Is LeBron James coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers? – Right Down Euclid Mailbag

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In an ongoing series for Right Down Euclid, readers can submit their questions about anything related to Cleveland sports and we'll answer them to the best of our ability. So, with that said, today Right Down Euclid will answer your questions, and hopefully more, on this edition of the weekly mailbag.

But, before we get started, a quick housekeeping note. I'm riding again in this year's VeloSano to help in the ongoing battle against cancer! If you or anyone you know have been impacted by cancer, I'd appreciate your financial support by donating to my fundraiser page and sharing, if possible!

Here is a direct link to my fundraiser page. You have until October 1 to donate! Thank you for your support!

Do you think LeBron is coming back to the Cavs? I hope he doesn't! – Jennifer T.

I think this is something plenty of people have been wondering after LeBron James was more than coy with The Athletic during NBA All-Star 2022 in Cleveland.

“The door’s not closed on that,” James told The Athletic. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”

Fast forward to now, and James is eligible to sign a two-year, $97.1 million extension with the Los Angeles Lakers as of Thursday. Currently 37, James will be 38 years old in December this season and due to the league CBA’s over-38 rule, a two-year pact is the maximum allowed. The kid from Akron could also theoretically ask for a one-year deal worth around $47 million.

Mind you, Thursday wasn't a deadline with Los Angeles, with James remaining unsigned, there's going to be plenty of speculation on what's next for him and the Lakers. The longer this drags on, the more rampant the speculation will become and when you look at a team like the Cavaliers (who will have a lot of cap space next summer), all eyes are going to be on a possible third reunion between both parties next summer.

If James were to come back to Cleveland, they'd go from a playoff hopeful to title contender overnight. Sure, there would be some awkward growing pains between James and the younger trio of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. But, with the supporting cast the Cavaliers have assembled since his latest exodus from Northeast Ohio, this would be the most talented team surrounding James ever. Cleveland has a proper mix of young talent and supporting pieces, along with a glaring need at small forward, that the fit with James is almost too obvious.

But, despite James being coy in February, and it making sense to have him don the wine and gold, it doesn't feel like him coming back for a third stint in Cleveland is a foregone conclusion. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, James and the Lakers discussed their future together on Thursday and the talks, overall, were productive. McMenamin also notes that it's possible James could seek a one-year extension, worth $47 million for the 2023-24 season, with an additional year with a player option for 2024-25. This would give him the flexibility to ultimately reach his end goal in what could be one of his final seasons in the NBA: playing with his son Bronny James.

Sure, hypothetically speaking the Cavaliers could take the younger James with a late first-rounder and then stash him with the Cleveland Charge, the team's G League affiliate, in order to bring his dad back into the fold. It would also be a smart marketing tactic since it would sell a ton of tickets for the Charge at the Wolstein Center. But, the issue is that Cleveland will be competing with every team in the league at that point in order to bring the kid from Akron to their organization.

That, and the fact that sources have shared with Right Down Euclid that the Cavaliers are in a good place organizationally and aren't going to bend over backward in order to lure James home. Would they love to have him back? Absolutely. I think anyone would be lying if they didn't want James. But, with the uncertainty around his son and Cleveland having cap space next offseason, it would be remiss of them to kick the can down the road to wait until James is entering his twilight.

Instead, multiple league sources tell Right Down Euclid that Cleveland fans should keep an eye on Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins next summer. The Cavaliers have bounced around the idea of bringing back Wiggins into the fold for a while now and the Warriors probably cannot afford Wiggins on top of the other costly contracts on their payroll. With how Wiggins performed en route to an NBA Championship this summer, the fit would make almost too much sense with Cleveland. But, if they strike out, there are other, more affordable, options like Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma as well.

See @CofsGeneral's post on Twitter.

This is a fairly interesting hypothetical that somewhat goes hand in hand with the last question. Sure, some of this changes if the team brings back Collin Sexton but, for now, let's assume he isn't and the Cavaliers have loads of salary cap space next summer.

We talked about options at the end of the last segment and, last time out, we talked about how Darius Garland's contract will more or less supplant Kevin Love's money within Cleveland's salary cap table. If they were to sign a marquee wing, that would soak up a lot of the money they have next summer. They could then go and address the remaining holes on the roster by targeting high-quality depth pieces and veterans on salaries that don't have a huge impact in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of Okoro, this upcoming season will be a make-or-break year for him (more on that in September!). But, if the Cavaliers sign him to an extension, it won't kick in until the 2024-25 season. Mobley, meanwhile, will be extension eligible the following offseason and, at this point, it feels like a no-brainer to sign him to a maximum rookie-scale extension similar to what Garland inked this summer. If that happens, then Cleveland is at their limit since, legally speaking, they can only have two players signed to a rookie-scale contract extension at a time on their roster. But, with how good Garland and Mobley are, it feels safe to assume the Cavaliers are more than comfortable with that.

Granted, this is all down the line of course and while every NBA organization is focused on both now and the future, don't get too bogged down in the details. This team will have to get creative to circumvent the salary cap long-term but, for now, they're in a good place heading into next season.

How do you feel about the lack of moves the Guardians made at the trade deadline? – Jason C.

To me, it means that the Cleveland Guardians are all-in on their youth movement. Granted, that was never much of a question but whatever success they achieve this season is just icing on the cake at this point. The Guardians are a team set up in a better way for 2023 and beyond but have accelerated things a bit this year and are threatening to take a winnable division now. Like their neighbors at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, winning and success will help immensely long-term.

What's going to happen next between Deshaun Watson and the NFL? – Ashley H.

I'll have more on this next week so be sure to subscribe!

See @Aaron920Michel's post on Twitter.

"Take care of yourself and everything takes care of itself"

Featured image credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images


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