LeBron James chose Cleveland over Miami with his heart set on returning home, but as a basketball decision it was nothing short of savvy. While bringing together a more youthful Big Three might be perceived as the determining factor, teaming with Kyrie Irving and (soon enough) Kevin Love may not be what tipped James' decision in the Cavs' favor.
From the fourth starter -- even the third, considering Dwyane Wade's injury history -- to the very end of the bench, the Cavs' supporting cast and ability to maneuver couldn't be overlooked when James decided against re-signing with the Heat.
The Cavaliers have reportedly agreed to sign veteran forward Shawn Marion and could be pulling Ray Allen's interests away from retirement, according to Yahoo!'s Marc J. Spears. James' powerful influence that this summer reached the majority of NBA transactions also pulled old friends Mike Miller and James Jones to Cleveland.
The expectations for all of the above, however, aren't what they would've been with Miami. That's where the Heat may have lost the best player in the league.
All the Cavs need is 25 productive minutes a game from a player like Marion, and Blatt's crew will be in a fine shape.
Take Marion, for example. He's 36 years old and his production continues to decline, but he's remained a double-digit scorer in every single one of his 15 NBA seasons. He was a surprisingly competent shooter who hit 35.8 percent of his three-point attempts last season, and he will, as always, be an above-average rebounder and versatile defender. The Heat would have loved a chance at signing a player of Marion's caliber over the past few seasons, but instead Pat Riley made risky use of minimum contracts to pay Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. They never did enough to contribute to a playoff run. Instead, it was on Rashard Lewis to produce in 18 playoff games, eight of which he started.
Marion has proven to be built for the grind, and it's hard to imagine he won't be able to help out a great deal in backing up James. All the Cavs need is 25 productive minutes per game from a player like Marion, and Blatt's crew will be in fine shape.
The positional overlap of players like Marion and Miller allows for Blatt to change his rotation depending on the matchup -- that wasn't close to an option in Miami, where small ball ruled. The signings of Beasley and Oden were more risky moves with that versatility in mind, but the results never came.
The Cavs' defense swallows up Marc Gasol (David Richard-USA TODAY)
Cleveland will have more than one viable big man outside of Love. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson should be major contributors, and even rookie free agent signing Alex Kirk is a big body in the paint acting as insurance along with Brendan Haywood. Marion and James could even play as dual forwards on small-ball units. Either can slide to power forward to pair with a shooting small forward and Love at center.
The options on the perimeter are similarly open and will take on a more impressive look if the Cavs end up inking Allen. Dion Waiters' slashing will complement the shooting options behind him, be it Allen or rookie Joe Harris, who at Virginia shot above 40 percent from three-point range in three of his four seasons. The Cavs put a bit of trust into guard Matthew Dellavedova last season and will hope his solid decision-making behind Irving will make him a capable backup point guard. Whatever the case may be, James' ability to initiate the offense means there won't be as much worrying about point guard depth.
It's the supporting cast, put together with a rebuilding team's mindset, that was likely the draw for James to return. He made the best business decision but also the one that made the most basketball sense. True, he's done his own recruiting work to bring a veteran influence to the Cavs, but Cleveland did a bit of prep work over the last few years that became quite favorable compared to the stale roster in Miami.