What If: LeBron Stayed in Cleveland
With all the speculation over LeBron's destination next season we consider what if he stayed put Cleveland.
HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: It would definitely have been a completely different NBA.
LeBron James has easily been the best and most controversial player in the NBA for the better part of the last five years, but what if he had never taken his talents to South Beach and stuck it out in Cleveland?
This move (or non-move) would have had an undoubtedly drastic effect on the NBA as we know it. Let's take a closer look at some of the teams and people this move would have affected.
First of all, let's take a look at the Cavs. Retaining LeBron James would have meant a bunch of different things for this organization. Keeping LeBron would have ensured that they would not have had a miserable 2010-11 campaign, meaning that they would not have been able to draft Tristan Thompson with the number four overall pick. Even more importantly, it is unlikely that the Cavs would have traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and what would become the number one overall pick in this draft, or Kyrie Irving. The Cavs would have likely had another 60-plus win season and would have been pegged with the a number 28, 29, or 30 pick. Best case scenario, this pick becomes Jimmy Butler.
Although LeBron claims to have attempted to lure Chris Bosh to Cleveland before ultimately signing with the Heat, it is unlikely that Bosh would have signed in Cleveland, leaving the Cavs with some cap space to work with after signing James. A potential signee could have been David Lee, who was a much cheaper option than Bosh, Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudemire leaving Cleveland with a bit more cap flexibility for upcoming seasons.
With all this in mind, the current Cleveland Cavaliers starting lineup might have looked something like this:
PG- Mo Williams
SG- Jimmy Butler
SF- LeBron James
PF- David Lee
C- Anderson Varejao
Had this starting lineup stayed together and allowed Butler to grow and develop as he has in Chicago, this lineup would be the best that LeBron would have played with in Cleveland to that point. The Cavaliers could have potentially added another piece or two to this lineup, but it is perfectly reasonable to assume that this lineup could have occurred.
Miami Heat/Chicago Bulls
Without LeBron James, what would have happened to the Miami Heat? Here's my theory. As much as Wade loved Miami, he was certainly intrigued by the idea to play in his hometown, Chicago, for the Bulls alongside Derrick Rose. It is possible that Wade could have lured Bosh to sign there rather than Boozer, leading to a potentially dymanic team in Chicago with the likes of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Joakim Noah. Although it may have been tough to work out financially, they probably would have had to move Luol Deng's large salary (possibly to Miami) it is very possible that this could have occurred, leading to a different big three, and the already contending Bulls most likely would have won an NBA title or two by now.
The Heat on the other hand would have been in complete rebuilding mode, much like the Cavs after LeBron bailed. The difference is that Miami is an intriguing place for stars to sign because of the city, the fact that there is no income tax and because Pat Riley is sly as a fox. Because of this, I don't think it would have taken Miami nearly as long to rebuild as it has taken the Cavs. Perhaps they would have gotten the number one pick in 2011 and taken Kyrie Irving. Perhaps they would have made a run at Dwight Howard or Chris Paul or any number of the big name free agents that have popped up since 2010. There's no way to be certain what their roster would look like, but my guess is that they would be a perennial playoff team and potential title contender every season now.
Where would Kyrie Irving have ended up if not drafted by the Cavs? Perhaps the Clippers still would have retained their number one pick and drafted the young stud. Perhaps the Wolves would have moved up in the draft and picked him up. Maybe Miami would have tanked in 2010-11 and drafted him number one. All we know is one of the best young point guards would not be in Cleveland and who knows, different team, different setting, maybe Irving doesn't suffer all the injuries he's had to deal with in Cleveland.
How can we not talk about what affect this move would have had on the main character? Of course LeBron's legacy would be affected. The man would still be beloved in Cleveland. He would be viewed as one of the most loyal players in NBA history, and likely, the best NBA player to have never won an NBA title to this point.
Although there would not have been any big three in Miami, that isn't to say another one might have been created elsewhere (Chicago? New York?) plus the Boston Celtics still had their big three plus Rondo and would have likely won the East at least a couple of those years. All that plus the Spurs and Thunder being as good as they have been in the West makes me feel as though LeBron would still be going after his first NBA championship.
Because of this, there would be very few Michael Jordan comparisons. He may still have racked up the MVP Awards, he likely would have had even better numbers statistically than he has had in Miami, but because he would likely be without a title, he could not be considered one of the best to ever play the game.Skip Bayless would be ripping apart the killer instinct of LeBron to this day.
The NBA as a whole would actually have suffered as a result of this non-move. The LeBron hysteria after he signed with Miami created a buzz around the NBA and fans flocked to nearby arenas to boo the man. The NBA has profited immensely and is at an all time high in popularity currently, in large part because of the affect that LeBron's move to Miami has had on the marketability of the league. The NBA will likely never admit it, but they are very grateful to the King for sacrificing his likeability for the good of the Association.
What if Projections
2011- NBA Champions: Boston Celtics over Dallas Mavericks, Regular Season MVP: LeBron James
2012- NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Oklahoma City Thunder, Regular Season MVP: Kevin Durant
2013- NBA Champions: San Antonio Spurs over Indiana Pacers, Regular Season MVP: LeBron James
2014: NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls over Oklahoma City Thunder, Regular Seaon MVP: Derrick Rose
2015: NBA Champions: Miami Heat (led by Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard) over Minnesota Timberwolves (it could happen!) Regular Season MVP: LeBron James
Photo Credit: WENN