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Which NBA superstar could the Cavaliers add to keep up with the Warriors?

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Adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team created an unstoppable juggernaut. How can we balance the scales?

2017 NBA Finals - Game Two Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As the Warriors have raced to a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, anyone hoping for a competitive series has mumbled the only analysis necessary: the Warriors won 73 games and then added Kevin freaking Durant. (We said it last July, too, but it’s so much more terrifying and hopeless under the klieg lights of the Finals.)

So, in the interest of imagining a competitive NBA Finals, let’s give the Cavs one more superstar. The biggest help for Cleveland would be a sticky wing defender who can shoot the lights out — but Golden State already has two of the best in the game with Durant and Klay Thompson.

Who does that leave, then? Given a choice of the best talent on the remaining 28 teams, who would help the Cavs most right now? NOTE: this is a thought experiment to make these Finals interesting, do not clog our comments with your salary cap and contract takes.

Kawhi Leonard

The Warriors boast two league MVPs; the Cavs have one. The only other active NBA players who have won the award are Dirk Nowitzki and ... Derrick Rose? Oh right, that was when everyone hated LeBron for going to Miami.

Instead, let’s aim for a Finals MVP. In terms of talent, need, and fit, no player would help the Cavs more than a healthy Leonard (this dirty look is for you, Zaza Pachulia). He’d be a 40-minute headache for one of the Warriors’ stars, and a Kawhi-LeBron pairing would be an advanced metrics version of Steph-KD.

Anthony Davis

In Game 2, Tristan Thompson played only 22 minutes because Golden State went small and TT isn’t the guy to take offensive advantage of a mismatch. What if they could replace him with a dominant All-NBA rim defender with offensive range?

BONUS: AD could get the chance to close out Steph a little quicker.

Russell Westbrook

PRO: Assuming scientists could harness it, Westbrook’s spite in an NBA Finals series against Kevin Durant could generate enough power to light the Eastern seaboard for a week.

CON: With his spite at an all-time high, he was actually kinda terrible against the Warriors this year: 32 turnovers in the Thunder’s four games (all losses), with a -23.9 +/-, his worst against any team in the league.

Paul George / Jimmy Butler

“Some of the things Kawhi can do, but not as well!”

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The argument against Giannis is that the Cavs already have enough players who can’t shoot well enough. But when your opponent is a Voltron of the Positional Revolution™ (must cite FreeDarko!), your best chance for survival may be to counter with giant lion robots of your own. Please direct any complaints to Giannis’ mixtape:

LeBron 2 (genetic clone)

Ever since DeMar DeRozan cited the Raptors’ lack of LeBron for a loss to the Cavs, the possibility of a LeBron clone has been tantalizing to NBA writers. Here’s Nathaniel Friedman on the subject:

Who would clone LeBron and to what end? Would the goal be to set the balance of the league right or give the edge to another team? Would LeBron 2 be benevolent or evil? ... Would it have to be this season’s LeBron or could it be a younger LBJ (note: this year might be the scariest one yet)? Would he develop in parallel to the real LeBron or open out onto a parallel reality where James’s game takes a different evolutionary path from here on out? What’s there to stop there from being other LeBron clones?

Should LeBron 2 exist and be grown enough to be helpful to these Cavs, he would have to have been cloned at least 19 years ago. This is on the distant outskirts of plausibility: Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996, and even if scientists could have duplicated the feat with a human by 1998, a 13-year-old LeBron — even despite his talent at that age — would be an unlikely candidate.

The only possibility I could see for a LeBron 2 arriving to help the Cavs would be a secret identical twin raised by a different family. Of course, if this LeBrother (A) existed and (B) nurtured his basketball talent, it would require an inconceivable conspiracy to keep him hidden from the public (especially with State Farm’s ad campaign). Very few people look like the 6’8 best basketball player on the planet; It would be hard to hide them from view even if they weren’t, say, dunking on fools in a backwater rec league.

In other words, the Cavs will have to try to pull off a miracle with only one LeBron. Again.