Will he stay or will he go?
That’s the nagging question the Cleveland Cavaliers are dealing with as the team is mired in an 0-2 hole against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But according to one NBA executive who spoke with Bleacher Report, Cavaliers fans can stop worrying because it’s already a done deal that LeBron James will be taking his talents elsewhere following the season.
The topic came up in reference to the major trades that Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman swung at the trade deadline.
In a sweeping round of changes, the Cavaliers effectively jettisoned half of their roster to bring in youth and athleticism.
“When LeBron leaves that trade will be devastating financially. A lot of money in (George) Hill and (Jordan) Clarkson, and you have to pay (Larry) Nance,” the executive said.
Hill and Clarkson are both locked into multi-year deals that pay them about $19 million and $13 million per year, respectively.
“They’re screwed,” an NBA agent said about the Cavaliers.
It certainly paints a bleak picture for a team that is just four wins away from a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance. But the Cavaliers are not most teams.
Even with an infusion of youth and athleticism, few teams are more reliant on a single player than the Cavs are with James. That became painfully clear when James posted the most casual 42-point triple-double in Game 2 of their series on Tuesday, and the Cavaliers still lost by double-digits.
Somehow, the 107-94 final score actually undersells just how ugly of a loss it was for the Cavs. Not only did the Cavaliers squander a double-digit lead to lose by double-digits, but the visibly frustrated players began to resort to dirty, bush-league tactics.
Marcus Smart had Al Horford's back. ? pic.twitter.com/Q18NctWeSD
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 16, 2018
It should be noted that there is some eerie symmetry, considering that the last time the Cavaliers lost to the Celtics, James bolted for Miami.
But if there’s one sliver of solace Cavaliers fans can take, it’s that the NBA landscape is markedly different than when James first left.
Of the teams that would have the potential cap space to lure James away, few make sense. Teams like the Suns, Lakers and Mavericks, while flush with cap space, are definitely not upgrades over his current Cavaliers team. And while James has always preferred to play in the Eastern Conference, teams like the Hawks and Knicks are not particularly good either.
One intriguing destination could be the Philadelphia 76ers. But even then, James’ overlapping skillset with precocious youngster Ben Simmons makes it a dubious fit at best.
Of course, if James doesn’t care about money, he could always sign with the Golden State Warriors and try to win 80 games.
The Celtics will travel to Cleveland for a crucial Game 3 on Saturday.
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