The Cleveland Cavaliers Are Driving LeBron James Out of Town

Last month, the Golden State Warriors demolished the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, en route to a 4–1 series victory.

When you come as close at the Cavs did to a title, the offseason is where you bring in reinforcements and upgrade at positions of need.

When you win a title like the Warriors did, the offseason is where you bring back as many members of your core as possible. The objective is to bring back all key components of the roster while making any upgrades possible.

The Warriors have done what is needed in exquisite fashion, as they brought back Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, stole Jordan Bell in the NBA Draft to replace Javale McGee, and upgraded from Ian Clark and James Michael-McAdoo to Nick Young and Omri Casspi.

So, what did the Cavaliers do? Well, they signed Jose Calderon, a player way past his prime who won’t be on the court come postseason time because he simply isn’t good enough. And they brought in Jeff Green, who is notorious for making every team he is on worse. They also gave Kyle Korver a three-year, $22M extension, an absolutely ludicrous deal to give a player who has just one single strength (shooting) to go with his many weaknesses (every other part of basketball).

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The pursuit of the title isn’t the only thing Cleveland’s front office should have their minds on, though. LeBron James becomes a free agent next summer, and thus far they have given him zero reasons to want to return. He accomplished what he came there to accomplish when he won a championship, and since then they have done a bad job putting a championship-caliber supporting cast around him. He’ll have multiple options that are much more appealing than staying in Cleveland, and he should pursue them.

Another factor in this is the realization that getting to the Finals will not be the cake walk it has been in James’ three seasons back in Cleveland. The Boston Celtics, who sported a better record than the Cavaliers last year, have made significant upgrades, most notably signing the prize of the free-agent class in Gordon Hayward. They will be a tough team to oust, and while the Cavs will likely still be favorites to win a hypothetical series with the C’s, it is far from a given at this point.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And while the Cavs aren’t pulling off any desperate moves, they should feel desperate. The future of their organization rests on the shoulders of LeBron James and his 2018 free-agency decision. In a year from now, they may still be the title contender they are now. But they could also be a team with over $100M in future salary owed to players well past the peak of their powers. In the snap of a finger, the Cavaliers could have no contention, no nationally televised games, no sellouts, and, most importantly, no LeBron James. So they better realize what’s at stake here and pick up the pace.