Ben Margot/Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James is reportedly concerned about the decisions the team has made this offseason, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
“Expecting an aggressive offseason approach that would close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, James soon found his anticipation and optimism diminished after Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert dismantled the front office, declining days before the draft and free agency to bring back general manager David Griffin and vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden.
“Gilbert’s decision left the Cavs without the franchise’s top two front-office execs at a critical time, and it left James frustrated and concerned about the team’s ability to put together a roster that can better compete with Golden State, the person with direct knowledge of James’ thinking told USA Today Sports.”
These reports aren’t a great sign for Cleveland given that James is set to become a free agent after the 2017-18 season and could try to form another superteam elsewhere.
In that vein, another factor in James’ reported discontent was that the timing of the front-office changes may have cost the team a star. As Zillgitt reported, “Further exacerbating James’ frustration is the Cavs were close to making a deal for then-Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler the day Gilbert decided to mutually part ways with Griffin and Redden.”
The issue for the Cavs is that a core of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love—alongside a slew of veteran role players—is enough to conquer the Eastern Conference but likely isn’t enough to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The combination of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green dismissed the Cavs in five games in this year’s Finals. With that core still intact and the Warriors’ also retaining key role players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, there’s little reason to expect the Warriors to concede their throne atop the NBA world, barring injuries.
As Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wrote:
“The Warriors are raising the bar, while the Cavs are standing still. LeBron has already won a championship in Cleveland, so there’s nothing holding him there if he doesn’t think the Cavs give him the best shot at winning. He’s a 32-year-old who has played 14 seasons in the NBA and sees his basketball mortality in front of him. He doesn’t have any time to waste, and that’s all Cleveland is doing right now.”
Teams like the Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics have all improved this offseason. The Cavs, at best, have stood still. If the Cavs can’t keep pace with the NBA’s elite, there will be an expiration date on the hometown ties that keep James in Cleveland.