With the NBA draft tonight, it feels like only last week that the Cavs and Warriors were battling for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The long and grueling NBA offseason can do some crazy things to fans.
As many writers and basketball aficionados say, we are indeed in the “silly season” of the NBA – that couple week stretch after the post-season and before summer league. Wild rumors run abound, many a draftee gets anonymously smeared in hopes of him falling in round one, and Phil Jackson congratulates himself because why not. I guess now is as good of time as any to provide a few thoughts on this offseason in regards to the Cavs.
On Kevin Love
Yesterday, in a move that was anticipated since Cleveland traded for Kevin Love last year, the stretch four opted out of his contract. Now although Kevin himself has expressed his desire to return to The Land and David Griffin has expressed his desire to keep Kevin in the good ol’ Wine and Gold, ESPN (and others) have done what ESPN (and others) do – report their own desires and opinions as “sources” because those are juicier stories than a free agent remaining with a team. Teams will rightfully pursue Love and try to lure him out of Cleveland, but I just don’t see that happening.
First of all, Love has said on more than one occasion that he wants to be in Cleveland for the long-term. Forget people trying to decipher LeBron James’ social media accounts like clues from a Dan Brown novel. Forget the reports that Love wants to be a team’s primary option. And on that note, remember that he wanted out of Minnesota because he wanted to win. The Cavs offer him the best chance to win WHILE being able to offer him more money than any other team. Add that to playing with James – the game’s most powerful recruiter – and you’ve got a great scenario for the next few years.
Secondly, the list of teams that will go after him isn’t that great of a list. If we assume that winning is indeed his primary objective, then we can cross the Lakers off the list right away. The Celtics are offering the potential sort of Big Three of Love, Robin Lopez, and Paul Pierce if Kevin goes to Boston (lol) so there they go. Portland is rumored to pursue Love if they lose LaMarcus Aldridge – a team that with Aldridge got smoked in the first round of the playoffs. Phoenix is rumored to be in the mix because they’re always in the mix for everyone. The only team that would potentially frighten me in its chances of prying Love away is Houston. They have good pieces in place and play an offense that suits his game. However, they play in the already-loaded Western Conference making sustained Finals’ runs more difficult. Also, if Love already isn’t happy being a team’s third option, what’s going to happen when he plays with James Harden and Dwight Howard?
There have also been talks regarding a sign-and-trade with Kevin Love but again, I just don’t see this happening. First and probably most importantly, Kevin Love would have to agree to everything involving the sign-and-trade. For many of the same reasons mentioned above, I can’t see him doing that. If he wants to leave Cleveland, he’ll leave Cleveland. The only advantage to him agreeing to a sign-and-trade would be the inflated contract we could offer. However, if he chooses to go LeBron’s route of signing a year contract with a second year player option, a sign-and-trade offers him no benefit.
The other reason I don’t see a sign-and-trade happening is that there are very few, if any, scenarios in which the Cavs get equal value in return. They would have to find a team that wants Kevin, is a contender, and has an asset they’d be willing to part with in order for a decent deal to go down. Those are pretty tough criteria to meet. If, for some reason, Love wanted to go to LA or Boston, what on Earth could either of those teams offer the Cavs that would be worth Kevin Love? With DeMarcus Cousins on the trade block, I’m sure there are some people saying we should try and trade Love for Boogie; but why would Love want to play for the Kings? There’s a lot of Dwyane-Wade-to-Cleveland talk (more below) but I would probably punch my TV in anger if we traded Love for Wade. The only scenario that I could maybe imagine but still don’t legitimately see it happening is Kevin Love wanting to possibly play for his close-to-home Trail Blazers with Portland sending Aldridge to Cleveland in return.
In closing on this point though, I fully expect to see Love wearing number zero for Cleveland next year likely on a one year contract with a player option for a second year. Once the new salary cap kicks in, he’ll sign a long-term deal with us.
*A sort of post script thought here regarding all the Love talk: I’ve heard way too many people say Drr but we almost won the title without Love. We don’t need him. Drr. Almost winning is still not winning. We watched how painful Cleveland’s offense was without the play-making services of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the Finals. Had Love played, there’s a very good chance I would have been day drunk at a parade last week. The best teams regardless of sport don’t rest on their laurels and their moral victories; they find ways to get better. Just because we had a good run without Love doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have made a good run better. Kevin Love is a hell of a basketball player. The Cavs are a better team when he is healthy.
On Dwyane Wade
This section won’t be nearly as long as the one above.
How many “Retweet if you want to see Wade in Cleveland” tweets have you seen this week? At least 80, right? Sure. Any fan of Cleveland who wants to see the championship drought end undoubtedly would want to see Dwyane I-have-to-look-up-the-proper-spelling-of-his-first-name-every-time-I-type-it Wade in Wine and Gold next year. I’m sure the Cleveland from office would love to see Wade in a Cleveland uniform next year. Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between “want to” and reality.
Last July was arguably the greatest month in the history of the Cavs. Kyrie Irving agreed to a long-term contract with Cleveland, LeBron announced his return, and the Kevin Love trade was all but signed. Fans finally saw a real opportunity for a Cleveland team to win in the near future. It was like the five greatest Christmas mornings ever rolled into one Christmas morning then multiplied by 10. The thing is, mommy and daddy spent so much on that one Christmas that they really can’t get you anything big for the next few years. For the rational child, that’s cool. S/he understands that this one epic Christmas morning will provide enough joy during mommy and daddy’s financial struggles. Then there’s THAT kid. The one who says s/he understands at the time, but the next year, wants something big and new.
Mommy and daddy can’t afford Dwyane Wade. They just can’t. He’s not for sale on Ebay or Craig’s list for league minimum (translation: as it stands now, we can literally only offer Wade a league minimum and he’s not going to take that). If you really want him, we’ll have to give back a lot of the nicer, newer toys you got last year or give away some of your better, stronger toys that don’t break as often to make room for him.
So sure, I’d LOVE for Wade to take the league minimum and play for Cleveland or in a perfect, un-salary capped world, I’d take him at whatever cost in a heartbeat. But I certainly would rather have Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson (and Iman Shumpert and JR Smith for that matter) than an old and slightly damaged Dwyane Wade. Our problem was depth last season. Ridding ourselves of role players and depth for another guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective won’t exactly solve that problem.
On Improving the Team
So yes, depth was an issue especially magnified by playoff injuries for Cleveland last season. And as I mentioned above, Cleveland doesn’t have an enormous budget to work with in hopes of improving the team from last year. Luckily with the way they’re set up, drastic improvements need not be made.
With Anderson Varejao set to return from injury (for at least half the season until his next injury), there is a veritable log jam in the front court (assuming we resign Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love). Having depth with the bigs is a wonderful problem to have. More nights than not, teams can run big lineups out on the floor and pound smaller teams inside en route to victory. So all things considered, I don’t think we need to make any changes up front.
The one area that I believe that needs improvement for the Cavs is the backup point guard. Before you start chanting “DE-LLY! DE-LLY!” and quoting one of the thousand articles written about him between games three and four of the Finals, try to remember the fact that it took him 14 seconds to get the ball from the opposing basket into LeBron’s hands. He’s a fine defensive role player given limited minutes. He is not a backup point guard. He’s not a scorer. There should never be a scenario in a close game when he is on the floor without LeBron unless he has specific instructions not to shoot the ball.
Back to improving the position though…
Again, with limited assets, our options are pretty scarce. My preference would be to look at one of these two guys as in free agnecy: Mo Williams or Jameer Nelson. They would both provide enough firepower in relation to what we need off the bench. They’re both experienced veterans who are probably hungry for success. They can both handle the ball well and distribute to playmakers when necessary. And they’re both cheap. Mo already has the chemistry with LeBron and reportedly loved his time in Cleveland. Jameer has just always been solid. He killed us when he played with Orlando. Could he be the less impactful Adam Banks to our Mighty Ducks?
On top of signing one of these guys, I would also love to take a point guard in the draft tonight. You’re probably sick of seeing mocks or “X number of potential target” lists so I’ll keep this short and sweet to a list of one that I haven’t seen mentioned yet: Tyus Jones – the point guard for the national champion Duke Blue Devils. Most mock drafts I’ve seen have him going to the Rockets at 18 – six spots ahead of the Cavs. Is this where Haywood’s contract can come into play in terms of a trade chip? Would the Rockets appreciate that relief in cap space enough to move down in the first round? Or would another team ahead of Houston value that maybe with a third team stepping in as a sweetener? Maybe it’s a reach thinking we can move up and grab him. Maybe we’ve got our sights set on someone else. I don’t know. I’m terrible at putting trade scenarios together. All that I know is that I want a point guard tonight and would prefer Tyus Jones. He can score, he can handle, and he’s young. He would have time to develop on the bench especially if we brought in a veteran point guard as well.
When LeBron announced his return to Cleveland last year, I couldn’t wait for the ensuing season to begin. After seeing the Cavs play this year and come within two victories of a championship, I think I’m more excited for next season to start than I was last summer. Cleveland will probably be paying significant luxury tax for the foreseeable future. However, barring some huge power shift in the East, that tax should coincide with repeated trips to the NBA Finals.