It’s been a few days now since LeBron James announced he was going to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, so now it’s time to look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers can do in the 2018-19 season.
The first thing to realize is the Cavs lose their first round pick to Atlanta (via the Kyle Korver deal) if they aren’t in the top ten picks in next year’s NBA Draft.
So, while the instinct of the organization might be to win as many games as they can, because there is more talent on the roster, young talent too, than there was in 2010 when James went to Miami, but at least for now, it would be best if the Cavaliers don’t win.
They could start that process by dealing Kevin Love, their most tradable commodity, for more young talent and/or draft picks. Love will be 30 years old before next season starts, and in our opinion, you don’t want to start a rebuild with someone past 30 years old.
After the draft of Collin Sexton, the wine and gold have a collection of solid players who are under the age of 26. If Rodney Hood (26) is resigned as a restricted free agent, coach Tyronn Lue could start he and Sexton at guard, Cedi Osman (23) and Larry Nance Jr. (25) at forwards, and Ante Zizic (21) at center.
Jordan Clarkson (26) would be the sixth man, and if Love is moved, we are sure another young piece or two would be coming back as well.
We are sure the Cavs would love to move on from veterans like JR Smith, George Hill, Kyle Korver, and even Tristan Thompson, but that isn’t as easy as it seems.
All of them have lengthy, high paying contracts, and those aren’t appealing to other teams, unless you are willing to take the similar contracts back in return.
And with a young team, it’s difficult to imagine having those players, who would likely be unhappy on a losing team after visiting The Finals, sitting on the bench in reserve roles.
Hill could be a good tutor for Sexton, if he was willing to do that. It is difficult thinking Korver would be a problem, but he should be valuable to a contending team.
Smith and Thompson have been to four straight Finals with the wine and gold, so it is doubtful they would be happy with a subservient role in Cleveland, so a buyout could be likely for those two.
As for the returning players, as we said there are some nice pieces here, but unless Sexton becomes one, no star, and that’s what you need to win in the NBA.
Hood was averaging over 16 points per game in Utah. Nance has showed he was a winning player in his time in Cleveland. Osman played well in spurts (when he got time), and if his shot improves can be a very nice player.
Zizic showed solid post moves to score when used late in the season, but his defense needs work.
Whether these guys pan out or not, it shows more promise than the 2010-11 Cavalier roster. The only players on that roster who had meaningful careers after that season were really Mo Williams (five more seasons, including the 2015-16 Cavs’ championship team), Ramon Sessions, still active this past season, and Anderson Varejao.
The biggest thing, and this has been an issue, is player development. That hasn’t been a strong suit of the current coaching staff.
That could be the key to the season.