“I’m back.” Those two words changed the landscape of the NBA. Those were the two words LeBron James used to announce he will be returning to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. Cavaliers fans found a way to fall in love with LeBron again. Some fans even put on old Cavaliers jerseys from after he took his talents to South Beach in 2010.
LeBron James wasn’t the only big news in Cleveland. They Cavaliers were so awful in 2014, they were placed in the NBA Draft Lottery, and won. With the #1 pick in the draft, the Cavaliers could draft Andrew Wiggins, a future star, or trade for a star. LeBron wants to win now, so the pick was sent to Minnesota with Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love.
The Pressure to win a championship was on. To start the season, they were far from championship ready. The Big-3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love didn’t have great chemistry. Love was criticized all season and even got called out by David Blatt on his star status. LeBron was out for a few weeks and the Cavaliers looked to be a bust.
Then the LeBron train rolled over the NBA. The Cavaliers exploded in the second half of the season finishing 40-8 after the middle of January. They entered the playoffs as the two seed in the Eastern Conference and were the heavy favorite to win the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers took over in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They swept the Boston Celtics, beat the Chicago Bulls in six, and swept the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The sweeps is there the Cavaliers truly lost. In the Celtics series, Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder and was out for the playoffs. Kyrie Irving injured himself against Atlanta, then injured his knee bad enough to not be able to return. Without Love and Irving, the Cavaliers didn’t have enough to win a NBA Championship and lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
LeBron James is 2-4 in the NBA Finals. I can assure you that record is driving him crazy. With LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert, Mike Miller, James Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova, and other bench players are pending free agency. Changes await Cleveland, Lets see who will play in Cleveland next season.
SG R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
With J.R. Smith hitting the free agent market, the Cavaliers need a three-point shooter. With J.R’s inconsistency, the Cavaliers will be looking for shooting consistency. R.J. Hunter is the best three-point shooter in the 2015 NBA Draft. In his last two seasons at Georgia State, Hunter shot 40% and 36% from the three-point line. His almost perfect shot is why he is a first round prospect. He will be a bench player to start his career and the Cavaliers need shooting off the bench. Cleveland is the best case scenario for Hunter because he won’t have the pressure to score and he will have his open shots playing next to LeBron James.
SF Justin Anderson, Virginia
Justin Anderson uses his strength and his IQ to his advantage when playing basketball. He stands 6’6″ and 230 pounds with a 6’11” wingspan. His wingspan helps him cover the two and the three. He also has offensive versatility with a mid-range game improving his three-point shot from 29% in his sophomore season to 45% in his junior. Anderson is very unselfish and always hits a clutch shot. His game would be perfect off the bench for the Cavaliers and Iman Shumpert may be on his way out.
PF Kevon Looney, UCLA
Kevon Looney is falling down the draft board which is good news for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Looney is an undersized power forward who goes crazy on the glass. His length allows him to grab rebounds and lets him play bigger then his size allowing him to play the three and the four. Looney needs a better three-point game but isn’t afraid of contact and makes it to the foul line. That is why I believe he will find more success at the four. Looney deserves more credit then he has been given throughout the draft process.
SF LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Dan Gilbert expects LeBron James to opt out of his $21 million player option. King James has committed to his home city of Cleveland and it seems guaranteed he will be playing professional basketball in Cleveland for the rest of his career. With the salary cap rising next season, expect LeBron’s next contract to be a one-year deal. LeBron will be spending the offseason putting together a contender in Cleveland.
PF Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
When Kevin Love was asked about returning the Cleveland, his answer was “Yes Sir.” Earlier today we received news that the Cavaliers expect Kevin Love to opt out of his $16+ player option for next season. He will be seeking a max level contract. Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game but wasn’t there in the playoffs. His offensive game was missed in his absence. The Cavaliers have to ask themselves, Kevin Love, or Tristan Thompson and a better bench.
PF Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
If Kevin Love walks, Tristan Thompson will be who the Cavaliers look to sign next. LeBron mentioned earlier in the playoffs that “Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career.” If the Cavaliers want LeBron’s input of free agency, after watching the 2015 NBA Playoffs I could see the Cavaliers signing Thompson over Love because that’s what LeBron wants. The hard-nosed power forward averaged 8.5 points and 8 rebounds per game and did the dirty work Kevin Love refused to do. Thompson gives the Cavaliers toughness teams need in a seven game playoff series.
With LeBron’s comittment to Cleveland and all the pending free agents, LeBron will be picking and choosing who he wants to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a deep draft and free agent class, LeBron won’t have an issue making a team. Since it is LeBron James, players will contact him to play in Cleveland to have the chnace to win an NBA Championship. The Cavaliers are the favorites to win the 2016 NBA Finals. With LeBron entering his 30’s, his time to build a dynasty in Cleveland is shrinking. Look for changes in Cleveland this summer.