With his beautifully crafted letter that acts in clear juxtaposition to the letter written by Dan Gilbert after he departed Cleveland, LeBron James is returning to the Cavaliers. While there are undoubtedly numerous factors that play a role in a decision like this, the roster that he’ll be joining was clearly one of them.
First and foremost, the main piece on this roster outside of James is Kyrie Irving. Irving’s development into a well-rounded, complete point guard will be essential to the Cavs’ success as he becomes the clear number two option on a team with championship aspirations. The offense is not and has never been the problem. It’s the defense. Depending on the Cavs’ roster plays out, perimeter defense and the cutting off of perimeter penetration is going to be essential to the Cavs success due to their current lack of a rim-protecting presence. Irving’s improvement there will be paramount to their success.
James and Andrew Wiggins will also certainly help with any perimeter defensive issues through sheer length and athleticism. However, there now come the questions of whether or not Wiggins will be a part of the team. His absence in the letter James wrote was quite conspicuous, and Kevin Love has said that he is willing to commit to the Cavs long-term now. But let’s act as if the Cavs will keep Wiggins for the sake of discussion.
If Wiggins IS on the Cavs in the future, there really couldn’t be a better possible situation for the best prospect since Anthony Davis to develop in the NBA. He’ll be allowed to develop slowly, as he improves his ball-skills. With Irving and James in the mix, there isn’t going to be a pressing need for him to create offense himself, which means he can simply run around and wreck havoc through his tremendous athleticism with off-ball movement and transition play. Wiggins would have potential to become a souped-up Shawn Marion — which, if you remember how good Marion was in the mid-90s, is no small feat.
It’s also worth mentioning that if the Cavs are ever going to be able to get anything out of last season’s first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, this is how. James is the perfect player to hide Bennett’s deficiencies defensively given that he can guard both 3s and 4s. Plus, Bennett will now be able to act as something of a stretch-4 to create space for James and Irving to attack the paint. Coach David Blatt likes to have big guys who can space the floor. It’s an excellent situation for Bennett to develop into a specific role player-type that could allow him to have a long NBA career.
The young player with the most precarious roster fit continues to be — surprise, surprise — Dion Waiters. As it stands, Waiters looks like he’ll have to provide value as a microwave that can create offense off the bench, but his propensity for attacking as opposed to spotting up will make him a tough fit when both James and Irving on are on the floor. It’s worth mentioning his improvement as a catch-and-shoot player, given that he shot 41.6% on 2.5 catch-and-shoot threes per game last season, but he’s more comfortable as a player getting into the paint. He’s definitely among the Cavs’ five best players right now, but my guess is that there is a solid chance he’s not on the roster to start the season — perhaps traded for a rim-protector?
That’s part of the problem with an analysis like this: the roster is far from set. It’s basically guesswork at this point. My guess is that David Griffin and to a lesser extent Gilbert continue to work the phone lines to create a “Big 3” of their own, so few on this roster are safe.
All that we know right now is that LeBron James has returned to his homeland. Who he plays with when he suits up for his first game? That’s anybody’s guess.