With the Cleveland Cavaliers trailing the Golden State Warriors three games to none in the 2018 NBA Finals it is more likely than not LeBron James’ final home game in The Land.
As Golden State’s emerging dynasty is on the verge of winning their third title in four seasons, along with James trying to chase the “ghost” in Chicago, there is just no rhymer reason that he stays put. Not only was a likely upset stolen from the Cavs in Game 1 due to a judgement call being reviewed in the final minute and overturned, but a missed free throw by George Hill followed by J.R. Smith running out the clock in a tie game may have been the final straw.
The recent video surfacing of LeBron sitting in silence on the bench during the first two minutes of the intermission before the Game 1 overtime summed up his feelings of what had just played out near the end of regulation. Then when he found out they had a timeout left and head coach Tyronn Lue did not use it only infuriated him further.
It is evident that if you take the 33-year-old all-star off of this current Cavs roster they might not even win 15 games. With that being said, we cannot expect LeBron to stay loyal to his native state when he has to continue to play nearly every minute of every game. In the 2017-18 regular season James played 82 games for the first time in his 15-year career, averaging the most minutes-per-game (MPG) in the entire NBA with 36.9.
In the 2018 postseason LeBron is leading the league in total minutes as well (Minimum 7 games played). He is averaging 41.7 MPG, while this number only increases depending on how close the game is. In Game 1 of the Finals he played 48 out of the 53 available minutes. Although the game needed overtime, James still logged a full regulation game in total minutes. His usage rate has seemed to of taken a toll on his body just like any athlete who plays this much, but the difference in the Finals compared to the previous three Eastern Conference series wins is depth.
The Warriors have arguably the deepest team that the NBA has ever seen. I’m not talking about a deep bench per se, but their offensive weapons. The starting five, better known as the “Hamptons Five,” not only can play defense but they can all provide scoring. Steph Curry set an NBA postseason record with nine three-pointers made in Game 2, while Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are both averaging 18 and 31 points-per-game (PPG) respectively. The Hamptons Five’s lowest output on offense is Draymond Green who is averaging nine PPG in this series, but is known for being a rim protector and the 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
For Cleveland, they have switched up the starting rotation many times throughout the 2018 playoffs. LeBron is nearly averaging a triple-double with 38 PPG, 10.5 assists, and 9 rebounds through the first three games in the finals. Kevin Love has aided James by putting up 21 PPG and 12 rebounds, but as far as depth goes Cleveland’s third best offensive player, Smith, sits at just 9.3 PPG.
LeBron must look at the rest of the league and wonder how he could possibly chase Michael Jordan in Cleveland with the rise of so many other teams. The Houston Rockets were a Chris Paul hamstring away from upsetting the Warriors this season in the Western Conference Finals. Two injuries to the Boston Celtics’ top players, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, make them the favorite to win the East next season. The Philadelphia 76ers and “The Process” will be a year older, while the Los Angeles Lakers have space for two max contracts.
The only thing that should be on the mind of the greatest athlete of the past decade is winning another championship. Apparently the only way to get people to put you in the G.O.A.T. discussion is to win championships and James has continually been knocked for losing them. Making it to eight straight NBA Finals and only being favored in two of nine overall must account for absolutely nothing. However, taking a break to play minor league baseball and going 6-0 in just six trips to the finals with Scottie Pippen and the eight-time All-Defensive Team selection Dennis Rodman is the greatest thing the basketball world has ever seen!
Well, that is just the day and age we live in and LeBron knows that the only way to end the debate is to win another title. We have seen number 23 depart Ohio before and we are going to see it again this summer. His decisions will likely rest on what the San Antonio Spurs do with Kawhi Leonard and where Paul George signs, but the Rockets look like the front-runners to land The King.
Loyalty will likely also stare LeBron in the face as he comes to his second offseason decision. He has already given the city of Cleveland their first championship in 52 years while also leading them to five NBA Finals trips during his time with the wine and gold. What more can he do?
James’ time in a Cavs uniform is coming to an end, but this time nobody can knock him for departing for greener pastures.