LeBron James announced he was re-joining the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 11, 2014 via a small announcement. Having hired a coach to oversee what was seemingly going to be a long rebuilding process just three weeks prior, the Cavaliers suddenly found themselves on a completely different timeline, with completely different goals. They needed, if not a completely different roster, a pretty different one. The pre-LeBron Cavs of 2013-14 featured just three players who are still on the roster—Matthew Dellavedova, Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson. They had three No. 1 overall picks including Irving. One, Andrew Wiggins, hadn’t played a game yet. The other, Anthony Bennett, appeared to be a long-term project at best. The players with the most experience were forwards Luol Deng and Anderson Varejao, each with nine years of experience. Varejao, the only Cavalier over 30, was the one roster holdover from when James left following the 2010 playoffs. Deng, a free agent, wasn’t re-signing. It is true that James saw something in the Cavaliers roster that he thought he could work with. “I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys,” he wrote in Sports Illustrated. “I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.” But that wasn’t why he came home. How do we know this? The very next sentence: “But this is not about the roster or the organization.” On Aug. 5, the Cavaliers signed two of James’s former Heat teammates, sharpshooters Mike Miller and James Jones. And on Aug. 23 they dealt Wiggins and Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star forward Kevin Love, a deal that also peripherally included the Philadelphia 76ers (the Cavs gave them their 2015 first-rounder for the inconvenience). Love was just 25, coming off a 26-point, 12-rebound All-Star season. Wiggins was an untested rookie, Bennett was coming off a horrid first season and, with luck, that 2015 first-rounder would be a low one (it wound up being 24th). Worst-case scenario? Wiggins turned into an All-Star and the Cavs had to watch him play elsewhere. Obviously they had considered this possibility, having drafted him first overall. They knew he’d be good, and they made the deal anyway. Having LeBron means you’re not rebuilding anymore.
LeBron the GM Isn’t the Cavaliers’ Problem, the Warriors Are
Complex | Jun 8