LeBron James may have less power over the Cavaliers organization than many people think, as last summer he did not get his wish when he asked the Cleveland front office to deny Kyrie Irving's request for a trade.
James admitted in an interview with ESPN ahead of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals that he did his best to keep Irving on the Cavs. Irving, of course, got dealt to the Boston Celtics in August and the rest is history.
Here is what James told Rachel Nichols of ESPN in his sitdown interview:
Even if you start back to the summertime where I felt like it was just bad for our franchise just to be able to trade away our superstar point guard,” James said. “A guy that I had been in so many battles with over the last three years, and obviously I wasn’t a part of the communications and know exactly what went on between the two sides. But I just felt like it was bad timing for our team.
The perception of the Cavaliers by many is that James has the power to tell the front office what to do and that he is behind many of the moves they make in the offseason and at the trade deadline. This story would suggest that isn't true. If James can't influence their thinking on a decision this important, he can't be considered a player-GM like many say he is.
In hindsight, the Cavs should have listened to James. Yes, Irving wouldn't have been happy about it, but the Cavaliers got the wrong end of the deal with Boston. None of the players they acquired worked out and the draft pick they got ended up lower than expected. They will pick eighth overall when that pick seemed like a lock for the top-five before the Brooklyn Nets improved year-over-year.
If the Cavs had Irving, they would clearly have a better chance against the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Instead, they gave into his wish and took a major hit because of it.
James isn't the Cavs' shadow GM, it turns out, but maybe they should ask his opinion more often, seeing as how he was definitely right about this one.