The free agency period for the NBA started midnight of July 1 and as soon as the clock struck 12 midnight news started pouring in of free agents agreeing to contracts with teams. But the biggest fish in free agency had not yet committed until the next day. LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise leader in several categories, decided to accept the Los Angeles Lakers offer of $154 million.
Needless to say, Cavs fans were heartbroken by the news, though, it didn’t come as a surprise. Rumors from various sources prepared the city of Cleveland for what was to come as it was reported earlier that James was likely to accept an offer from the Lakers this offseason.
But a heartbroken city is just one of the many aftershocks that come with the King’s Decision 3.0.
The city and the franchise should brace themselves for more repercussions to come in the next few months and years. Before the news broke of James’ impending departure, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was rumored to be happier if his superstar left the team so that he can finally take full control of it once again. As relieved as he may be, the fallout from number 23’s exodus could be more than he bargained for.
Though the aftermaths are many and varied, these five are probably the biggest and most impactful to both the city and the franchise itself.
5. Cleveland’s economy will go down
It’s rare for an individual to affect a city’s economy in such a profound way and James is one of them. The Akron native is a global icon and a celebrity in his own right. He is one of the most recognized athletes on the planet, affecting his immediate surroundings in a profound way by just his mere presence.
Unfortunately, for the city of Cleveland, Ohio, his departure affects their economy negatively. In an earlier editorial, “The financial crisis that Cleveland will face if LeBron James leaves,” we clearly see how James’ economic impact on Cleveland after he returned in 2014 from a four-year absence.
Here’s an excerpt of what James means to Cleveland’s economy:
“In 2015, an economic impact study done by the Convention Sports & Leisure, every Cavs playoff game had a $3.6 million economic impact and every NBA Finals game had a five million dollar impact. In fact, Games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland generated $927,000 in admission taxes. On top of that, the Quicken Loans Arena created 3,500 jobs and generated $288 million in total output plus $34 million in taxes to the local government in 2015 alone.”
There isn’t a player in the league who has the drawing power that James commands singlehandedly and it’s a shame that he carries that much weight financially in Cleveland. It’s both a blessing and a curse and right now, Cleveland will have to suffer the consequences.
4. Cavaliers franchise value goes down
In 2014, Statista.com showed that the Cavs franchise was worth $515 million. A year after James’ return, it nearly doubled in value to $915 million. As of Feb. 2018, Forbes estimated that the Cavaliers franchise value was at $1.325 billion with every NBA team now worth at least a billion dollars each. After James’ exit, the Cavs could be looking at the possibility of the franchise devaluing to exactly $1 billion, the same as the New Orleans Pelicans who have the lowest value of all the NBA teams.
A superstar of James’ magnitude brings in the big bucks but removing him from the equation has devastating results financially. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert knows this from experience the first time his superstar forward bolted for another team in 2010 so hopefully, he is more prepared to absorb the losses this time.
What’s worse for the Cavs, the team is capped-out through at least next season and have very little valuable assets to trade to other teams.
3. Tyronn Lue will be under the microscope
All eyes will be on the Cavs coach as he tries to prove that he belongs among the best coaches in the league. Much was made last season of Lue’s ineptitude to win consistently with James on the roster. Despite a career year for James statistically, the Cavs finished with only the fourth seed in the weak Eastern Conference.
There was even a petition from Cavs fans to fire Lue when the team was losing horribly by 20 points or more.
This time, number 23 will not be around to save Lue’s job. He will have to be at his best in order to get this team to win and to have a winning mentality.
It’s going to be a long season for Lue, that’s for sure.
2. Kevin Love will be traded for less
The best player on the Cavs roster remaining, Love doesn’t have as much value as most second-best players in the league. As Zach Lowe noted in his piece, Love has very little value in the trade market.
“They missed chances to trade their best non-LeBron player, Kevin Love, at something close to peak value, and will have hard time flipping him for even 50 percent of that now.”
The fact that Love is due a payday of $24 million next season despite underperforming in the playoffs is not going to entice any teams to take on the 6-foot-10 power forward any time soon. The only way they can send him away to another team is by offering a future draft pick in exchange or perhaps package him to a team that is interested in any of their young players such as Cedi Osman or Larry Nance Jr.
Nevertheless, expect some team to take a risk with Love whose game started stagnating once he came to Cleveland in 2014.
1. The Cavs will be at or near the bottom of the league… again.
After avoiding it the last four years, the Cavs are going to be bottoming out once again. During James’ four-year vacation in Miami, despite the presence of young up-and-comers Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs never made it to the playoffs. Without the four-time Most Valuable Player, expect the Cavs to be one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in the NBA next season.
If Lue had difficulty coaching this team to wins last season with James in the lineup, he will find it nearly impossible to win with this group on the floor. Their only saving grace is a young, spitfire point guard in the form of Collin Sexton who will at least make games interesting with his competitiveness and drive.