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Six Moves The Cleveland Cavaliers Should Make
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On December 5, 2011 @ 4:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
In the span of a single season the Cleveland Cavaliers went from first to second worst while enduring a 26 game losing streak that could have been 37 games if not for an overtime victory at home over the New York Knicks in mid-December.
The not unexpected result of suddenly losing the best young veteran in the NBA to free agency did have its silver lining. General Manager Chris Grant managed to trade Mo Williams to the Clippers for Baron Davis and an unprotected first round draft pick and the Cavaliers entered the draft lottery with two good chances at selecting first overall.
With a host of prospects on their roster and two top rookies, the Cavaliers enter this season with rebuilding their shattered franchise as their only priority. Every move the team makes now should be future oriented.
#1 Amnesty Baron Davis
Baron Davis has said all the right things heading into training camp. The Cavaliers believe him and are indicating that the most obvious amnesty candidate in the NBA will be on their roster this season.
The rationale for keeping the 32-year-old Davis is simple. The Cavaliers do not have many veterans and Davis can fill the mentor role for the team’s future star Kyrie Irving. Besides, paying Davis $28.6 million to play for someone else over the next two seasons is just too painful for management to contemplate.
There should be no question that Davis can still contribute significantly to a NBA team and he will likely remain on his best behavior in Cleveland. Davis knows his future in the NBA could depend on how he deals with this situation. This just isn’t enough of a reason to hang on to the veteran point guard.
The Cavaliers need to clear salary cap space for future moves and Davis’ contract makes him virtually untradeable. Head coach Bryon Scott is heading into a season where his team will lose a lot of games no matter what he does and Davis is just too tempting a player to have on one’s bench. Unfortunately, Davis is in the way.
The Cavaliers only took on Davis’ salary to net a second high draft pick and won bigger than they had any right to hope for by getting the first overall. The new collective bargaining agreement is providing them an opportunity to expand this win exponentially by freeing up Davis’ salary slot as well. The Cavaliers should amnesty Davis, but that doesn’t mean they will.
#2 Start Kyrie Irving
In a weak draft where several potential lottery picks returned to college, the Cavaliers got the top-rated rookie prospect, and just like last season’s top pick John Wall, Irving needs to start and play as many minutes as he can.
Irving was labeled as a potential NBA All-Star point guard heading into college, and even though injury shortened his college experience, he still retained that expectation. The 19-year-old Irving needs to play through his mistakes and develop his NBA game as quickly as possible. The Cavaliers future hopes are riding on his shoulders and will not be advanced by having Irving watch from the bench or deferring to someone else.
#3 Start Tristan Thompson
In a surprising move, the Cavaliers selected Tristan Thompson fourth overall instead of filling a potential future hole at center with Jonas Valanciunas or an obvious hole at small forward with Kawhi Leonard. Then they made room for Thompson by shipping power forward J.J. Hickson to Sacramento for small forward Omri Casspi and a future first round draft pick. Taking the two moves together, the Cavaliers look like they knew what they were doing.
The 20-year-old power forward’s game is still raw, but he impressed in college with his physical presence, and the Cavaliers have raved about his workouts.
There is no reason to hold Thompson back and nothing could be more important to the Cavaliers long term success than developing a strong chemistry between their two rookies by playing them together as much as possible.
#4 Go after a free agent shooting guard now
This year’s free agent class has a lot of shooting guards, unfortunately the ones the Cavaliers should be most interested in are all restricted free agents. This doesn’t mean the team should sit quietly on the sidelines and just watch. The biggest hole in Cleveland’s line-up is a quality shooting guard who will still be in his prime when the team’s rookies are ready to lead the Cavaliers back to the playoffs.
The best free agent shooting guard for the Cavaliers roster would be Arron Afflalo from Denver, but Afflalo has a long list of suitors and the Nuggets are expected to match almost any offer. Cleveland should still make the attempt.
If Cleveland approached Afflalo with a four-year $30 million offer, they would get his attention and at the very least drive the price up to the point where the Cavaliers could take a more modest run at Denvers’ Gary Forbes. The end game of bidding on Denvers’ restricted free agents could become Wilson Chandler. If Denver is stretched holding onto their free agents now, when Chandler returns from China in March, Cleveland may be one of a very few teams who will have the salary cap space to make a compelling offer.
#5 Let Antawn Jamison’s contract expire
The 35-year-old Antawn Jamison is in the final year of his massive contract and the timing couldn’t be better for the Cavaliers. Unless Cleveland can find a trade partner willing to give up a first round draft pick, inexpensive prospects, and very limited future salary commitments, the team should let Jamison backup Thompson until his salary comes off the books at the end of the season.
If the Cavaliers are not active in free agency now, the team can free up over $30 million in salary cap space for the potentially exciting free agent summer of 2012 by getting both Davis and Jamison off the books.
Jamison has always been a good teammate and consummate professional, there are no reasons to be concerned about having him around on a rebuilding team for one year.
#6 Get a top lottery pick in 2012
No team should tank a season by not trying to win, and if Irving, Casspi, Thompson, Anderson Varejao, a shooting guard, and the Cavaliers prospects are good enough to win games, so be it. This is not what the team should expect however.
The upcoming draft class looks strong and a top 10 pick will significantly help the Cavaliers continue the rebuilding process. Squeezing out extra victories by playing older veterans like Davis, Jamison, or possibly the popular free agent Anthony Parker is not going to speed the return of the team to respectability.
The Cavaliers should be playing for another top lottery pick in 2012.
The moves the Cavaliers should make are not easy ones for an organization to accept or admit to before a season starts. It is painful to eat salary and then watch your team win even fewer games than your low preseason expectations say should happen.
The Cavaliers need to get their two best and most expensive players off the books this season and let the rookies play. This season is just a stepping stone to future success and the future will be closer if the front office can endure the pain of making this season worse than it has to be.
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