To paraphrase former Celtics coach Rick Pitino, LeBron James isn't walking through that door, Cavs fans. Since LeBron left his hometown team in the summer of 2010, everything the Cavs has done has, in theory, been done to clear room for the eventual return of The King. Given the track record that Cleveland has run over the last four seasons, that return is looking less and less likely- and as bleak as that sounds, that is putting it as nicely as possible.
Since The Decision aka The Departure, the Cavs have been a fixture in the draft lottery "winning" the first overall pick two times in three years. Since drafting Kyrie Irving first overall in 2011, most of the Cavs moves have been subpar. In retrospect, most basketball moves are- but in Cleveland, it has been a series of rake-steppings.
After drafting Irving with the first pick overall, the Cavs selected Tristan Thompson with the 4th pick, leaving center Jonas Valanciunas on the board. While all of Cleveland's international scouts raved about Valanciunas, Cleveland ultimately went in a different direction.
...Grant wanted Valanciunas' agents to give the Cavaliers a signed buyout agreement with Lithuanian club Vilnius Perlas that guaranteed the center would join the NBA for his rookie season. His agents at Creative Artists Agency, including Leon Rose, had a reasonable counter, sources said. They wanted the ability to negotiate the buyout once Valanciunas' rookie draft salary had been slotted. And Toronto, with the fifth pick, wanted Valanciunas badly and never demanded the signed buyout as a prerequisite to draft him, sources said.
In 2012, the Cavs wound up drafting Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, passing on Andre Drummond. According to sources, Grant was unsure about having two unpolished offensive players like Drummond and Thompson playing together. Kyrie Irving lobbied for Cleveland to draft his good friend Harrison Barnes, but ultimately, Cleveland went with Waiters and the two have struggled to play together since.
In 2013, the Cavs again had the first pick overall and went with Anthony Bennett over players like Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Again, Indiana's Victor Oladipo was the safest pick, but Grant believed that Oladipo was too much like Waiters. Grant was too stubborn to acknowledge that maybe Waiters' future is as a bench scorer like Jamal Crawford, and Oladipo was the perfect two-way player to complement Irving.
The focus for the Cavs up until the summer of 2013 had been about clearing cap space and angling to re-sign LeBron James in the summer of 2014. In a move that no one saw coming, he rolled the dice on signing free agent center Andrew Bynum who had just sat out an entire year with the Philadelphia 76ers. The deal for Bynum was heavily incentive laden and something the Cavs would be able to get out of if need be.
Well- they needed to as Bynum become a disruptive force in the Cleveland locker room. They used Bynum to trade for Chicago's Luol Deng, but rumors now state that Deng is not too keen on Cleveland and will test his luck in free agency. In order to keep him in a Cavs jersey, they will most likely have to over-pay and the cycle will continue.
As new GM David Griffin enters his first weeks in office and the trade deadline is looming, the Cavs will most likely be trying anything and everything in an effort to salvage this season. Currently, they are four games out of the final playoff spot in the east, have two All-Star level talents in Irving and Deng with their eyes on greener pastures, and are facing the lottery again.
If the plan all along was to convince LeBron to come home and pair him with the best young talent in the NBA, then they have fallen short of their goal. Who knows? Maybe new GM David Griffin will be able to make some magic happen before next week's trade deadline. One thing is for sure though- LeBron James isn't coming back. A pipe dream at best when he left in 2010, it would now take a miracle to get James back on the Cavs to finish out the prime of his career. At best, maybe Griffin can keep Kyrie Irving from making a "Decision" of his own.