LeBron James' decision from the summer of 2010 is coming full circle. The Cleveland Cavaliers are pursuing James in his second free agency go-around, and despite the fallout that followed James leaving the team four years ago, there are some good reasons why he might consider a return to his first NBA home.
The running mate
The offseason's biggest move to date hasn't been a trade or a free agency agreement. Kyrie Irving's verbal agreement to sign a five-year, $90 million contract extension with Cleveland is not only a major development for the team, it could give the Cavaliers a boost in the LeBron sweepstakes.
Locking in the 22-year-old Irving through the 2019-20 season would give James a teammate who should only improve upon his 21-point, six-assist per game production from this past season. Irving is the perfect playmaking sidekick for an aging James, who comes with a bit of extra mileage considering his annual playoff runs. LeBron has compared Irving to James' good friend Chris Paul, which is quite a compliment and would seem to make Irving the biggest part of any pitch for a Cleveland return.
LeBron and Cleveland
Agent may be driving rumors of return to Cavs
LeBron James' agent is reportedly pushing for the Heat forward to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed before it becomes a reality.
LeBron and Cleveland
The peripheral pieces
Irving isn't the only No. 1 pick for James to consider. First-year general manager David Griffin has been tactically referring to the Cavs' 2014 first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, as a shooting guard for good reason. Playing alongside James, Wiggins would be able to take the defensive load off James' shoulders while providing Cleveland with a third player capable of creating some offense. While he has a longer ways to go on that end, he could gain confidence quite quickly by playing off the two primary playmakers.
Anthony Bennett, the 2013 first overall pick, took heaps of criticism but shouldn't be written off after a poor single season -- the circumstances surrounding him were hardly his fault. There would be questions about frontcourt depth if LeBron were to join the Cavs, but there's still reason to believe Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller could improve with a little bit of stability under first-year coach David Blatt.
Cap space and assets
Part of James' cooling opinion of the Heat is likely to do with their lack of financial freedom and poor use of the draft. Miami's aging roster struggled in the NBA Finals this past season after it failed to draft -- or sign and develop -- young talent.
To sign James to a max deal expected to start at $20.7 million next season, the Cavaliers must trade Jarrett Jack and his $6.2 million owed in 2014-15, plus an additional smaller contract or two. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Cavs are looking to bring in a third team that would take money or picks, plus Nets guard Marcus Thornton in order to ship Jack to Brooklyn. Swingman Sergey Karasev is also on the trading block, reports Wojnarowski.
The Cavs could sign James once they're through clearing enough cap space, and they could also use center Brendan Haywood's expiring backloaded deal next season to acquire another second-tier star. Haywood, who will be acquired for Alonzo Gee after the July free agency moratorium, will earn $10.5 million in 2015-16; ESPN's Brian Windhorst suggests that Haywood could be traded and waived, as his deal is not fully guaranteed. That could give Cleveland the ability to acquire another significant contributor alongside James and Irving.
Including Cleveland's own first-round pick, the Cavs could have three first-round choices in 2015. The Heat owe the Cavs a first-round choice that is top-10 protected next season, while the Cavs get the Memphis Grizzlies' first-rounder next year if it falls between sixth and 14th in the lottery order.
Complication in Miami
Relationships go a long way in the NBA, and they could be the main guiding force in James' ultimate decision.
The most important one is between James and his agent, Rich Paul, who Wojnarowski reports has privately hoped he could convince his longtime friend to return to Cleveland. Paul and James became friends growing up in Ohio and while James obviously will make a decision for himself, it appears Paul is doing everything he can to open James' eyes to Cleveland's situation.
James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will need to make amends after James' decision in 2010 led to a bitter and legendarily Comic Sans-ed letter from Gilbert. If he hasn't already, Gilbert will have to apologize to James and admit that his competitiveness got the better of him in that situation. That's essential to fix a burned bridge.