The LeBron James Era is Officially Over, so What Now?

A proper goodbye is coming soon, but for now, there's a basketball team in Cleveland that needs some figuring out. Losing LeBron James is not ideal, but the Cavaliers still have a few good basketball players and a lot of money tied up. What's next?

LeBron James is going to be a Laker. That kinda stinks. But so it goes, you know? Life happens, people change, and I own some 2016 NBA championship merch, so let's move on for now (but I promise an emotional farewell letter within the week).

For now, the Cavaliers are in limbo. Dan Gilbert, who is the scapegoat for LeBron's departure, allegedly said he's OK with James leaving because it means he can build his own contender and not be held hostage by LeBron's contract demands and general aura. That's stupid for a lot of reasons, not least of which is how the last time Gilbert tried to do that he won 64 games in three seasons and fell ass-backward into a series of lottery picks (bad ones, mostly) that ultimately enabled LeBron's return and the Kevin Love trade. Of course, the only reason LeBron returned at all is because he was born in northeast Ohio. There's literally nothing else. It was an unbelievable series of good luck that got Dan Gilbert his title, and now he thinks he's going to chase another one.

One problem: This team sucks without LeBron James.

The Roster

As the near-consensus best player on the current roster, Kevin Love is high on the trade-bait list. He's got one year + a player option left on his deal, and it would be the right thing to do for the Cavs to sit down and talk with him and see what he wants to do. If he wants out, he should get traded.

After Love, the roster is a lot of question marks. Korver is a known entity, but what are we expecting from JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, or Jordan Clarkson next year? Cedi will get some minutes, that's for sure, but doesn't it feel like the Cavs have a 30-52 kind of record in this roster, even if Love stays put? He's not the isolation scorer he was six years ago, and he's not going to get the open looks he got with LeBron on the floor, so his ceiling as the #1 option is not exactly overwhelming. It's the same with those other veterans, too. Korver is far less effective without LeBron's gravity, and Jordan Clarkson is...well, who knows what Jordan Clarkson is.

For the future, Collin Sexton is almost definitely going to start next season. That's kind of fun. Cedi Osman might start too. But more importantly, trades almost definitely will happen, especially because the Cavs - even after LeBron's $35 million comes off the payroll - are over the salary cap next year. They're not in luxury tax range, but they're at about $100 million before they consider matching an offer for Rodney Hood, who is a restricted free agent. Oh, and that $100 million is only into nine guys: Love, Clarkson, Nance, Zizic, Hill, Thompson, Smith, Korver, Osman. That's bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

They Have to Tank

Sorry, Dan Gilbert. I know you want to do your thing, but how do you do your thing most effectively? You gotta get assets. Right now, the Cavaliers' 2019 1st-round pick goes to Atlanta if it falls outside the top-10, so the Cavs have the incentive to be bad. Dan has publicly said that he thinks they should compete. He is wrong.

There is virtually no way that this Cavs team can do anything meaningful this season. They might squeak into the playoffs because the eastern conference has about four good teams (two full ones and four half-good-teams), but it's not like they'd have a chance against any of those other squads. Hell, the Knicks are probably better than this current Cavs team, and that's bleak.

So that's the plan. It's not ideal, but the Cavs have to consider their options and slowly start formulating a plan for the future. That's all they can do.

Oh, except Dan Gilbert wants to keep people flowing into his casino, so he's gonna try to make the playoffs and never be legitimately good ever again. Whatcha gonna do?

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