After weeks of speculation, LeBron James severed ties with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in his career. This leaves the Cavs with a challenging roster featuring several players who are on bloated contracts. Even without James on the books, the Cavaliers will not have cap space.
Here’s a look at the current Cavs roster without James. Keep in mind it is early in free agency, and there is still plenty of time for Cleveland to add more pieces.
Cavs Roster & Projected Starting Lineup for 2018-19
C- Kevin Love, Ante Zizic, Kendrick Perkins (TO)
PF- Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr., Jeff Green (FA), Okaro White
SF- Cedi Osman
SG- J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Rodney Hood (RFA), John Holland
PG- Collin Sexton, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson
Heading into free agency, Real GM’s Keith Smith projected the Cavs to be more than $60 million over the cap. That number will go down significantly without James, but not enough to put Cleveland in a position to be free agent players. The Cavs have already made one key addition with the selection of Collin Sexton in the draft. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that the Cavaliers have been operating for the past month as if James would not return.
The writing was on the wall for James’s exit. The Cavaliers knew even if they didn’t know. Cleveland reportedly operated this past month as though James leaving was inevitable. It only wasn’t until a Saturday morning phone call with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that their breakup became “Facebook official,” per league sources. And then, as others reported, a meeting with Magic Johnson at one of LeBron’s homes in Brentwood sealed the deal with the Lakers.
The next big question for the Cavaliers to face is what they will do with Kevin Love. If Cleveland is looking to go into full rebuild mode, trading Love may be the best option. However, if the Cavs are hoping to remain competitive, Love is by far the best player Cleveland has on their current roster. Love could end up having more trade value if Cleveland allowed him to showcase his skills as the focal point of their new offense.
The last time James left Cleveland, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert made headlines for all the wrong reasons thanks to a scathing letter he released. This time, Gilbert took the high road by thanking James for his contributions. Here is part of the statement Gilbert released after James departure.
Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio. None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances…
LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line.