These are not the playmakers LeBron James is looking for
In an attempt to appease LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers will hold a group workout on Wednesday. Here’s why none of the three known participants are the answer.
LeBron James has been the picture of frustration lately, as the Cleveland Cavaliers just finished with a 7-8 record in January. From calling for the team to add a playmaker, to reportedly being at odds with owner Dan Gilbert regarding spending, to lashing out at Charles Barkley, “The King” is clearly in a bad mood.
The Cavaliers are already over the NBA’s salary cap, and into significant luxury tax territory, so their flexibility to make trades or add anyone that is available is limited. But they will reportedly hold a unique workout on Wednesday, with veterans Mario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich and Lance Stephenson among a group of free agents that will attend the session.
The Cavaliers have one roster spot available right now. They can easily create another by waiving injured big man Chris Anderson, who will not play again this season due to a knee injury. So one or two immediate signings could come out of the Wednesday workout session.
But among the three known attendees, here is why Chalmers, Hinrich and Stephenson are not the kind of playmakers James is looking for.
3. The case against Lance Stephenson
Since something of a breakout 2013-14 season with the Indiana Pacers (13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game), Stephenson has played for the Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. He played six games for the Pelicans earlier this season, before suffering a groin injury that required surgery and being waived in early November.
Stephenson is apparently now fully healthy after rehabbing his groin issue. But outside of a 26-game stretch with the Grizzlies last season, when he averaged 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, “Born Ready” has shown no signs of his 2013-14 form with the Pacers over the last couple seasons.
Stephenson, at somehow still just 26-years old, probably has the highest upside of the trio of veterans named to be taking part in the Cavaliers’ workout. But if James wants a playmaker added to the fold, and more specifically a proven veteran backup to point guard Kyrie Irving, Stephenson does not fit that mold at all. Quite frankly he profiles very closely to J.R. Smith, except without the deadly outside shooting, and the Cavaliers can just wait for Smith to return from a fractured thumb in a couple of months if they want that kind of player.
2. The case Against Mario Chalmers
Chalmers has a history with James, playing four seasons together with the Miami Heat that yielded four NBA Finals appearances and two titles.
Chalmers was traded from Miami to the Memphis Grizzlies early last season, averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 assists over 61 combined games before a season-ending right Achilles’ injury last March. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Cleveland’s possible interest in Chalmers back in mid-October, and now that he’s fully healthy that interest is apparently being re-kindled on some level.
Dating back to a national-title winning jump shot at Kansas in 2008, Chalmers has not shrunk from big moments. He obviously has a lot of playoff experience too, with 99 total games and 66 times in the same playoff starting lineup with James during Miami’s annual deep postseason runs.
They key with Chalmers is of course his health, now and over the rest of the season, regardless of what team he might land with. But barring a long-term injury for Irving he wouldn’t have a big role with the Cavaliers, and James may already be lobbying for Chalmers behind the scenes. Having Cleveland’s de facto general manager in your corner is a point in favor of Chalmers, but that doesn’t mean James’ memory is an accurate representation of the player he is now.
1. The case against Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich played just 46 regular season games for the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks last season, averaging 3.0 points, 1.6 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game. He played six playoff games for the Hawks last spring, but he has not played a game at all since a second-round series against the Cavaliers.
Hinrich has never been dynamic talent, and age-36 there’s a reason he is available right now. But he does a fair amount of playoff experience, with 71 games and 46 starts mostly with the Chicago Bulls, and Hinrich does theoretically still offer something as a 3-point shooter (37.5 percent during the regular season and 40.7 percent in the playoffs for his career).
Hinrich’s name and the term playmaker have not often found themselves in the same sentence. But he may wind up being by far the healthiest guard that will work out for the Cavaliers on Wednesday, with no known severe injury in the recent past. When it’s all said and done, Hinrich may become the “beggars can’t be choosers” best option to quell James’ incessant complaining about needing more from his supporting cast.