It has only been a couple of weeks into the season and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are already feeling the pressure of expectations. After James announced that he would return his talents to Cleveland, the hype surrounding the team and its young talent instantly raised through the roof, considering the novice level of the NBA Eastern Conference and the potential power of a new Big Three in James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

It’s been a rocky start to the new LeBron era in Cleveland, however. Defensive lapses and confusion on offense forced the Cavs into a 1-3 start before they preserved a nine-point lead on the road in Denver on Friday night, a game in which they led by 20-plus points in the third quarter. The win moved Cleveland to 2-3 on the season with a slow start while James’ former team, the Miami Heat, jumped out to a 3-0 start before dropping back-to-back games this week.

In James’ absence, former sidekicks Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh appear to be rejuvenated, as the duo is averaging nearly 43 points per game between the two. The Heat appears more primed and ready than the still growing Cavs, so the question needs to be asked: Did LeBron make the right decision? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.

Riley: It’s way too early to even be revisiting the idea, but absolutely. Miami’s gotten off to a good start, but what happens later in the year when both Bosh and Wade wear down as they’ve done annually for the last couple of seasons? The talent and promise is in Cleveland, and the early season struggles are nothing more than signs of a bunch of new parts trying to gel. The same sluggish start happened to James in his first year in Miami and the team still finished in the NBA Finals. Depth is definitely an issue with Cleveland, but if you took James off the team and simply compared rosters side-by-side then Cleveland would still be the more promising club with Irving, Love, Tristan Thompson and the always controversial Dion Waiters. With a collection of players all under the age of 26, any general manager would salivate to have that type of quartet. It wasn’t a coincidence that James left. He knew what was up ahead for the aging Heat.

Green: Even I’m intrigued to see what type of players Love, Irving and Thompson become, but as far as this season is concerned, it would’ve been a near lock for James and the Heat to return to the Finals again and possibly put him in position for a third ring. It’s all about the hardware at this stage in James’ career, and Miami was the best place for him – at least this season – to acquire another chip. Cleveland has some work to do. Their chemistry is nonexistent, and it’s hard to take a bunch of players who haven’t had success, Love included, and wave a wand and instantly expect great things because one great player has been added. As James alluded to earlier this week during a press conference, there are a lot of bad habits on this Cavs teams, and the losing mentality and practices are something that just won’t be shaken overnight. In Miami, the chemistry, experience and moxie was already there for James. I warned readers back in July that the chemistry of the Cavs team would be a total mess. I knew the egos of players like Dion Waiters would get in the way, and I knew Kyrie wasn’t going to just take a backseat to King James. This team has tremendously talented players; they just don’t fit together. 

Riley: Cleveland is going to steamroll teams once they get their sets down and chemistry working. Despite the number of players who were on losing teams prior to James’ arrival, those same players were still on All-Star teams and Olympic teams, so the pedigree is definitely in place. Penciling Miami into the Finals this year is just as easy as locking in Cleveland, as there aren’t too many teams in the East to be afraid of. The trio of James, Love and Irving might be the most talented in the league and by late season we won’t even be debating whether or not James made the right choice unless some type of catastrophic injury happens. The reason that James left was just as much for his future as his present. This team is set up for a three-to-five-year window that could be dominant as Love and Irving enter their primes.

Green: All the pieces and support systems were already in place in Miami for James to gracefully return to another Finals appearance. I have to believe that the future of the Heat would’ve been fine as long as James and Miami front office genius Pat Riley stayed in place. Who is to say that Pat couldn’t have gotten a player like Love to come to Miami to team up with in the future? But instead, LeBron bounced with an early exit, ending what I believe is his chance at another championship. Four years and four straight trips to the Finals give a team a type of confidence and aura that most teams simply can’t match, and James lost that identity when he changed zip codes again. Cleveland’s struggling for a reason. This franchise has never had strong success. And, until they get someone in the front office or the coaching seat that has the prestige and pedigree to match its star player then the Cavs will be nothing more than a box-office attraction featuring LeBron.