Will the Celtics force another Lebron James departure from Cleveland?
It happened before. In 2010, Paul Pierce and his Celtics teammates defeated Lebron James' Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, and shortly thereafter The King was off to the Miami Heat.
According to CbsSports Jack Maloney both Lebron and Coach Tyronn Lue wanted Cleveland to trade for the Clippers' De'Andre Jordan prior to the trade deadline. That never happened, and the Cavaliers are now down two-games-to-none to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The trades for George Hill, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood brought in some younger role players, but all have been relatively ineffective versus Boston's tough defense. It certainly appears that James can only carry this team so far.
The only other significant contributor for Cleveland against Boston has been veteran Kevin Love. Would the addition of Jordan to this team have made a difference? Well, his rebounding and rim protection would certainly have boosted the Cavaliers defense. This is what Kevin Love had to say about the Celtics effectiveness (per YahooSports Chris Mannix):
“I think you can actually take a lot from the Boston Celtics,” Love said. “They had all their starters in double figures, and that comes a lot, I think, with not only Stevens putting them in the right position but their level of activity. They move the ball, they continue to cut. [Smart] was a plus-21 in this game. He just seems to do everything out there on the floor. I think we can definitely learn from them, and we have guys that are very capable, too, so we just need them to be themselves.”
The Cavaliers have the highest team salary in the NBA at 137.7 million. Lebron is set to earn 35.6 million next season but has a player option. The Cavaliers hold the 8th pick in this year's draft, but it is doubtful that will result in a franchise-altering talent.
All indications point to another departure by James to greener pastures, and that means a team with a great shot at a title next year. Hood, Nance, Clarkson and Hill were brought in as building blocks in the event Lebron decided to forgo his player option next season. It seems doubtful that Cleveland would opt to acquire sufficient talent to satisfy The King, so he almost certainly will be on his way once again.