In LeBron we trust? Do we have a choice?

nba_g_lebron-james_mb_576x324Why do we study history?

If you are up to date on your history (no pun intended), you would know the famous quote from philosopher George Santayana, which reads: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Somehow, I’m guessing Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is not familiar with the quote.

Almost two years ago, on the eve of the start of the 2012 season, Gilbert spoke to reporters during a press conference. He admitted the infamous letter he wrote after LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010 was a mistake, but he also touched on something a tad more delicate.

“The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you can not wait. The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you can not risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it.”

While Gilbert did not explicitly state it, his message implicitly said what most Cleveland fans already knew: LeBron James was running the show during his time in Cleveland.

For years, the Cavaliers had handicapped themselves in an effort to appease the King. They always looked for short-term fixes and never focused on building a team positioned to win for the long term.

Rather, their strategy was something along the lines of:

  1. Sell assets.
  2. Acquire players who look good on paper.
  3. Hope they mesh well with the team.
  4. Pray it convinces LeBron to stay.
  5. If that doesn’t work, start back at 1.

It’s hard to fault Gilbert and former General Manager Danny Ferry as they knew how valuable James was to this franchise. Yet James left, so clearly, their strategy failed.

Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever you prefer, it appears as if we’re back in a similar situation. James signed this offseason with the Cavaliers on a two-year contract with an opt-out after one year.

Essentially, this ensures that the franchise must do everything in its power to appease James. In other words, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization is now synonymous for King James’ court.

James has already wielded his scepter this offseason as the Cavaliers have acquired both Mike Miller and James Jones, two former teammates of James with the Miami Heat.

Additionally, James has reached out to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and expressed his desire for the two to play together in Cleveland. Since then, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has reported that the deal is a matter of “when” and not “if.”

Kevin_Love_March_2012Unfortunately, to acquire Love, the Cavaliers will have to part with No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. It’s a steep price to pay, but forwards who average 25 points and 12 rebounds per game do not come cheap.

Ask yourself though, was this part of James’ plan all along?

Is it a coincidence that both Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (the other player involved in trade rumors) were not mentioned in James’ letter that announced his return?

It’s certainly not a coincidence that James has yet to reach out Wiggins, which the former Kansas swingman confirmed in an ESPN interview on Sunday.

No one knows exactly what was said in the meeting between Gilbert and James back in early July, but could James have suggested using Wiggins to acquire Love? Could that have been what convinced him to come home? While we likely will never have that answer, it does seem as if this trade is now inevitable.

For James, who is clearly in win-now mode, it’s the best move. Is it the best move for the Cleveland Cavaliers? That answer is not as simple.

Keep in mind that Love can be a free agent at the end of the season. One would believe he would want to stay and play with James, but this is an Los Angeles native we’re talking about. Who’s to say he wouldn’t want to go play under the bright L.A. lights in a Lakers uniform?

Surrendering Andrew Wiggins for one year of Love is a huge price to pay. Keep in mind that Wiggins profiles as an above-average to elite defender, which is an area where the Cavaliers have struggled. On the other hand, defense is hardly Love’s specialty.

As Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale noted in a recent column, “Opposing teams knocked down 63.1 percent of their shots within five feet of the basket against the Wolves last season, pinning them to dead last in that category. That they still managed to rank in the top half of defensive efficiency is something of a miracle.”

So essentially, the Cavaliers would be surrendering the majority of their salary cap into two below-average defenders in Kyrie Irving and Love.

Also, consider the cap issues here. If the Cavaliers do re-sign Love, then you’re looking at more than 90 percent of the cap going toward James, Irving and Love. Say goodbye to role players. Also say goodbye to Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, who will need contract extensions, and are sure to get much more money on the open market than they would get with the Cavaliers.

Beyond all of that, Love has missed an average of more than 18 games per season in his NBA career and twice missed at least 27 games. It might be hazardous to throw out the label “injury-prone,” but this cannot be ignored.

The flip side is that there is no guarantee with Wiggins. For as tantalizing as an athlete as he may be, he’s still only 19-years-old, and it will take time. Still, he’s the most exciting player we’ve seen enter the NBA in many years.

So what is best for the Cavaliers? Do they know? Do they even care? Are they still on cloud nine over the return of the King?

It certainly seems like the latter as it’s clear the King is once again calling all the shots.

To be fair, James is a very intelligent man. He’s likely aware of every point illustrated, and they have all played a role in his decision the Cavaliers’ decision to trade for Love.

He believes that winning now with Love is a better strategy than maintaining Wiggins — a player who could regularly spell him to keep his legs fresh — and building something in the years to come.

Is it a sound strategy? Time will tell.

In LeBron we trust. It’s not like we (or the Cavaliers’ organization) has a choice anyhow.


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