LeBron. The first time around, management practically did all it could to drive him out of town. This time, though, instead of frantically trying to appease a 25-year-old James, the front office can rest, knowing that the franchise isn't only in the hands of the world's most gifted player, but a leader whose vision has never been clearer.
LeBron got a taste of what a title means in South Beach, but that value surely diminishes if he can't win one at home. By now, he knows what it will take from every player on the roster, from one through 15. And with the most influential voice in the NBA steering the ship in Cleveland, it's only a matter of time before the wait is finally over.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com.