NBA Analysis: Could Cavs Have Traded LeBron?

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With NBA teams jettisoning their star players before they can walk away and get nothing in return (Carmelo Anthony to New York, Deron Williams to New Jersey), there’s been a lot of talk that this is what the Cavs should’ve done with LeBron. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets:

Says a GM: “Cleveland and Toronto waited and it cost their organizations dearly. Denver and Utah didn’t and at least got some good pieces.”

Sounds good, right? The Cavs got two crappy first round picks, two crappier second round picks and a trade exception that they’re gonna blow on Gerald fucking Wallace. Obviously, Denver and Utah got much better hauls for their star players. (And I totally agree about Toronto blowing it. Why they kept Bosh is beyond me).


At the time of their respective trades, the Nuggets were 32-25 while the Jazz were a tad worse at 31-26. Both teams were good, but not great. I feel it’s pretty safe to say that neither Utah or Denver were winning the NBA title this season.

And that’s the end goal, right? Winning an NBA title? The Jazz and Nuggets (rightly) figured they weren’t going to win a title this year, so they traded one guy for multiple assets, hoping those assets will help lead to a championship down the road. That makes sense.

The Cavaliers were in a little bit of a different situation. At this point in the season last year, the Cavs had just gone through a mini-slump and saw their record plummet to 43-14. 43-14!! That .754 winning percentage would put them second in the NBA right now. The Cavaliers, unlike Denver, Utah, Toronto and New Orleans, were one of the favorites to win the title.

So the Cavs (assuming they knew that LeBron was going to walk, which they obviously didn’t), would’ve had to make a choice whether to give up realistic championship aspirations now or trade LeBron and hope you can get back to playing .750 ball down the road. And personally, I think you make that last run with LeBron rather than ruining a championship drive for “the future”.

(For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about the Indians. In 2007, they needed to trade some prospects, even good ones, for a right handed bat. But no, they stood pat and hoped that their prospects would do well down the road. How’d that work out? When you have a chance to win the title, you take a full rip, future be damned).

Plus, unlike Carmelo and Williams (maybe?), LeBron was going to test free agency no matter what. It was Summer 2010! The world was watching! If LeBron tells the Cavs that he’s not reupping, how good of a deal do you think they’d get for him? There’s no way that Danny Ferry was going to get anywhere close to equal value for Bron-Bron. Who was going to give up lottery picks and young building blocks for half a season of LeBron?

Ya, sure, the hypothetical mid-season LeBron trade would’ve probably gotten Cleveland a better haul than Miami’s late firsts and later seconds, but I’m doubtful they could’ve gotten anywhere near hauls the Jazz and Nuggets received.

So if LeBron told the Cavs he’s leaving and even with knowing what I know now (that Antawn Jamison sucks, Cleveland didn’t win the title, LeBron gave a sub par effort & bolted and even with the Melo and Williams trades), I still wouldn’t have traded him (though I definitely wouldn’t trade a first rounder for an unclutch guy who doesn’t rebound or defend). You’d be sabotaging a legit championship run by trading your superstar for what, 50 cents on the dollar? 60? 70? I still say you make that last title push while you have the two-time MVP.

The goal is to win the title. No championship is guaranteed and you can only give yourself a good shot. The Cavs had more than a good shot last season, I don’t see why you blow that up.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I can understand being bitter that Denver and Utah actually got decent assets for their stars, rather than nothing. But if you just blindly point and say “see! that’s what the Cavs should’ve done with LeBron,” you’re an idiot.

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