What’s Next for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The Cleveland Cavaliers decided to fire general manager Chris Grant today, which was somewhat of a surprise due to the timing of the move but not shocking at all given their struggles. David Griffin, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, will serve as the interim GM.
Cleveland entered the season with playoff aspirations, but they haven’t been very competitive throughout the first half of the season. The Cavaliers are currently 16-33, which puts them in the 12th seed in the dreadful Eastern Conference and five and a half games out of the playoff picture.
The low point of Cleveland’s season came last night as they lost to a depleted Los Angeles Lakers team that was ravaged by injuries. By the end of the game, the Lakers had just five healthy players. Robert Sacre fouled out, but L.A. didn’t have a healthy sub so he had to stay in the game with each of his fouls counting as a technical. After the loss, many Cavaliers fans used social media to voice their displeasure with the team and call for changes.
Grant took over as Cleveland’s general manager just before LeBron James decided to leave the franchise to sign with the Miami HEAT back in 2010. Grant helped the organization rebuild after losing James by ushering in a youth movement and acquiring draft picks. His best move was dealing Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Baron Davis and the first-round pick that became Kyrie Irving.
However, Grant didn’t use the draft picks he stockpiled wisely. Year after year, he made questionable selections at the top of the draft.
In 2011, he drafted Irving with the first overall pick and Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick. The latter was a shock since it was much higher than Thompson was projected, and he went ahead of players like Jonas Valanciunas, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard among others.
In 2012, he drafted Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick – another surprise since Waiters was a reserve in college and expected to go later in the first round. Waiters was picked ahead of Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond and Harrison Barnes among others.
His most questionable selection came in 2013, when he picked Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the draft. Bennett has been awful throughout the first half of the season and he’s on pace to have the worst statistical season of any top pick in league history.
Now that Grant has been fired, what’s next for the Cavaliers? The timing of the move – two weeks before the trade deadline – suggests that changes could be coming in Cleveland. A new general manager won’t have any attachment to the players that Grant brought in to Cleveland. That means the Cavs could be shaking up their roster very soon.
Really, the only player who has any reason to feel secure is Irving. Irving is the face of the franchise and also one of the best young point guards in the game. The next GM has to win him over immediately and cultivate a winning culture around him.
While Irving is reportedly frustrated in Cleveland, the team has him locked up for the foreseeable future. He’s under contract for next season and the Cavaliers can match any offer he receives as a restricted free agent the following summer. The only way Irving can leave Cleveland anytime soon would be if he decided to play the 2015-16 season for the $9,191,949 qualifying offer, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent the following season. However, that’s unlikely since it would delay his lucrative payday and be a huge risk.
Every other player could be on the move.
Young guys like Waiters, Thompson, Bennett, Tyler Zeller, Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix, Matthew Dellavedova and Henry Sims could be moved or included in a larger deal.
Veterans like Luol Deng, Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles find themselves in the same position.
Deng was acquired one month ago by the Cavaliers, and is reportedly unhappy in Cleveland (describing the team as a “mess” to friends). The veteran small forward can be traded again before the deadline, but he can’t be packaged with another player from the Cavaliers.
The new general manager should try to get Deng to buy in. If they can persuade Deng to stay, they should keep him because he’s a foundational building block and someone who can help this team on and off the court. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season and will have plenty of suitors, so the Cavaliers have a limited time to keep him interested in what’s about to happen with their franchise. If it’s clear that Deng isn’t going to consider staying in Cleveland, it would be wise for the Cavaliers to trade him before he can walk as a free agent in several months.
With where the Cavaliers currently sit in the standings, they could be buyers or sellers at the deadline. They could decide to sell players off and throw in the towel for this season, which would put them in the mix for a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Or they could decide to be buyers at the deadline and try to make a splashy move that keeps their playoff aspirations alive. Either way, every player on the team outside of Irving could be mentioned in trade talks over the next two weeks.
“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise,” owner Dan Gilbert said in a statement. ‘We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group. I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.
“There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term. The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change.”
However, players aren’t the only ones who should be worrying about their future in Cleveland. It’s time to take a long, hard look at Mike Brown. He was a popular choice to fill the Cavaliers’ vacant head coach position because he led the team to the NBA Finals in 2007, but he has been a special kind of terrible this season. If Brown has lost the locker room, he should follow Grant out the door.
It’s not too late for the Cleveland Cavaliers to turn things around, but that turnaround must start immediately.
Bill Ingram contributed to this article.
Knicks Firing Mike Woodson?
The New York Knicks are another team that has failed to live up to expectations this season. After finishing last season as the second best team in the Eastern Conference, they have dropped to 10th in the East this season with a 19-30 record.
If a recent report by Steve Popper of the Bergen Record is accurate, the Knicks may be on the verge of firing head coach Mike Woodson. The Knicks have now lost three straight games, and it seems New York is ready to move on from Woodson. Here is what Popper reported:
The Knicks are just two and a half games out of the playoff picture in the East, so there’s still hope for New York to right the ship.
The Basketball Insiders Trade Deadline Guide
Later this week, Basketball Insiders’ first Digital Magazine issue will drop, featuring the most comprehensive look at the NBA Trade Deadline you will find anywhere.
The magazine will be available on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. If you are an Apple user, you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. For our Android users, you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. When the issue is ready it will automatically appear in your App for purchase.
If you do not want to download the App, we will have a web-based solution for you that works great on the same devices. The links for that will drop when the issue is available.
Get ready for 110 pages of trade deadline knowledge, exclusively from Basketball Insiders.
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.
Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers
Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.
The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.
The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.
With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.
Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:
“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.
“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.
“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”
There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.
Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.
Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.
Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.
Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.
LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.
“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”
The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.