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LeBron James is returning home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him with the first overall pick back in 2003.
After spending four years with the Miami Heat, which resulted in two NBA championships and a trip to the finals every season, James felt it was time to return to his home state of Ohio.
Any team James plays for is considered a title contender. Add all-star point guard Kyrie Iriving to the mix, and you have got potential juggernaut of a team. But before we crown the Cleveland Cavaliers the best team in the Eastern Conference, we have to look at some of the things that could prevent James from winning his third ring in his first season back in Cleveland.
First of all, the Cavaliers' second best player is Irving, an electrifying point guard that can create for himself and others. However, there is a problem with the second best player on a James team being a point guard, because James does not need a point guard. The Heat managed to win two NBA titles with Mario Chalmers as their starting point guard. Chalmers is an O.K. player who has averaged 8.6 point and 3.8 assists per game throughout his career. The reason the Heat were able to win the Eastern Conference four straight years with such mediocre production from their starting point guard is because James, for all intensive purposes, is a point guard.
James often brings the ball up the court and gets his team into their offensive sets. He is one of the best passers and ball handlers in the NBA, and is adept at getting into the lane which forces double and sometimes triple teams, which leaves shooters open for 3's. That's what good point guards do. That is what Irving can do, but not as well as James.
If a team is going to build solely around James, like Pat Riley did with the Heat, they would have an average point guard, a couple of big men with good hands that can finish around the basket, and plenty of 3 point shooters. The Cavs do not really have that. Their biggest asset besides James and Iriving is Andrew Wiggins, who was recently taken with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Wiggins, from everything we have heard about him, kind of sounds like a worse version of James when he was first entered the NBA. Wiggins is a 6'8 small forward who is incredibly athletic and can play above the rim. However, he needs to work on his outside shot and ability to be a strong voice in the locker room. Sound familiar? While Wiggins would no doubt learn and grow a great deal from playing with James, he is not necessarily the best guy to be playing alongside James if the Cavs want to win a championship this year.
SB Nation reported the Cavaliers would likely pursue Kevin Love if James decided to sign with the Cavs, which he now has. If the Cavs can make that happen, they would have to give up Wiggins, which would solve their problem (I use "problem" here loosely) of their potential first and third best players being too similar. Kevin Love would be the the final piece to go along with Irving and James as the new Big 3. Love is a major upgrade from Chris Bosh, as he is one of the best rebounders in the NBA, and can also shoot 3's, along with being a better passer than Bosh.
The way to make James' supporting cast as ideal as possible for the way he plays would be to trade Irving and get back an elite shooter, along with an elite defender. However, that is not going to happen, as Irving recently signed a 5-year 90 million dollar contract extension, reports ESPN.
There will be a lot of pressure on Cavaliers first-year head coach, David Platt, who earned his stripes coaching the Russian national team, and most recently in Israel's professional league. Platt is considered an offensive genius. That claim will be tested early, as Platt will need to figure out a way to get James and Irving to play together at a championship level. From what we have seen from Irving in his first three years in the league, he needs to have the ball in his hands a lot to be effective. James also needs to have the ball in his hands a lot to get the most out of his ability.
In his first two season with the Heat, James seemed content at times to let Dwyane Wade act as if he was the best player. However, Wade had already been an NBA champion and Finals MVP, which James had respect for. There could be some potential growing pains early on if Irving still thinks the Cavs are his team to run.
It has been rumored that Ray Allen could be following James to Cleveland, which will give them an added sharp shooter, which James needs plenty of to be most effective.
As they are now, the Cavaliers should have enough to win a weak Eastern Conference, that is assuming Carmelo Anthony does not join sign with the Chicago Bulls. But assuming Anthony returns to the Knicks, as he is expected to do, there really is no other team in the East that can rival the Cavs.
However, if the Cavs are to beat the Western Conference champions in the finals, who could very well be the San Antonio Spurs again, they will still need to make a couple more moves.
image courtesy of INFphoto.com