Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James is expected to make another controversial decision in the summer of 2018. Since the offseason, there is a growing belief that James will leave Cleveland for the second time and chase more NBA championship titles with another team. The Cavs’ recent struggle and their decision to keep the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick heated up the speculation about his departure.
However, hours before the February 8 NBA trade deadline, the Cavaliers made multiple moves that surprised the entire league. They parted ways with Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and Jae Crowder, and got George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. in return. Most people believe that the trade strengthened the Cavaliers’ chance of competing for the title this season, while an NBA executive believes the move will also convince LeBron James to stay in Cleveland.
“I would have said it was a 50-50 proposition that he would go back to Cleveland this summer before all of this, even a week ago,” the NBA executive told the Sporting News. “I think this moves it more in the Cavs’ favor. They’re younger and deeper. If the lifestyle is all the same to him, and I don’t know that it is, I’d think he would stay in Cleveland. I would put it from 50-50 a week ago to now, something like 75-25 that he stays. Even if they don’t win this year, they’ve given themselves room to grow.”
As the Sporting News noted, most NBA executives feel that LeBron James only has two options next summer: joining the Los Angeles Lakers or re-signing with the Cavaliers. After dealing Clarkson and Nance, Jr., the Lakers have opened up enough salary cap space to sign two maximum-salaried players in 2018 free agency in which James and Paul George have emerged as their top targets. Since assuming the front office role, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka revealed their plan to bring the team back to title contention.
However, if the Cavaliers establish a better performance with their current roster, the Lakers may need to give up on their pursuit of James. On Sunday night, Hill, Hood, Clarkson, and Nance, Jr. proved that the Cavaliers made the right decision before the trade deadline by helping them dismantle the Eastern Conference’s current No. 1 seed, the Boston Celtics. Also, James looks happy and excited playing once again, unlike in the previous games where he’s looked mostly disappointed and stressed.
According to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, the four new Cavaliers are very excited to call LeBron James their teammate. George Hill went as far as calling James “Batman,” and added that all of them should be “Robins” in order to make the Cavaliers a better team. So far, James has not given any official statement regarding his free agency decision, but the huge roster upgrade will undeniably help Cleveland bring him back this summer.