The Cleveland Cavaliers are third in the Eastern conference, looking nothing like a championship contender. LeBron James seems unhappy. Isaiah Thomas is a massive disappointment. Kevin Love is injured. The terrific bench doesn’t seem that terrific anymore. The front office, probably assuming that James is gone at the end of the season, should be working on an earth-shaking trade and lay the groundwork for next season. But it’s not happening.
Yahoo Sports and other outlets are suggesting that despite the improbability of it all, teams across the league are doing their due diligence and asking the Cavaliers about what would it take to trade for James. Talk of James asking or willing to be part of trade surfaced in the preseason, after Kyrie Irving was traded. So far, he hasn’t made any intention known about wanting anything but seeing the season through with the Cavaliers, regardless of how tough things look right now.
Before the Cavaliers season started unravelling, James looked like the best player in the NBA, but the losing and resurfacing of defensive and chemistry issues have taken his play and intensity down a notch. His 3-point shooting has been appalling over the last 12 games, shooting 20% from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game, while scoring only 22 points a night (26.3 is his season average). The Cavs have gone 4-8 in that stretch, giving up 118 points or more on defense four times. They’re 28th in defensive efficiency, 111.7 points per 100 possessions.
The moment Irving asked for a trade, it seemed clear James was leaving at the end of the season. Maybe it was already set the moment the Warriors easily handled the Cavs in the finals. James has a $35 million player option for next season, but most believe he’ll be opting out. Where will he go? It’s difficult to say. Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets seem like popular rumored destinations, but at this point it’s not that relevant. James is staying on the Cavaliers at least until the end of the season, which this year might come a bit sooner than he’s gotten used to.