The basketball season may still be some way off starting but this summer has arguably been the most exciting of the whole season.
First, it saw that the Miami Heat were beatable, despite the grandeur of their roster, when they were demolished 4-1 by the San Antonio Spurs. Secondly, LeBron James has gone home. The Heat ace has agreed to rejoin his old club the Cleveland Cavaliers, ending a four your association with the Florida based side.
by Keith Allison
In his place will be the free-agent Luol Deng, who has agreed a two-year, $20million contract. The British player, a rarity in the NBA, left the Chicago Bulls, who he had been at since 2004, for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 but his stay was not extended to another season.
Now both players are gifted. LeBron is without question the greatest of his generation. Whilst parents may say that Michael Jordan was the greatest they saw grace the court and grand-parents will go further to back with players like Bill Russell. But for us, for us it will always be LeBron. Deng is by no means a slouch but in the shadow of James he does pale in significance, who wouldn’t?
Will the homecoming galvanise the Ohio club and see them a mount a serious title pursuit and win their first ever title?
But just as interesting as the fairytale return of LeBron is how will the Heat cope? Will Deng fit seamlessly into the team or will the loss of their greatest player hurt them significantly? Could it be that the Heat’s rein is well and truly over?
Odds accumulator, MapleGaming.com, have the Cleveland Cavaliers as second favourites for the NBA title whilst the Heat don’t even make the top five!
Despite the distance between now and the start of the season you already feel that the loss of James will greatly hurt the one and significantly better the other side. In what sport do you see a side that fired two managers in the season prior, finishing an underwhelming 10th place in their conference and having a losing record go on to be installed as second favourites due to the arrival of one man? That alone pays testament to the LeBron James effect.
The Cavaliers have a good core with players like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson all having the potential to be great players. That potential has cost the Cavs seven first-round picks in the past four years. James’ return will see these players fulfil their potential. Combined with the experience, and unrivalled talent, of James it seems illogical that this side will not have a good season and could more than hold its own against “The Big Three” inspired San Antonio Spurs.
Going hand in hand with his scoring is his chance creation. His average of 6.4 assists per game is invaluable, even more so when you consider it’s just one part of his game. Even when his teammates aren’t finishing off opportunities it is hard to ignore James’ link-up play. He finds the pivot and controls the game from there. With the uncut diamonds to support him, James will surely polish this side into the jewel in the NBA crown.
Deng and Dwaye Wayde are both players of the highest quality, Wayde especially, but neither can fill the 6”8 void left behind. Sadly, it seems that the Heat, for a season at least, will be wallowing in the mire.
But for Cleveland it is going to be an exciting 12 months.