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Cavaliers face tough offseason after valiant defeat

The Cleveland Cavaliers played tremendous basketball in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. LeBron James authored one of the all-time efforts while Kyrie Irving cemented his status as a top-10 player in the game. Kevin Love was a force on the glass, while J.R. Smith was a dynamo over the final three contests of the series off the bench.

None of it mattered against the Warriors, who vanquished James, Irving, Smith and the rest of the Cavaliers in five games. The only game Cleveland won took a record-setting 86 points in the first half of Game 4, and the contest was somehow still in doubt as the midway point of the fourth quarter came around.

Now, Cleveland has to figure out where to go from here. The roster is all but locked in with the huge contracts doled out to Smith, Love, Irving, James, Thompson and Iman Shumpert. The only maneuver the Cavaliers have is to trade one of Love or Thompson and make a play for a superstar, whether it be Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Unfortunately for Cleveland, neither of those situations is very likely.

Both Butler and George play alongside the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference’s Central Division with the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, respectively. It’s impossible to consider Indiana and Chicago making a trade with a division rival that has dominated the conference for the past three years. George and Butler are almost certain to move on from their respective teams soon, but neither will end up in Cleveland via trade or free agency.

The Cavaliers don’t need to change a thing to get back to the Finals, but if Golden State is healthy, Cleveland won’t be winning another Larry O’Brien Trophy. It’s no knock on James or the Cavaliers, who are a tremendous team and would be a dynasty in almost any other situation. But with the Warriors continuing to look like a juggernaut, the Cavs front office has work to do.

Cleveland might be pressed into the aforementioned move of trading either Love or Thompson. Both can be moved for some valuable pieces. Perhaps the New York Knicks are willing to send Carmelo Anthony to the Cavaliers in return for Love. Anthony is older than Love and isn’t a rebounder in the same capacity, but he can shoot the lights out and create mismatch problems.

With James still in his prime, Cleveland has to figure out how to give him, and itself, the best chance of winning it all. Considering Golden State’s roster, that won’t be simple.

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