When LeBron James Leaves Town, He Leaves Nothing Left Behind

Kevin Love is finding out what the post-LeBron era is like in Cleveland

LeBron James. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty)
LeBron James. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty)
By Evan Bleier / January 11, 2020 6:00 am

As Kevin Love is finding out right now in Cleveland, the cost of a LeBron James championship extends well beyond his salary.

James, who brought the Cavaliers their first championship in 2016, left Cleveland prior to last season to join the Lakers in Los Angeles. Kyrie Irving, who was a key part of Cleveland’s championship run, left the year before via trade to the Celtics.

That left Love as the only core member of Cleveland’s championship still residing in Ohio. Apparently believing the team would somehow become a contender again, Love agreed to a four-year, $120 million deal to stay with the Cavaliers.

Since then, the Cavs have won less than a quarter of their games and sit in fifth place in the Central Division at 11-27.

In addition to simply losing James’ talent, the Cavaliers are bad because a large part of Cleveland’s roster was built to complement James and, with him gone, the pieces no longer fit.

“Life after LeBron often means starting over with an aging roster and a bloated cap sheet,” according to The Ringer. “It can require a team to begin a rebuild without much in the way of draft assets, considering that James’s very involvement comes with the implicit pressure to flip future picks for immediate help.”

Cleveland isn’t the only example of James leaving chaos in his wake. After he left Miami following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals, the Heat went 37-45 the following season and missed the playoffs.

Though they made the postseason and advanced to the second round the following year, that’s the farthest Miami has gone in the playoffs since James left town.

That may change this year as Jimmy Butler and his under-valued teammates are quietly putting together a great season in South Beach.

The same can’t be said for Love and his teammates in Cleveland as the Cavaliers have no shot at making the playoffs.

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