LeBron Awaits His Kingdom in Cleveland

Before analyzing Cleveland’s imminent dynasty after the Homecoming, the Return of the King, the Decision 2.0, or whatever else you want to call LeBron’s move back to Cleveland, I want to quickly say something to the dying breed of hardcore LeBron haters still out there: 

One thing is clear about LeBron James’ public perception at this point: no matter what he does, there will always be those who shamelessly deride and treat him as a villain. LeBron has coped with the pressure of becoming the greatest NBA player of all time, ever since he was in high school.

Such a subjective expectation inevitably leads to constant controversy and scrutiny of every press conference, headband placement, cramp, and decision James has made throughout his young adulthood and tumultuous twenties. Most fans willing to exercise empathy can hardly blame LeBron for some of his missteps given his circumstances, but unfortunately, empathy tends to yield to sensationalism among sports fans.

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Drafting Like a Champ

Although there is no blueprint for winning an NBA championship, we have encountered only a few strategies that have resulted in league success. For example, Danny Ainge revitalized the 'Big Three' Strategy by adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Paul Pierce's Celtics. This blueprint was famously followed in the 2010 by the Heat, when Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade teamed up in Miami.  While these triumvirates dominated the media's attention, they depended upon a strong group of role players to complete a championship roster--Ainge's Celtics would not have defeated Kobe and Pau's Lakers without stringy point guard Rajon Rondo or even Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and Miami’s “Big Three” could not have won consecutive titles without timely contributions from the likes of Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem.

But signing superstars leaves little money to fill out the rest of the roster. Teams have met this challenge by completing their rosters with efficient role players who demand lesser contracts. Teams like the Heat have achieved this by adding veterans like Ray Allen who have been willing to play for less than market value to play for a contender. While well-known veterans taking pay cuts grab the headlines, the contributions of young players on rookie contracts have proven invaluable to teams looking for contributions at a bargain. This article focuses on the latter group, one that is often overlooked when discussing team building.

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