With the current NBA lockout we are beginning to see more and more players consider playing basketball in Europe. The biggest name currently connected with international competition is Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets. Because the NBA owners have locked out the players, the contracts that they have signed with teams are essentially suspended until a new CBA is agreed upon. This allows players to explore other basketball ventures, most of which are located in Europe.
While it is within the players' rights to make a living elsewhere, playing overseas comes with various advantages as well as disadvantages. There are yet to be any substantial reports involving Cleveland Cavaliers, however, it is an interesting issue to discuss. Would you want members of the Cavs playing in Europe if the lockout continued into the regularly scheduled season?
Let's quickly run through the possibly pros and cons of the idea. On the positive side, players would have the ability to continue playing basketball at a competitive level while the NBA is out of commission. It is certainly difficult to stay in world class physical shape without the help of team trainers and facilities. Joining a team in Europe would provide the necessary structure and motivational drive to keep players in shape and prevent them from getting rusty. Furthermore, the additional experience would definitely be valuable to young, developing players. If you hadn't noticed by now, that describes nearly every player on the Cavaliers' roster. I wouldn't mind seeing guys such as Tristan Thompson, Samardo Samuels, Semih Erden, etc. getting extra minutes and building a better feel for the game. On a more personal level, the opportunities in Europe allow the players to gain international exposure and build their own brand. Increased popularity outside of the US is important to the NBA when the lockout finally ends and European and Asian leagues give players a chance to put themselves on the map.
On the flip side, the most obvious con is the risk of injury. Do you really want your players potentially getting hurt playing for some other team? Clearly the success of these international teams is of no interest to us and it would be incredibly disappointing to see a viable NBA player get hurt while playing overseas. Veteran players obviously need to be even more careful with their bodies. Baron Davis, for example, has logged plenty of mileage on his knees and back throughout his NBA career. It would be foolish to waste whatever he has left in the tank.
As with most difficult situations, there is no clear black and white answer. It's safe to say that the issue should be analyzed on a case by case issue. Do I want Baron Davis and Antawn Jamison pounding on their aging knees overseas? No. Could the experience be valuable to the younger members of the squad? Of course. At the same time, however, it would be devastating to the Cavs if Kyrie Irving or another young asset got hurt. These factors have me on the fence about the idea, although I am leaning towards "no". It will be interesting to see how players react to the lockout as we get deeper and deeper into the summer and into fall. Deron Williams has already expressed that he wants to play in Turkey. Amare Stoudemire and Kobe Bryant's names have also been tossed around in rumors. Will a member of the Cavaliers be next?