Cavs Need To Get Younger, With Or Without LeBron

The latest tidbit reported about the Cleveland Cavaliers is that they are planning for the 2018-19 season as if LeBron James is not going to stay in Cleveland.

Another narrative from the national basketball media, who believes it is a foregone conclusion that James will be playing for the Los Angeles Lakers after next season.

Why not?  After all, James wished Magic Johnson a Happy Birthday the other day, and his production company is planning a new television show.

Our guess is it is not the first time James has given Johnson a birthday shout out and his production company has several shows on the air, and yet James isn’t playing for the Lakers, or the Clippers for that matter.

We have said it before, we have no idea what James will do following the upcoming season, and neither does anyone reporting on it.

As for the Cavs, whether or not they believe James will be coming back in 2018-19, they should take steps toward getting younger.

They should learn from the past.

After losing in the 2013-14 Finals, four games to one to San Antonio, James left for a return to the Cavaliers reportedly because the Heat roster had peaked and had considerable age on it.

There were nine players with 10 or more years of experience in the NBA and there were nine players (not the same guys) over 30 years old.  James himself would not turn 30 until later that calendar year.

The Cavalier roster that ended this season with a four games to one loss to Golden State also had nine players with over ten years experience.  There eight players over 30 years old.

James Jones has retired, Deron Williams will not return, and we don’t know about Dahntay Jones, so probably three of those players will not be back, but new GM Koby Altman inked Jeff Green to a deal, and he will be 31 years old this season, and Jose Calderon is well over 30 too.

So, if the Cavs move Kyrie Irving, and we believe they will, why wouldn’t they want to get young players in return.  They should get a quality veteran to match up the salaries, but also a very good player still on his rookie contract.

As for those who say the Cavaliers have to “go for it” because this might be James’ last season in a Cavs uniform, any team with LeBron James on it is the favorite in the Eastern Conference, and a younger, more athletic team might be the best kind of team to defeat Golden State if that matchup occurs for a fourth straight year.

Either way, it makes sense to get younger.

If James leaves, you are set up well for the future along with whatever point guard you receive in a deal for Irving, Love, Tristan Thompson, and the other piece in the deal.

If he stays, it will be because he sees a team with the capability to make several more runs at a title.  He didn’t see that after the 2013 season with the Heat.

Getting another young stud to grow with the Cavs is simply the correct thing to do from a basketball standpoint, no matter what decision James makes.

LeBron James is a pragmatist.  He is going to do what is best for himself and his legacy.  He feels the need to win more titles to be the best player ever.

We don’t think he’s made any decision at this point.  What the Cavs’ front office and the team does between now and next June will help form whatever option he chooses.

JK

 

 

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Cavs Road to Title Starts Tonight

Tonight is the night!

When LeBron James announced he was returning to the Cavaliers in early July, every fan of the wine and gold wondered what it would be like when he played his first regular season game back at Quicken Loans Arena.

Tomorrow, we will not have to wonder any more.

And hopefully, sometime next June we won’t have to imagine what it would be like if and when a professional sports team in Cleveland won a world championship any more.  The then 51 year drought (assuming the Browns won’t win the Super Bowl this season) will be over.

We understand that there are many experts, mostly from the national media, who say it will take time for a team that has so many new parts to gel in time to win a title this year.  However, it was just a few years ago that the Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to go along with Paul Pierce in the off-season and then won the Larry O’Brien Trophy in their first year together.

Keep in mind, they are playing basketball, something they have done their entire lives, not doing nuclear physics.

Also, the playoffs don’t start until April, giving all of the players five and a half months to become acclimated to each other and their new coach, David Blatt.  There is plenty of time to become a well oiled machine.

Besides having two of the league’s top ten players in James and Kevin Love, they have a two-time all-star in Kyrie Irving and also start a solid rebounder and improving offensive player in Anderson Varejao, this team is also very deep.

In fact, their second unit is a such that it looks like a pretty decent NBA team with Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Tristan Thompson, Brendan Haywood and Matthew Dellavedova.  And that doesn’t even mention Lou Amundson and James Jones, two veterans of the league as the possible 11th and 12th men.

And we haven’t mentioned the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft in Dion Waiters.

This shouldn’t be a team that will have to depend on giving its best players big minutes on a night-to-night basis, meaning they should enter the playoffs as fresh as they can be after an 82 game schedule.

And with the salary cap increasing over the next few years, there is no question that GM David Griffin and James can continue to keep putting together a deep squad in wine and gold.

Will there be challenges?  Of course, if Derrick Rose stays healthy, the Chicago Bulls will pose a threat in the Eastern Conference now that they added Pau Gasol.  They play solid defense and are also a veteran laden team.

And whoever comes out of the West, assuming the Cavs can get to The Finals, will also be a tough team to beat.

James said in his essay announcing his return that winning a championship isn’t and won’t be easy.  The organization doesn’t want to make promises because they understand the same thing, and they are correct in doing so.

The whole process starts tonight and the focus of the basketball world is on Northeast Ohio.

The start of what we have dreamed about for 50 years could be tonight.

JK

Cavs’ Circus Begins Tomorrow.

Tomorrow, perhaps the most important non-sporting sporting event in Cleveland will occur when the Cavaliers have their media day.

So, the circus that will surround them all year will start then and there.

The biggest focus for everyone will be LeBron James, who hasn’t really sat down to speak about his return to Cleveland, except through his essay in Sports Illustrated and his welcome home party in July in Akron.

To be sure, he will be asked about his future with the Cavaliers because he signed a one year deal with an option, even though he has stated publicly that he will finish out his career in wine and gold.

There will also be considerable attention on the NBA’s newest “big three”, James, recently acquired all-star Kevin Love, and the MVP of both last year’s All Star Game and the FIBA World Championship, Kyrie Irving.

To be sure, they will be compared to the Celtics recent grouping (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce) and Miami’s famous, or infamous trio of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.  Will the Cavs group have the same success as Boston, winning a title in their first year together?

There is no question than not only do the Cavs have a core of all-star players, but they also have put together a deep roster of solid role players, something Miami didn’t have at least last season.

Besides the holdovers from last season, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, and Matthew Dellavedova, who are all solid NBA players, GM David Gilbert also brought in Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, and James Jones, and don’t forget big man Brendan Haywood, who missed last season with a stress fracture in his foot.

The deep roster will allow James to cut back on his minutes, as our guess is all parties would like him to average around 33 minutes per game in 2014-15, compared to the 37.7 he played last season in Miami, and the 39.5 he averaged throughout his time in the NBA.

The only thing this team doesn’t have on paper is a big time shot blocker or rim protector in the new vernacular, and that could be Haywood if his feet can hold up.

And while some critics will say there aren’t a lot of lock down defenders in this group, right now James, Marion, Varejao, and Dellavedova would be considered the best defensive players, the name of the game is scoring more than your opponents, and this edition of the wine and gold should be very proficient in putting the ball in the basket.

The coolest thing about all this is the amount of focus that will be on Cleveland, Ohio this winter.  The two best teams in professional basketball might just be here and in San Antonio.  The national media has to be going crazy.  We will probably hear about how the league is in trouble because it doesn’t appear its hallmark franchises (Celtics, Lakers, Knicks) will be in the championship mix for a while.

Also, the Cavs will be embraced throughout the league too.  James was named the most popular professional athlete in the country this summer, in part because he did the right thing in many people’s eyes by reversing the wrong committed four years ago and returning to Cleveland.

As we have traveled around the country this summer, most basketball fans are genuinely happy that The King is back in northeast Ohio.

It all starts tomorrow.  And the wait to Opening Night will be excruciating.

JK

Cavs Give Everyone Reason for Extreme Optimism

We realize that the average Cleveland sports fan has no real sense of success, so they don’t understand how to handle it.

This has become particularly evident in regards to the city’s basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since the regular season ended, another non-playoff campaign just like everyone since the departure of LeBron James, nothing but good things have happened to Dan Gilbert’s franchise.

First, despite overwhelming odds, the Cavs got the first pick in the NBA Draft.  Cleveland had the ninth worst record in the league, with just a little over 1% chance to get the pick, yet it came up for them.

Unbelievably, the next great thing that occurred was James returning to the franchise, still the best player in the sport, and this made the wine and gold an instant playoff team, and a contender for a title, even if nothing else was done.

Unlike James’ first tenure here, he started actively recruiting for the Cavs, and told all-star forward Kevin Love that they should team up and try to win titles in little ol’ Cleveland, Ohio.

So, GM David Griffin apparently has packaged this year’s first round pick, Andrew Wiggins and last year’s pick, Anthony Bennett sending them to Minnesota to bring Love to the Cavs.

The Cavaliers will now feature their own big three of James, Love, and two-time all-star Kyrie Irving, and are the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and advance to The Finals for the second time in history.

They’ve also added veterans Mike Miller, James Jones, and Shawn Marion, all with championship rings to add support for Cleveland’s all-star trio.  And they may also add another well-accomplished veteran in Ray Allen soon.

Still, fans are complaining, worried that the team still needs a big man, someone who can block shots.

Let’s put it this way.  If the Cavs suited us up with James, Love, and Irving, along with another member of the Cleveland blogging fraternity, they likely would make the playoffs.

This team is a definite title contender barring injury as currently constituted.

They have Irving and Matthew Dellavedova at point guard.  At the wing spots, they can put James, Dion Waiters, Miller, and Marion on the floor.  They will have Love at power forward and Anderson Varejao at center, or they can bring the latter off the bench, and use Tristan Thompson, who averaged almost a double double last season as a starter.

It is true that the last move to make would be someone who can block shots, and based on the moves made already, we have no doubt that Griffin will add one to those to the roster.

The Cavs still have several first round picks that can deal as well as some non-guaranteed contracts picked up in the deal that sent Carrick Felix to Utah.

That’s the beauty of the situation that has been created here, not only do the Cavs have James, Love, and Irving, but they aren’t hamstrung in the ability to make moves.

That’s why James structured his deal (two years with an opt out after the first year) the way he did.  He saw what happened in Miami, where the Heat management didn’t want to go over the luxury tax threshold, and the Heat couldn’t add some younger pieces to keep the title train going.

If you aren’t optimistic about this basketball season, you would probably complain about the taxes if you won the lottery.

Some fans will still complain though, that’s the Cleveland way.

JK

Cavs’ Griffin A Man of His Word, So Far

When he was hired as Cavaliers’ GM, David Griffin said the team needed to improve its basketball IQ, and get some players who can make shots.

So far, Griffin is a man true to his word.

Of course, it helps a great deal when the best player in the league decides he wants to come home and play for your team.

LeBron James was the smartest basketball player on the court when he was here previously, and with even more experience, it is doubtful he has lost his ability to play the game the correct way.

James took a lot of heat early in his career so making the right basketball play, that is to say, he hit the open man rather than force up a bad shot.

We can remember times when James wasn’t in the game where the Cavaliers took poor shots when the team needed a basket. We said at that time the rest of the Cavs could have learned from watching the younger LeBron play basketball.

His younger teammates should be in learning mode, and when the teacher happens to be a four-time league MVP, if they aren’t willing to gain knowledge from James on how to play the right way, they likely will not be in the wine and gold for long.

Griffin’s other two free agent signings help with the shooting problem the team had last season.

Last year, Cleveland didn’t have a lot of consistent shooters from the perimeter. Yes, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters had their moments from outside, but their strength is more taking the ball to the basket.

Signing Mike Miller and James Jones as free agents addresses the need for players who can put the ball through the hoop from outside.

And they should get plenty of open looks with the way James, Irving, Waiters, and rookie Andrew Wiggins can go to the basket.

Miller, now 34 years old, enjoyed a bit of a career renaissance this year, playing his most minutes since 2009-10. He’s a lifetime 46% shooter from the floor, including 41% from beyond the three-point circle.

Last season with Memphis, he shot 46% on three pointers.

Jones is more of a three-point specialist, with more than half of his shots in his career coming from behind the arc.

He will be 34 years before the season starts and he’s made 40% of his threes over his career.

Neither Miller nor Jones will be starters.

Miller will probably be a rotation player, backing up at both the off guard and the small forward spots.

Jones only played in 20 games for the Heat last season, so he will probably be used as a specialist, playing in situation where three-point shooting is needed, maybe for plays at the end of a quarter.

The point is, both of these signings are minor in terms of neither player will be getting 30 minutes per night, but they are bringing a skill set needed on the wine and gold, and also another veteran presence for a team that doesn’t have many experienced players.

They will help James get the message to the young players and relate what is needed to win an NBA title.

Neither player is killing the Cavs in terms of salary cap space.

So far, Griffin is keeping his word in terms of rebuilding this franchise. It helped immensely that James returned to the franchise, but getting shooters, something lacking for Cleveland, is a great help too.

JK