But LeBron James says the Cavaliers will be OK without those three for now.
LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“Until Kyrie and Tristan and Shump is ready, we have enough guys that will all help,” James said this morning before the Cavs’ shootaround, in preparation for tonight’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks at Xavier University. “It’s not about me carrying the team and that nature. We’re all grown men, we’re all professionals and they’re here to do their job.
The most important thing for Cleveland is the playoffs. Irving and Shumpert should be healthy by then, and there’s little reason to believe the Cavs won’t be the best team in the Eastern Conference come mid-April.
They might even be pretty good early. LeBron significantly raises a team’s floor, and Kevin Love can handle a bigger role. A supporting cast led by Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Mo Williams isn’t so bad, either.
The Cavaliers might not value home-court advantage over anything, but they certainly won’t completely phone in games to begin the season. Every win makes their playoff path easier.
But, if LeBron is right, that could have dire consequences for Thompson. By letting the qualifying offer expire, Thompson lost one of his most significant pieces of leverage. His best hope for getting a better offer might be the Cavs struggling so much early that they need him back.
If Thompson and agent Rich Paul argue how much the team needs him now, Cleveland can just note LeBron disagrees.
Thompson might need the Cavaliers to actually prove LeBron wrong on the court to get his bigger contract.