Cavaliers reportedly planning for potential future without LeBron James

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five

The Cleveland Cavaliers are between a rock and a hard place after Kyrie Irving's reported trade request, and LeBron James' future isn't helping the situation.

Irving reportedly asking for out of Cleveland and away from LeBron would be a massive obstacle on it's own, but James' uncertain future makes that task even more difficult. Not only do they have to maneuver a trade market for Kyrie, they have to prepare for a potential future without LeBron. 

Much of what the future for Cleveland looks like will be directly tired to what they receive in return for Irving, should they trade him. Cleveland can go two very different ways in what they're looking for, but the reported targets they're interested in points to them preparing for a future without James. 

The Cavaliers are focused on finding a young, high-potential star player to replace their own young, realized-potential star player in Irving, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Their list of targets includes Kristaps Porzingis, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and Jamal Murray, per Wojnarowski.

That's a clear signal from Cleveland that they're preparing for a long-term replacement for Irving as opposed to a win-now star to help the Cavaliers close the gap with the Golden State Warriors. LeBron can leave as a free agent next summer and the franchise remains without any direct commitment from the Akron Hammer. 

With Irving's trade request and James' lack of commitment on the table, the Cavalier are proceeding as if LeBron is also on his way out. That's why their trade targets are focused Cleveland has "determined" they do not want to be reactive should LeBron take his talents elsewhere for a second time next summer, according to Wojnarowski

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Here's more from what Wojnarowski had to say about the situation in Cleveland:

Of course, Cavaliers officials prefer to re-sign James to a long-term deal and chase titles together into his twilight, but the Cavs are treating his unwillingness to commit as a call to protect themselves long term in the Irving trade, league sources said.

Owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman want James to commit before building around him, and James largely wants to see the Cavaliers execute a plan before committing to them.

This has created a situation where the Cavaliers are being forced to be transparent about their future not only internally, but to the entire NBA. If Cleveland was confident in LeBron staying, trading for a young unproven player like a Josh Jackson wouldn't make much sense.

They'd be better served looking for a trade like the one executed to acquire Kevin Love at the cost of Andrew Wiggins, but trading for an established in-his-prime player isn't the reported game plan of Cleveland as it stands. 

Kyrie and LeBron are, in a way, holding the NBA hostage together as their futures remain in the air. Irving will make a huge impact no matter where he lands, while the Cavaliers' doubt in LeBron staying in Cleveland has to have franchises around the NBA licking their chops at a chance to sign King James. 

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