The past two NBA Finals have shown that LeBron James is in dire need to create a super team that can take down the Golden State Warriors. It is far less than probable that it can be done by staying put in Cleveland. But it sure sounds as if the Cavaliers could have already created that team but LeBron prevented it from happening.
According to NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski on The Adam Schefter Podcast, if LeBron was willing to commit to the Cavaliers last summer Cleveland very well could have had a team built around LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George (9:00):
“Last summer they could have acquired Paul George and I think Paul George wanted to know, well, if LeBron commits to some years going forward, then ‘I might be willing to commit.’ And when LeBron wasn’t willing to commit to an extension that told me they could have had Paul George and they could have done that without losing Kyrie. That’s a very different team: Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and LeBron James. “
Unless LeBron is able to team up with both George and Kawhi Leonard with the Lakers – now rumored to not be happening – LeBron may not be able to find a better situation than the one that could have been created in his hometown.
Would a team of LeBron, Irving, George be the favorites to win the championship? Doubtful. What it would have been, however, is better than the options currently available for him if the goal is to solely compete for championships (maybe it is not?).
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Joining multiple young players with the Lakers with or without George certainly will not be a better situation on the basketball court. That is a roster that could be two or three years away from seriously being contenders (if everything goes right).
What is available in Houston or Philadelphia is not better either. Joining James Harden and Chris Paul is a bad fit and would require much disruption. Philadelphia would present a bad basketball fit alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Of course, the reaction will not be as hateful as last time he left Cleveland, but it will certainly create much more pressure than it would as opposed to staying with the Cavaliers. If he leaves, it will be to win a championship, if he doesn’t win at least one, it will be considered a failure.
It makes sense why he would not commit to Cleveland long-term, but that doesn’t mean it was the right decision. He must leave now as he is surrounded by a terrible roster, but he could have been surrounded by two perennial All-Stars.
Who knows if the Cavaliers would have traded for George if Irving still would have wanted to be traded, if Indiana would have actually completed the trade, or if George would have actually went through and committed to the Cavaliers, but in hindsight, it looks as if LeBron James made the wrong basketball decision.