When the Cleveland Cavaliers rehired Mike Brown as head coach for the 2013-14 season, they knew they were getting a strong defensive presence, something the team needed the past couple of years.
The Cavs allowed the sixth most points in the league last season, and they allowed the highest shooting percentage against in the NBA as opponents shot 47.6% vs. the wine and gold in 2012-13.
However, in this tenure with Cleveland, Brown will also be charged with developing a bunch of young players, something he didn’t have to do in his first term as Cavaliers’ head coach.
Yes, we know he made LeBron James into a solid, if not great defender, but James is a different story. He was touted as being one of the league’s best from the minute he was drafted into the NBA.
In Brown’s first year as Cavs head coach, the only young player who received a lot of playing time was Anderson Varejao, then in his second season with the team, and he only appeared in 48 games that season.
Brown’s second season with Cleveland included a roster with Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson as rookies. Gibson ranked 10th on the team in minutes, while Brown, the Cavs’ first round pick played just 202 minutes for a team than went to The Finals.
Granted, the Cavaliers were in a different mode then. They were trying to win titles, and there wasn’t time available for rookies, and it wasn’t a priority for the head coach to develop players.
The only rookie to get significant playing time in Brown’s final three years as Cleveland’s coach was J.J. Hickson, who has developed into a journeyman at best.
In the coach’s one full season leading the Lakers, again, he was guiding a team built to win and win now. There wasn’t time to bring a rookie in and give that player significant minutes.
Now, the Cavalier squad that Brown is guiding is totally different. It is a roster full of young talented players that need to be finished off and learn how to win. Brown can help with the latter by emphasizing defense, but it is unclear if he can make the young core of talent better players.
This is only because there is no track record of the coach doing just that.
What Brown has proven in his coaching career is that he stresses defense and he can win when he has the best player on the floor, which he had most of his tenure as the bench boss because he had James and Kobe Bryant.
Can he make Kyrie Irving the NBA’s best point guard? Who knows?
Can he develop Dion Waiters into a championship quality #2 guard who can average 18-20 points per night?
Can he transform Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller into big men who can play big minutes for a playoff team?
Can he show Anthony Bennett the ropes and make him a contributing player as a rookie?
The answer to all of these questions is that we just don’t know. But Brown will need to do at least three of those things if the Cavs are going to return to the NBA’s elite teams. It’s just another reason he was a curious pick to be the new coach of the wine and gold.
It should have been something that was taken into consideration. If the coach can’t make the young core better, then it won’t be long until Brown is looking for another gig.