The 2009-2010 NBA Regular season is coming to a close, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting ready for another playoff run in an attempt to achieve NBA greatness and win their first league championship.
Leading them down that path will be none other than the center of the media's prediction world, LeBron James.
At the end of the season, LeBron will make one of the biggest decisions in the history of any franchise in NBA history.
Will he stay or will he go?
As fellow feature columnist Tom Delamater put it in one of his latest articles, found here http://bleacherreport.com/articles/374106-the-lebron-james-effect-what-happens-if-he-stays-a-cavalieror-leaves, this decision will have great implications on the Cavaliers, the NBA, and the city of Cleveland no matter which way he decides to go.
Since LeBron has arrived in Cleveland, he has picked up a sinking franchise and put them among the NBA's elite before the age of 25.
So the question has to be, what do the Cavaliers have left if LeBron decides to leave?
If the King decides to leave Cleveland, it will not be the end of the world.
Before 2003 the Cleveland Cavaliers played basketball, and if LeBron leaves...the Cavaliers will still take the court in 2010.
Currently, the Cavaliers will have a salary around $62 million for the 2010-2011 season. If LeBron opts out, the Cavaliers will lose his $17 million in salary.
The loss of LeBron likely means that Shaq and Z will not stay in Cleveland, and it will also lead to using the team option of cutting Leon Powe and Sebastian Telfair. Powe and Telfair will make a combined $3.7 million next season, which will take our salary reductions to $20.7 million including Lebron.
This means that GM Danny Ferry will have around $11 million in salary cap room, as well as his Mid-level and Bi-annual contract options.
This gives the Cavaliers the opportunity to sign one of the second tier level of free agents to a larger deal. A few of these guys could be: Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay (restricted FA), Ray Allen, or Carlos Boozer.
Playing aside LeBron has allowed second year player J.J. Hickson to finally show his promise this season.
At the age of 21, Hickson has shown the ability to be a dynamic scorer and defensive presence near the basket.
If the King leaves, Hickson will immediately become the focal point of the offense with his ability to score around the rim, his young age, and his versatility to play PF or C.
The Cavaliers will experience some growing pains with Hickson because of his mental lapses on defense, but J.J. will be the man moving forward for the team, and hopefully will mature like Al Jefferson.
The Cavaliers have assembled a core of guards to play to LeBron's strengths.
Mo Williams is the shoot-first point guard who can knock down the three when the ball is kicked back out to him. He also has a contract that carries on through the 2012-2013 season, so Cavalier fans will have Mo for quite a few years, for better or worse.
Delonte West is the tough, defensive-minded shooting guard who cannot seem to get his mental stability together. He has the ability to score and shoot the three-pointer, but his $4.6 million dollar expiring contract after next season will probably be moved to a contender.
Anthony Parker was brought to Cleveland to be the reliable, big two guard that Delonte West is not. He certainly has filled his role nicely, but on a team without James, he will probably find his fate similar to Delonte's because of his $2.6 million dollar expiring contract at the end of next season.
Daniel "Boobie" Gibson is the three-point specialist who has seemingly fallen out of favor with Coach Brown's rotation. However, he is under contract through 2012-2013, like Williams, and the fan favorite will have to work his way back into the rotation to become a factor again.
With LeBron gone, the Cavaliers will look to find some sort of a "replacement" in free agency. If not, look for Cavalier fans to get a lot more Goosey.
Jamario Moon is the only true small forward left on the Cavaliers roster after James is gone.
Moon can jump out of the gym, and he has the defensive ability to play for the Cavaliers, but it is hard to imagine him in the starting lineup.
After Moon, the player with the most experience at the SF position would be Jawad Williams. But since he has mainly been on the team thanks to a close connection with LeBron, I don't see him receiving a qualifying offer from the front office next season.
Antawn Jamison will be the clear leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers post-LeBron James...ready or not.
The Jamison acquisition was made in order for the Cavaliers to make a big push for the ring, and he has been everything they needed, and more.
What his future in Cleveland holds is a storyline worth following. He has two years and nearly $30 million left on his contract, and he could be an attractive piece to a team making a playoff run.
With the departures of Shaq and Z, Anderson Varejao will become the clear starter at the center position for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This means that Cavalier fans will have to get used to 40 minutes of the "Wild Thing's" high intensity levels and hard-worker mentality...I guess it's not all bad.
The major test will be if Andy can match up against the bigger centers in the NBA. If he can't the Cavaliers will have to acquire another big man via free agency.
With a contract that lasts through 2014-2015, he will join the likes of Mo and J.J. as the core three for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now that the fans have an idea of what the roster of the Cavaliers could look like in the future: what can we expect from the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Using John Hollinger's (ESPN) player impact ratings system, the Cleveland Cavaliers could expect a decline of 25-28 wins without LeBron James.
This would put the Cavaliers around 36-39 wins if they finish the season with 64 wins. Which would put them fighting for the seventh and eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.
While this would be a step down, the addition of one of the second tier free agents could put the Cavaliers in the thick of the race in the East.
In the end, the best case scenario for the Cleveland Cavaliers is for LeBron James to stay in Cleveland. But if he leaves, the Cavaliers will still remain a competitive, entertaining franchise.
With Danny Ferry running the front office and the deep pockets of Dan Gilbert running the entire show, look for them to make some sort of splash if LeBron leaves.