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Congrats, Cleveland, Now You Have Some Choices to Make

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Getty Images

As far as we know, David Griffin’s championship celebration didn’t involve any shirtless champagne showers, WWE belts, or Corona cans. Instead, the Cavs GM was reportedly working the phones in an attempt to land a draft pick — a stark reminder that, while the NBA season may be over, Griffin’s job is just beginning.

Despite the Finals victory — or perhaps because of it — the Cavs’ future is murkier than ever. A month ago, Kevin Love was the most intriguing trade piece of the summer, and 48 hours ago, he was a worthless stock. Now he’s a Game 7 hero. One great performance shouldn’t negate two rocky seasons of fitting out, but how can you break up Cleveland’s Big Three after this?

It’s hardly Griffin’s only offseason dilemma. Despite having minimal financial flexibility and no draft picks, the Cavs need to replenish their roster. Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova are expected to become free agents on July 1, and the shockingly relevant Richard Jefferson just retired. Meanwhile, the specter of LeBron leaving again is lingering ominously in the background —

Wait, what?

Having delivered on his mission to bring a title to The Land, LeBron has a Get Out of Jail Free card if he ever wants to leave Cleveland again. Although this seems unlikely to materialize this year, it will remain a possibility until LeBron stops taking one-year player options and agrees to a long-term contract. When LeBron returned to Cleveland, the short-term deals were seen as a way to keep the pressure on Dan Gilbert and prepare for the NBA’s looming salary-cap increase. But lately the buzz has been that LeBron is toying with the idea of forming a superteam in Los Angeles. After all, he purchased a mansion in L.A. last fall, and has expressed interest in joining forces with Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. As a Cavs fan, I wish I could just revel in the championship and not worry about these things, but when it comes to LeBron, smoke is usually a sign of fire.

What does Griffin need to do to convince LeBron to stay?

He has to give up his own power and continue to let LeBron pull the strings. Which means Love’s fate actually rests in LeBron’s hands. If he wants Love to stay in Cleveland, then he’ll remain a Cavalier. If LeBron wants Love out, then Griffin will likely attempt to deal him before Thursday’s draft. I’m guessing Griffin would prefer the latter, as I’m not convinced he wanted to trade Andrew Wiggins for Love in the first place — that was definitely LeBron’s decision.

Let’s say LeBron orders the Cavs to move on from Love. What might Griffin get in return for him?

Picks, because rookies are cheap. Boston has long been considered a potential landing spot for Love, and the Celtics have a boatload of draft selections at their disposal. However, I doubt LeBron would approve of a pick-centered deal — at 31, he doesn’t have the time to wait around for rookies to develop, which goes back to why he didn’t want the Cavs to keep Wiggins. Maybe Griffin and LeBron can compromise by finding an available player who has already begun developing his game, but still has a lot of upside to explore. Aaron Gordon checks these boxes, but dealing Love to Phoenix for Klutch Sports client Eric Bledsoe seems more realistic.

If the Cavs are able to snag some picks, who might they be looking at in Thursday’s draft?

Given Mozgov’s impending free agency, Griffin would probably target a center, in which case Croatians Ante Zizic and Ivica Zubac and Sudanese mystery man Thon Maker would be strong candidates. Griffin would also be smart to come out of the draft with a decent point guard, because Delly is a restricted free agent and Mo Williams is utterly useless.

Speaking of point guards, what’s up with Kyrie?

After the way Irving played in games 5–7, I feel like an idiot for ever suggesting that the Cavs might be wise to move on from him. Suddenly he’s Cleveland royalty, and represents hope for the Cavs’ future beyond LeBron. He’s not going anywhere.

Are there any other Cavs who could depart in free agency?

J.R. Smith is widely expected to decline his player option and test the market, but after watching him celebrate last night–this morning, it certainly seems like he’d prefer to stay in Cleveland. Although, when does anyone know what’s going on in J.R.’s head? Accordingly, don’t be surprised if his situation plays out just like it did last year.

What would Bill Belichick do?

He’d trade Love on draft night in a heartbeat. But Griffin doesn’t have the kind of leverage Belichick does — like everyone in the Cavs organization, he answers to LeBron, and you can’t just break up a team that broke a 52-year curse. Or can you?