Able to opt out of his contract next summer and become an unrestricted free agent, James has a few marquee years left to build his legacy. But the damage caused by owner Dan Gilbert's firing of David Griffin, who had James' support, may be too much to overcome.
Billups would likely be someone James respects. The pair battled in the 2006 and 2007 NBA playoffs and were Eastern Conference All-Star and FIBA USA Basketball teammates. Of course, results mean far more than a name when it comes to a general manager.
Adding stability at the top during the most crucial part of the NBA offseason, be it Billups or someone else, is a must for Gilbert.
Adding a Star
While the relationship between James and Kevin Love has grown over the past three years, James has to know that dealing Love for better help against the Golden State Warriors is almost a must.
Love is the only trade piece of significant value Cleveland possesses. The Cavs can't trade a first-round pick until 2021. Kyrie Irving would bring back a haul, but he's thrived against the Warriors over the past two Finals. James is also a big fan of Irving, who's still just 25 and has two years and $41 million left on his contract.
Enter Paul George and Jimmy Butler.
The Indiana Pacers have already contacted the Cavs about a trade for George, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. George, 27, is 6'9" and would give the Cavaliers a great option to score and defend Kevin Durant in another potential Finals rematch. He's averaged 23.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game over the past two seasons.
While George and James each become unrestricted free agents in 2018, a deep run in the Finals or a championship itself would be tough for either to walk away from.
Adding the 27-year-old Butler would be a major step toward beating Golden State.
Even if George and Butler don't make their way to Cleveland, the Cavs need to do something to get the roster more Warriors-ready. Channing Frye was unplayable during the series, while Deron Williams and Kyle Korver provided little.
While not as impactful as trading for George or Butler, acquiring Carmelo Anthony may be enough to keep James happy. Anthony's trade value only continues to drop, as Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes:
"There are those within the franchise who believe the Knicks are so desperate to rid themselves of Carmelo Anthony that they [Cavs] could have acquired him at the February trade deadline for spare parts such as Frye, Iman Shumpert and any other secondary pieces necessary to make the money match."
There's also the off chance the Knicks and Anthony could agree to a buyout. Cleveland can offer only the veteran's minimum or a $5 million midlevel exception, neither of which seem enticing given Anthony's $26 million salary for 2017-18.
For a player so burdened by losing and with $181 million in salary alone already accumulated, it's not that farfetched to believe Anthony could sacrifice significant earnings to play with James.
Wade informed the Bulls he will opt in to his $23.8 contract for 2017-18, choosing not to uproot his family and the chance at one last big payday, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. Paul is an unrestricted free agent and can make more than $200 million over the next five years if he re-signs with the Los Angeles Clippers. There's no way he's taking such a drastic discount to come to Cleveland.
With the front office in chaos, the Cavs may need to make a major roster splash to keep James happy.
Other Incentives to Stay
James is a self-titled "businessman" who has yet to take anything less than a max salary since returning to the Cavaliers in 2014.
Thanks to a change in the new collective bargaining agreement, the previous over-36 rule has now become the over-38 rule, meaning James can max out his deal for five years at age 33, which he'll be next summer.
Based on a projected $102 million salary cap for 2018-19, James could re-sign with the Cavs for $209.4 million over five years, or an average of $42 million per year. If he leaves for the Lakers, Clippers or anyone else, he can max out for $157.4 million over four years, an average of $39.4 million a season.
Leaving $52 million on the table is a lot—even for James.
The biggest reason for James to want to stay in Cleveland, besides competing for championships, can be found within his own home.
James' oldest son, LeBron James Jr., has just two years before he starts high school, presumably at his father's alma mater of St. Vincent-St. Mary's in Akron. It's a 16-minute drive from James' home in Fairlawn, Ohio. A flight from Los Angeles would be a tad longer.
A $200 million deal and the opportunity to watch his sons play at his former high school may be enough to keep James with the Cavaliers, but only if they have a championship-caliber roster and front-office leadership to match.