LeBron should go back to Cleveland.

I made this argument on a forum that I run, and so I’m going to make it here.

Here is my thing.  The Heat will be better than the Cavs will be if LBJ joins each of their sides: see Tom Haberstroh’s analysis, which includes WARP; the Heat project to 57-25 and the Cavs to 55-27.  The gap isn’t big, and LeBron has to be thinking beyond this year.  D-Wade is done as a full-time ass-kicker, and Bosh is either at or near his peak.  With the Cavs hounding Miller and Jesus Shuttlesworth with plans of bringing LeBron in, he will get the same deep shooting that he’s had in Miami1 to help him out in spreading the floor.  Bosh is really the differentiator, because the Cavs don’t have someone of his caliber on the roster2, and none of Irving-Waiters-Wiggins-Thompson-Varejao are up to that level just yet3.

But when you look at a WARP analysis and see two wins’ difference for this year with the promise of better things to come as Irving matures and Thompson-Wiggins-Waiters figure out the NBA, well you’re in luck, because all of your key non-LeBron players are going to be on rookie-cap or second-level contracts.  That’s just not the case in South Beach.  If LeBron has to think that he’s going to carry a team this season to a title while they figure it out, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be carrying a team on the way up?

Even if LeBron gets paired with Bosh for four more years in Miami, big guys don’t age as well as wings, and Bosh already has a ton of minutes on his legs (28,602, 36.5 MPG career), and we’ve already seen what happened when the Big Three became the Big Two.  Bosh played less (32.0 MPG) last year, which is a good sign of Spo’s roster management4.  But when you look at the guys near Bosh in Elo rankings, well, it’s not good.  Guys in that cohort seem to break down around his age: Walton, Zo, DeBusschere, Arizin.  While the guys in Miami are more known quantities, NBA players in their 30s age haphazardly.

Then there’s LeBron’s aging to account for.  LeBron has played 33276 minutes in 842 games, 39.5 MPG.  He’ll turn 30 this season, which will be his 12th in the NBA.  Take five seconds to look at him play basketball and you know that he’s an athletic gentleman without peer.  But a guy who plays that much during the regular season and 42.5 MPG in the playoffs, to say nothing of going deep into the playoffs5, needs some help.  He can carry his team for a year or two6, but doesn’t he deserve some support at some point?  The Cavs, with younger players, are in a better position to give it.

I’ll be very curious to see what LeBron does.  I’m very surprised that Haberstroh did his analysis and appeared to come down so significantly on the Heat’s side when I just don’t think it’s that cut-and-dried.


  1. and would the Heat have fared better with Miller last Finals? 

  2. and I can’t fathom a way that they get Love without gutting the roster — Waiters, Thompson, and picks won’t be enough 

  3. or in AV’s case, anymore 

  4. even if the bench was weaker last year 

  5. coming up on two full NBA seasons 

  6. hell, he’s almost assured to be the best player on his team for seven or eight more years.  Don’t believe me?  Kevin fucking Garnett.