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James Jones is unlikely to return to Cavaliers

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James Jones’ Cavaliers career could be over.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers have 14 players signed for next season, and thus, one open roster spot, but one fixture since LeBron’s return in 2014 may not be returning, per Joe Vardon.

"If the Cavs could bring in a fourth big man, they’d do it. James Jones, 36, is still out there, though a source already told cleveland.com it was unlikely he could be back."

“Champ” has been one of the best under-the-radar pickups for the Cavaliers locker room, and is one of the most beloved players in the league and among the Cavaliers roster. LeBron James said in 2015 that as long as he is still playing, a roster spot will be reserved for Jones.

"I told J.J., as long as I'm playing, he's going to be around," James said last week. "He's not allowed to stop playing basketball. So, I'm going to make sure I got a roster spot for him. I love him. He's the greatest teammate I've ever had."

Given LeBron’s open advocacy of Jones, it’s clear that if Jones doesn’t return, it would be because he decided to retire, not because the team was moving in a different direction. There are almost certainly better players on the court that could be of more use than Jones, but even if you don’t buy into the intangible value that Jones provides, the downsides to pissing of LeBron to add a 13th man to the roster are not particularly worth it.

If Jones does decide to hang it up, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found himself on a coaching staff, whether it be in Cleveland alongside LeBron, or back in Miami, where he was a huge part of Pat Riley’s culture.

Regardless, he is clearly appreciated internally wherever he’s been and if he were to leave the Cavaliers organization, he’d be missed.