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

 

 

Irving’s Shocking News Doesn’t Have To Kill Cavs

It was certainly unbelievable Friday afternoon when word come out that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We have said for a long time that it was not a good thing when Irving started talking to former Laker star Kobe Bryant.

After all, Bryant was so self involved as a player that he ran off the most dominant player in the sport, Shaquille O’Neal, after the 2003-04 season, after a stretch where they won three titles and made four Finals appearances in five years.

The Lakers missed the playoffs the following season, and it took Los Angeles four years before they got to The Finals again, and five before they won another title.

By the way, the Lakers never won a title in a season where Bryant led them in win shares.

So, Irving can add another thing in common with Bryant, perhaps the most selfish superstar of his generation.  He wants to separate himself from the most dominant player currently playing in the NBA, LeBron James.

Irving is certainly a gifted player, but he is far from perfect, although his shot gave the Cavaliers a championship, which makes a lot of fans forgive the weaknesses he has in his game.

His lack of effort on defense is one reason he is not considered one of the sport’s best point guards.  In fact, if you are honest, you would rank him 6th or 7th in the league at his position.

And let’s face it, the ball sticks in his hands on offense, and is a primary reason the Cavs struggle when James is out of the game.  For the most part, The King moves the ball.  Yes, there are still times when he dribbles excessively too, but not like Kyrie when LeBron is on the bench.

In those moments, Irving appears to feel like he must take every shot, passing only when he exhausts every option to get his shot off.

You would think with two other all stars on the floor, the wine and gold should function well with LBJ not playing, but since Irving seems to rarely find Kevin Love on the court, the Cavs struggle in those situations.

This doesn’t need to be the end of the Cavs’ run to The Finals.  In fact, it could be the opportunity they need to improve the team and change the dynamic of the roster.

They may be able get more of a traditional point guard, and a better defender at the position and add help in other areas.

Let’s say you can replace Irving with Phoenix’ Eric Bledsoe (21.1 PPG, 6.3 APG), and you can get another very good young player, or perhaps find a way to get Carmelo Anthony, and still sign Derrick Rose as a free agent.

Of course, you would probably have to move Iman Shumpert and perhaps Channing Frye, two players the wine and gold have been looking to move anyway, as well.

Isn’t the Cavaliers roster a little stronger?

LeBron James might be a demanding teammate, but wouldn’t it be better for Irving’s career if he was the second best player on a team that made four straight Finals appearances, and maybe, just maybe won two titles?

Scottie Pippen is considered an all time great, and he was Michael Jordan’s sidekick with the Bulls’ title teams.

That wasn’t good enough for Kobe, err Kyrie Irving.  That’s why it’s hard to believe he can return to the Cavaliers.

JK

 

No GM, No Big Moves, But Cavs Still Team To Beat In East

Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals, thus losing the series, it seems like a black cloud has followed the franchise, at least if you listen to the national media.

First, GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t reach an agreement on the former’s future with the team and parted ways.

Then, they tried and failed to get Paul George in a trade with Indiana before the draft, and despite the lack of a GM, this one is really on the Pacers, because their general manager killed the deal.

And according to who you listen to the Cavs have lost out on other free agents too, even though most of those players received contract offers much greater than the Cavaliers can pay because of the salary cap.

However, one thing has not changed with the franchise.  They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and the odds on favorite to return to The Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

That, my friends gives them a one in two chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

The team with the best record in the regular season in the East, the Celtics added the prime free agent available this summer in Gordon Hayward, but they also lost Avery Bradley, an excellent defensive guard in a deal with Detroit to clear cap space.

The other challengers in the East, the Wizards, really haven’t added a significant piece, although they helped their bench, and Toronto’s point guard, Kyle Lowry got another year older, and they traded D’Marre Carroll and lost P.J. Tucker as a free agent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs still have the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who together have lost just one playoff series in the last three seasons.

They also still have Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and kept shooter extraordinaire, Kyle Korver.

The only players lost to this point by Cleveland are the free agents, Deron Williams and James Jones, and the latter is probably going to retire.

Now, we aren’t thrilled with the Jose Calderon signing, but getting Jeff Green is a solid move, and we will have to wait and see if Cedi Osman will be able to play in the NBA.

Whoever the new GM is, and it will probably be Koby Altman, still has some of the mid-level exemption to use to sign more players, and of course, there is the veteran minimum as well.

Some of the players we have talked about recently (Shabazz Muhammad, Jeff Withey, etc.) are still available and with cap space drying up around the league, who knows, perhaps a player like that will fall into the wine and gold’s hands.

As for James’ future, which everyone nationally has him leaving after the 2017-18 season, for every reason “experts” speculate why he will leave, we can think of one why he will remain in northeast Ohio.

FYI, that’s not a prediction, because we don’t think anyone, except for LeBron and his people, knows what he is thinking about right now.

What we do know is the Cavaliers will be a very good team at the start of the regular season and everyone should enjoy it because they will be the team to beat in the East.

As for the West?  Houston and Oklahoma City are challenging Golden State, and you can never forget about San Antonio.

The national media’s worries?  First, the off-season still has about two and a half months to go, so more moves could be coming.

But really, nothing has changed since the Cavs rolled through the East with just one loss in the conference playoffs.

JK

 

Cavs Making Moves Anyway

The Cleveland Cavaliers might not have an official general manager, but the acting one made a move yesterday, and it looks like a solid one.

Koby Altman signed free agent forward Jeff Green, last with the Orlando Magic to a one year contract to a one year deal.

Green will be 31 years old this season, making him considerably younger than most of the players the wine and gold has signed or been linked with so far this summer.

The well traveled Georgetown product is 6’9″ and can play both inside and outside, especially in today’s NBA, where teams seem to be using smaller lineups.

The downside is he is coming off his worst season as a pro with Orlando, averaging just 9.2 points per game on 39.4% shooting, well off his career numbers of 13.5 points and 43.5% accuracy from the floor.

Hopefully, this is a case of a veteran playing better on a good team, because the year before, a season he spent with both the Clippers and Grizzlies, he scored 11.7 points per game on 43% shooting.

It has been reported that LeBron James spoke to Green prior to his agreement with the Cavaliers, and also it has been written that James is speaking to free agent Jamal Crawford as well.

This flies in the face of earlier news that The King is not actively recruiting players to join the franchise in Cleveland.

Perhaps this is a sign that James isn’t headed to the Lakers after this season.

As for Crawford, we are a little ambivalent about that because of his age, he will be 38 during the 2017-18 season, and he is a defensive liability which Green isn’t.  The latter has had success guarding on the perimeter.

On the other hand, the man can still shoot, hitting 36% of his three point attempts last season, and at age 37, he played in all 82 games.

Still, we believe Cleveland needs to get longer, younger, and more athletic off the bench, and inking Crawford to a deal doesn’t accomplish any of that.

Nor did agreeing to a deal with Jose Calderon, and bringing in one of James’ old mates in Miami, Udonis Haslem, doesn’t do it either.

One of the players we suggested last week, Tyreke Evans, went to Memphis for less than the full mid level exemption.

We can definitely see Altman or whoever is running the Cavs try to move Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and even Richard Jefferson for younger players and/or non-guaranteed contracted players, who Cleveland could release and thus create some space under the salary cap.

With the huge deals given out to players already this off-season, there will be good players, who will be available on veteran minimum contracts.

At the very least, the Cavs have to still be considered the favorite to get to The Finals again next year.  Yes, Boston signed the best free agent in Gordon Hayward, but let’s match up the “Big Three’s”…

Kyrie Irving > Isaiah Thomas
LeBron James > Hayward
Kevin Love > Al Horford

We maintain the biggest threat to Cleveland in the East will be Washington and Milwaukee.

However, we are sticking with our theme of younger, longer, and more athletic for the wine and gold this summer.  Still, if you can get Carmelo Anthony without moving a valued rotation piece, we are on board.

And we will ask this question to those criticizing owner Dan Gilbert for not paying David Griffin or Chauncey Billups…would you rather have him spend cash on players or front office people?

Thought so.

JK