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Teo: Analyzing the immediate and long-term future of the Cleveland Cavaliers

In case you have been living under a rock, The Daily is here to inform you that LeBron James has once again signed with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. After having reached the NBA Finals for the past four years with the Miami Heat, LeBron’s emotions helped him reach his decision; as he wrote in his Sports Illustrated essay, “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

Even though he is leaving the team where he won his first two NBA Championships, LeBron may still be able to win more rings, namely because the Cavaliers are already a legitimate title contender for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Kyrie Irving and LBJ are already a perfect duo. Irving has the ability to consistently draw double teams and dish the ball out to teammates like LeBron, who finished third last season in 3-point catch-and-shoot field goal percentage with a 48.8-percent mark. With LeBron on the court, there will also inherently be less pressure on Irving’s shoulders. The two should also be an effective pick-and-roll tandem that will get a lot of buckets in the paint.

Selecting Andrew Wiggins as the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft was also a smart move for the Cavs. Cleveland has an incredibly young and talented roster with tremendous potential, and Wiggins could be a key contributor if he is not included in a blockbuster Kevin Love deal. If Wiggins starts at shooting guard, he and Irving could form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the NBA. Wiggins’ defense is also solid, and he could possibly already be one of the best defenders on the team. Finally, not only is Wiggins a prospect with a ton of potential, he will also be very affordable on his rookie contract.

As such, I would keep Wiggins, even if that precluded the Cavaliers from getting Love. Trading for Love would require the Cavs to trade Wiggins and multiple other players, along with future draft picks. In addition, acquiring Love would be a desperate reach for an immediate NBA Championship, but keeping Wiggins would provide a greater long-term benefit for the Cavs. Lastly, the Cavs would inevitably have to sign Love to a massive long-term contract if they bring him to Cleveland, which would hurt their salary cap situation.

On top of Wiggins, the addition of Mike Miller only adds to Cleveland’s depth in the backcourt. Although he may not be able to put up the same sort of numbers that he could in his prime, the veteran 3-point specialist should be able to spark some quick offense off the bench. When he is playing alongside both LeBron and Kyrie Irving, Miller should be able to match his 3-point field goal percentage of 45.9 percent from last season.

With the signing of Wiggins, Miller and James, what will happen to Dion Waiters? He tweeted that he “wouldn’t accept the role of coming off the bench” next season, but the reality is that he probably will have to assume a “sixth man” role if he stays in Cleveland. Waiters also does not have an incredibly burdensome contract and he performed well last year, averaging 16 points, three rebounds and three assists per game. However, in order to derive the most from Wiggins’ bundle of potential, the Cavaliers should start him over Waiters. Waiters should see himself coming on for Wiggins at shooting guard and playing perhaps around 25 minutes a game – a decrease from his first two seasons.

Keeping both Wiggins and Waiters while choosing not to trade for Love would also leave some available cap space to add some depth, particularly in the frontcourt. The Cavs may want to add some youth to support veterans Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood at center.

After all these trades and acquisitions, where do all of the players line up on the depth chart? The chart below is an estimation of the Cavs’ depth chart:

Point Guard

Shooting Guard Small Forward

Power Forward

Center

Kyrie Irving

Andrew Wiggins LeBron James Tristan Thompson Anderson Varejao
Matthew Dellavedova

Dion Waiters

Mike Miller

Anthony Bennett Brendan Haywood

Joe Harris

Carrick Felix

Dwight Powell

Even without Kevin Love on the roster, Cleveland has a decent shot at winning a championship next year, and this possibility will only increase as the Cavs’ young squad gains more experience. For this upcoming season, the Cavs are likely to end up in the top two in the Eastern Conference, along with the Indiana Pacers. However, the Cavs may not get very far in the playoffs due to the relative lack of playoff experience across most of the roster. However, after a few years as a consistent playoff team, Cleveland will become a dominant team that has the ability to reach the NBA Finals year in and year out.

In the end, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a bright future ahead of them, with LeBron leading the way and a group of young potential superstars following in his footsteps.