Cavs Rumors: Breaking Down Offseason Plan for NBA Finalists

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 28, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is defended by Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry in the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The long-term future of the Cleveland Cavaliers will be dictated by LeBron James' decision to opt in or out of his deal with the Eastern Conference franchise. 

The deadline for James to opt in and remain in Cleveland is Friday, but with so many moving pieces on the trade and free-agent markets, there's no telling what the 33-year-old will do. 

Cleveland has some intriguing pieces on its roster, but advancing back to the NBA Finals will be almost impossible without James in the lineup. 

Below is a look at the directions Cleveland's offseason could go in and what James' decision means for the franchise. 


LeBron James Opts In, Cleveland Strengthens Roster

The ideal scenario for the Cavaliers features James opting in with his hometown team after realizing there aren't better options on the table. 

James' decision to stay in Cleveland, or take his talents elsewhere, could depend on what happens with Kawhi Leonard's impending departure from San Antonio. 

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that a Lakers trade for Leonard would clinch James' commitment.

Kyle Terada/Associated Press

The trio of ESPN NBA reporters also reported Wednesday that the Cavaliers were one of a handful of teams that made offers to the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard.

If James tries to add a fourth championship to his collection while still playing in Cleveland, he's going to need help to get past the Golden State Warriors

A supporting cast led by Kevin Love and first-round draft pick Collin Sexton is a nice start, but James needs one more star alongside him to threaten Golden State's well-rounded lineup. 

Cleveland lost a bit of trade leverage when the draft passed without Leonard being shipped out of San Antonio because it contained the No. 8 overall selection, which was used on Sexton. 

Even if Sexton is packaged in a deal for Leonard, the Cavaliers might not be able to put together as enticing a package for the Spurs as the Lakers, Boston Celtics or others could. 

That would leave the Cavaliers in search of a free-agent addition to complement James, which could come in the form of Trevor Ariza, J.J. Redick, Julius Randle, Rudy Gay, or any other experienced player on the market. 

Even if Cleveland adds the necessary reinforcements with James back for another season, there's no guarantee it'll be able to put everything together and fend off challenges from Boston and Philadelphia 76ers to get an opportunity to play Golden State. 


James Opts Out, Cavaliers Look to Rebuild

If James departs Cleveland, the Cavaliers will be tasked with filling a gaping hole in their roster while still trying to contend for a championship. 

The franchise already took a step in that direction by drafting Sexton, who fills a void in the backcourt as a natural point guard. 

Phil Long/Associated Press

Sexton could feature in a potential starting lineup with Love, J.R. Smith, George Hill and Jeff Green, with Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. as key pieces off the bench. 

Since that lineup doesn't strike the slightest bit of fear in the Cavaliers' top rivals from the Eastern Conference, they would have to make some type of move in free agency. 

Going after one of the available big men might not make sense in terms of money, which leaves Love and Thompson as two of the top paint threats. 

Mid-level free agents like Tyreke Evans, Will Barton and Avery Bradley might be the best fits for the Cavaliers once the superstar free agents decide their destinations. 

No matter which way you look at it, the Cavaliers will be in significantly worse shape next season if James decides to leave, and that could mean a drop down the Eastern Conference hierarchy with Boston, Philadelphia, the Indiana Pacers and others on the rise. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90


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