So the idea of James going anywhere seems hard to project right now, especially with the Heat locked in a competitive series. But if he were to make a dramatic jump again at this point in his career, it would almost certainly take a situation like he chose in 2010, when the Heat offered an incomparable package of star power and title readiness. It likely would take some sort of dream scenario again to get James to even think about moving on.
The Cavs potentially could have enough salary-cap space to offer James a maximum contract this summer if they allow free agents Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes to leave. But a core of the No. 1 pick (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid), All-Star Kyrie Irving and young prospects Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett may not appeal to James more than staying with the proven, if aging, Heat roster that has raised two banners. Without getting a look at how the uncertain rookie would perform, it seems doubtful James would be enticed by that option -- at least in 2014, seeing as none of the Cavs' core players would have ever played in a single playoff game or spent more than a week above .500.
However, new Cavs general manager David Griffin has said that he wants to take the team into "target acquisition mode" with the intention to immediately begin offering the team's assets in trades to acquire players who will help them break their four-season playoff drought. That certainly makes it likely the Cavs will shop that top pick around the league to see what they might be able to get for it. Assume there will be at least a call to the Minnesota Timberwolves to check on the possibility of getting Kevin Love.
That may be the type of move that could attract a player like James -- the promise of a complementary and proven player who could act as a veteran star alongside James as the younger players grow up.
Going that route, though, would be extremely risky for the Cavs without knowing if James was on board. The Cavs already have paid the price for gambling a bit by drafting Bennett with the No. 1 pick last season. Trading this year's No. 1 pick -- a potential franchise cornerstone -- to rent a star like Love with the hopes that it impresses James is the type of risk that could be crushing. Or it could be the type of aggressive coup that turns an entire franchise around, a move like the one the Heat dreamed up and executed in 2010.
There's no question the Heat are now facing some challenges in keeping their 2010 brilliance together as they face the challenges of replacing aging role players, getting their stars to recommit ( Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also have opt-outs) and having to operate in an extremely penal luxury-tax situation. But team president Pat Riley has never been afraid to make big moves and general manager Andy Elisburg has never failed to be creative in figuring out ways to produce options. The Heat themselves may call the Wolves about Love when their title push is over.
The idea of James trading in playing with teammates in their 30s for up-and-coming players in their 20s where he wouldn't have to carry as much of a load is a conversation starter for sure. But James is in a special zone that few people ever reach in any profession -- he doesn't have to compromise on anything and he can demand the premium.
Never lose sight of that reality; you can be assured that James will not.