The decision LeBron James made to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers has far-reaching implications. QZ.com has reported that James’ return means $48 million goes to the Cavaliers just for home games. Forbes.com estimated that James leaving Cleveland cost the city $50 million a year in revenue. In another article, Forbes estimated that James’ departure from Miami could cost the city $100 million annually.
James going home doesn’t just affect economies, it affects the entire NBA. His decision held up the majority of NBA free agency. Cavaliers games now will become prime-time games again. James’ decision has a trickle-down affect, and instead of Reganomics these are LeBronomics. Here are the top-five most directly affected by the move.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat go from perennial favorites to compete for the NBA championship to just a marginal playoff team. They were fortunate that Chris Bosh took their max deal and did not leave to join the Houston Rockets. As the Cavaliers can attest to, there is no way to replace a player the caliber of James, especially in this weak free agent class.
The Heat do not tend to build through the draft, so they are hoping that in the free agent classes of 2015 and 2016 they can find a way to compete at the highest level again.
2. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers showed last season that they are a mentally fragile group. However, they have been the second-best team in the Eastern Conference for two seasons. If they can find a way to re-sign Lance Stephenson, they could be the favorites to win the East.
The knock of James’ new team is that none of the players have playoff experience. If the Cavaliers are fortunate and trade for Kevin Love, he doesn’t have playoff experience either. The Pacers have two years of getting to the Conference Finals. They have three straight years losing to the Heat. They would have no excuses why they should stumble next season.
3. New York Knicks
Due to the fact that James left Miami, the East is wide open. Phil Jackson now has a chance to make enough moves to make the Knicks competitive. If James had stayed in Miami, there was no way Jackson could mold the Knicks roster this season to compete. Now that Jackson has convinced Carmelo Anthony to stay, he may be able to find a way to sneak into the Conference Finals.
It seems laughable, however, the already-old Brooklyn Nets are a year older. The Heat don’t have a full roster. The Bulls have yet to make a significant upgrade and no one knows how Derrick Rose’s knee will hold up. (The reason Carlos Boozer has not been amnestied is because the Bulls are afraid they may need it to get rid of Rose’s contract.) The Toronto Raptors are not ready, the Washington Wizards are not ready, and the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets aren’t close. If the Pacers lose Stephenson, they take a step back.
The Knicks are not as far away as they were a few days ago.
4. Western Conference
The idea that the San Antonio Spurs are the favorites out West is a myth. Two years ago, Manu Ginobili looked done. Tim Duncan was missing layups in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and looked like he was finished. To their credit they came back and dominated the Finals of 2014. However, is it logical to expect that they would have such a run in them again? Already, Patty Mills is going to miss a significant part of the season. It is likely the Spurs should have cashed out; instead, they may have stayed in the game a little too long.
With the Spurs being older and the “Big Three” dismantled, the Western Conference winner will almost be a lock to win the Finals. The Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland Trailblazers all should feel like they have a better chance to win now. All their rosters need to be tweaked, but with the right adjustments, any of the aforementioned teams could find themselves hosting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
5. NBA Fans
The NBA had gotten to the point that it was predictable. There were only a select few teams really competing for the NBA Championship. With James going back to Cleveland, the entire league becomes more exciting. There are those who argue that the Eastern Conference is down, and it is, but it is also going to be extremely competitive. The regular season hasn’t mattered much because everyone knew Miami was going to the Finals. Last season, the Pacers fought all year to get home-court advantage and no one cared because everyone knew they couldn’t beat the Heat.
Now, the league has new storylines. Can James carry these Cavaliers to a 60-win season? Can Chris Bosh go back to being a 20-point and 10-rebound a night player? Can Jabrai Parker and Jason Kidd guide the Milwaukee Bucks to the playoffs? Can the Spurs finally repeat as NBA Champions? Were the Wizards a one-year wonder or are they here to stay?
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