BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy and CineSport’s Noah Coslov preview the 2014 NBA Finals by talking about the lessons from the 2013 Finals & the matchup between Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.
Will HEAT Complete Three-Peat?
Back in 1988, Pat Riley trademarked the word “three-peat” several months after his Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship. Riley’s Lakers didn’t go on to three-peat (they were instead swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals), but he has made some money off of the trademark thanks to teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees winning back-to-back-to-back titles. The Lakers did go on to three-peat from 2000 to 2002, but Riley was long gone by that point.
Riley has never had one of his teams pull off the feat, but that may change over the next few weeks. Over 25 years after he trademarked the phrase, the 69-year-old president of the Miami HEAT may finally be able to experience a three-peat rather than just cashing in on other dynasties.
The HEAT have won two straight titles and are one series away from hanging a championship banner for a third straight year. They’ve been to the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, which was the first year that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were in Miami.
If the HEAT win it all this year, a dynasty case could certainly be made since Miami would have the fourth-most titles in NBA history (tied with the San Antonio Spurs) and all of them would’ve been won in a nine-year span.
In order to complete their three-peat, the HEAT will have to take down the Spurs for the second year in a row. This proved difficult last year, considering it took Miami seven games to defeat the Spurs, who were seconds away from winning it all in Game 6 until Miami fought back, forced overtime with a clutch three from Ray Allen and escaped with the win to stay alive.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Wade said. “Obviously, we beat them in the Finals. Last year, [they felt] they had us. But we wouldn’t want it any other way. I think having the four best teams in the NBA all season to represent the Western Conference and Eastern Conference is ideal and perfect for this league. The two best teams will meet. We’re just happy and excited that we’re one of the best.”
The HEAT discussed the possibility of winning three championships in a row and going to four straight Finals on the first day of training camp, but they haven’t talked about it since. The players and coaches understand the enormity of their accomplishments, and the challenges that come with it, so the team didn’t need to discuss it more than once.
“We talked about it from the first day, we talked about the legacy of this team,” Erik Spoelstra said. “The players that weren’t here that first year, they inherited all of those experiences. But it was only that first day. We’ve never brought it up since then. It was about now tackling the challenges of the day‑to‑day life of an NBA season.”
Looking back on their stint in Miami, Wade and James are grateful that they’ve had so much success.
“We don’t take this for granted and hopefully our fans in Miami, our supporters, don’t take this for granted neither,” Wade said. “This is not something that happens every day. But we’ve worked as a unit. We sacrificed as individuals to be in this moment, in this position, so we understand where we’re at right now. But it’s still crazy too. … You get drafted, and you’re just happy to be in the NBA. You want to make a name for yourself. Eleven years later, you’ve gone to the Finals five times and you’ve won championships. You just never know how your life and your path is going to pan out. If you just do things the way that you should do them, the way you feel that it should be done, live with the mistakes that you make, get better from them and just be who you are, great things happen to you. That’s a prime example for all of us. … Me and [LeBron] meeting in Chicago [at the combine], sitting in a room getting tested by teams, getting tried out, we didn’t know that this relationship that we were going to have was going to turn into this. You just never know. I think we’ve all put ourselves in great situations, and we’re just going to continue to try to enjoy this moment that we’re in because it’s an amazing moment. It’s something that, for a lifetime, is going to fulfill us as athletes. Even when we can’t play this game, we’re going to always be able to talk about this, so we just want to continue to add to what we’re accomplishing.”
“Just to piggyback off what D‑Wade said, we don’t take this moment for granted,” James added. “We’re going to celebrate tonight because it just doesn’t happen every year. We’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this four straight times, and you just can’t take these moments for granted. It hasn’t really hit us that much yet because I think we’re in it. I think it will once we’re done and we’re able to look back at what we were able to accomplish as players, as a franchise, I think that’s when it will really hit us. We definitely don’t take it for granted to be in this position.”
After being eliminated, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel referred to James and the HEAT as this era’s Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls (a team that pulled off two three-peats). That statement was repeated to James after the Game 6 victory over the Pacers, and he was flattered.
“Me and D‑Wade grew up watching the great Chicago Bulls team and the great Michael Jordan and the rest of those guys, so any time I hear my name or our team in the same breath with legends and great teams and franchises, it’s so humbling, man,” James said. “It’s like, I really don’t know. We’re just two kids from the inner cities. We never thought we’d get to this point. To be able to play the game that we love at a high level for one another, for our teammates, it’s the ultimate [reward]. When you hear the comparisons, you respect it, you’re humbled by it and you just feel like while you’re in the moment hopefully, while you’re playing the game, that you can make an impact enough to where you move on and people will start comparing you to ones that’s in the game at the present time. It’s very, very humbling.”
Miami has grown a lot since their first Finals appearance, when they lost to the Mavericks back in 2011, which is something that Wade pointed out.
“I just remember being kind of a young team and still figuring it out,” Wade said of their first Finals trip of the Big Three era. “Still figuring out at the end of the game where the ball was going, how it was going to get there, what we were doing defensively. But we did our job, and we got to the Finals. It seems like a long time ago. We were still kids, it seemed like, and now just being more prepared for this moment, seizing a moment. There wasn’t a moment, I don’t think inside none of us, that we felt we were going to lose this ballgame [to Indiana in Game 6]. We knew we were going to impose our will. We didn’t know the outcome, but we knew we were going to impose our will here at home. I think we were a little unsure years ago, so that was the difference.”
Miami used that loss as a learning experience, and clearly it has worked over the last two years.
“A really good friend of mine told me that the best teacher in life is experience,” James said. “When you go through so many things, you’re able to learn from it. You’re able to know how to go about it. Next time you face those trials and tribulations or whatever the case may come, and you’re better prepared for it. So being around a group of guys like this, me being in positions that I’ve been in the past where I’ve failed… To be able to come back from failure and continue to come back and mentally be able to stay strong, it defines who you are as a man more than anything.”
“We have a group that’s earned a lot of trust with each other; there’s a lot of equity of going through pain, of going through joy, of going through everything in between,” Spoelstra said. “I mean, this is your extended family. Even the guys that haven’t been with us for the four years, what we say to them when they join our team is you inherit all of the experiences we’ve had before. All the pain, all the joy, you inherit that and you’re part of the family.”
Now, Miami is four wins away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for a third-straight time and emerging as the NBA’s newest dynasty. The 2014 NBA Finals tip off on Thursday evening.
NBA’s All-Defensive Teams Announced
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, winner of the 2013-14 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, headlines the 2013-14 NBA All-Defensive First Team, the NBA announced today.Noah received 105 First Team votes (223 points) to make his second consecutive appearance on the First Team.
Joining Noah on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (161 points, 65 First Team votes), guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (156 points, 64 First Team votes), forward Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder (152 points, 54 First Team votes) and guard/forward Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors (148 points, 57 First Team Votes).
The voting panel consisted of 123 writers and broadcasters from the U.S. and Canada. Two points were awarded for a First Team vote and one point was awarded for a Second Team vote.
Noah, who appeared in 80 of Chicago’s 82 games, ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounding (11.3 rpg), 12th in blocks (1.51 bpg) and added 1.24 steals. He was one of just three players (Detroit’s Andre Drummond and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis) to average at least 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals. Behind Noah, the Bulls held opponents to a .430 field goal percentage, second-stingiest in the league. Paul led the NBA in steals (2.48 spg) for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in his career to earn his fourth First Team nod. George ranked fifth in the NBA in steals (1.89 spg) and was the only player in the NBA to average at least 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals. In his first season with the Warriors, Iguodala averaged 1.50 steals, as the Warriors improved from the NBA’s 19th best defense in terms of points allowed last season to 10th in 2013-14. Ibaka appeared in 81 games for Oklahoma City this past season as the Thunder held the opposition to the third lowest field goal percentage in the NBA (.436).
The NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of forward LeBron James of the Miami HEAT (57 First Team votes), guard Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets (44 First Team votes), guard Jimmy Butler of the Bulls (29 First Team votes), forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (16 First Team votes) and Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers (15 First Team votes).
The following players also received votes, with first-team votes in parentheses: DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers 63 (14); Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 62 (18); Tony Allen, Memphis, 60 (17); Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 45 (12); Dwight Howard, Houston, 26 (6); Taj Gibson, Chicago, 21 (2); Mike Conley, Memphis, 21 (5); Ricky Rubio, Minnesota, 19 (5); Lance Stephenson, Indiana, 14 (3); P.J. Tucker, Phoenix, 13 (2); Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 10 (2); Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 10 (3); Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix, 9 (1); Marc Gasol, Memphis, 8; John Wall, Washington, 8 (1); Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City, 8 (1); Kirk Hinrich, Chicago, 7 (2); Trevor Ariza, Washington, 5 (2); Avery Bradley, Boston, 5 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 5 (1); Klay Thompson, Golden State, 5; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 4; Chris Bosh, Miami, 4 (1); Luol Deng, Cleveland, 4 (1); Wesley Matthews, Portland, 4 (1); Tony Parker, San Antonio, 4 (1); Nicolas Batum, Portland, 3 (1); Stephen Curry, Golden State, 3 (1); Danny Green, San Antonio, 3 (1); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte, 3; Shaun Livingston, Brooklyn, 3 (1); Victor Oladipo, Orlando, 3 (1); DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta, 2; Matt Barnes, L.A. Clippers, 2 (1); James Harden, Houston, 2; George Hill, Indiana, 2; Jeff Teague, Atlanta, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2 (1); Kemba Walker, Charlotte, 2; David West, Indiana, 2; Arron Afflalo, Orlando, 1; Corey Brewer, Minnesota, 1; Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia,1; Darren Collison, L.A. Clippers, 1; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 1; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 1; Monta Ellis, Dallas, 1; Danny Granger, L.A. Clippers, 1; Draymond Green, Golden State, 1; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City, 1; David Lee, Golden State, 1; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 1; Rajon Rondo, Boston, 1.
NBA Draft Watch: Should You Expect a Flurry Of Trades?
Should you expect a flurry of trades during tonight’s NBA Draft? History says yes!
Draft Day. The event that rebuilding teams have been planning months for is finally upon us. The next wave of NBA stars await their opportunity to play under the brightest of all lights on the biggest of stages. But outside of the rising and falling status of the prospects, each year draft week is filled with a flurry of trade activity and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2018.
On Wednesday, the trade market kicked off with the Charlotte Hornets shipping former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for veteran center Timofey Mozgov. The move isn’t all that surprising considering one of the biggest advocates for the Hornets in acquiring Howard from Atlanta last year, Steve Clifford, was fired back in April. In addition to a new head coach, James Borrego, Charlotte also hired a new president of basketball operations and general manager in Mitch Kupchak.
In the deal, Charlotte was able to avoid paying the luxury tax while also creating immediate salary cap flexibility to be players in this year’s market should they choose. For Brooklyn, the team acquires a veteran presence for their youth movement and a consistent double-double anchor on the interior.
The trade also marks consecutive years that Brooklyn was active on the trade front during draft time. Last year, the team acquired former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Nets haven’t had the luxury of prime draft assets in recent years, the team has had to resort to trades (Russell, Howard) and free agency (Allan Crabbe) to reshape the roster.
Transitioning to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question can be asked whether this will be the third straight year involving a draft day trade. At the top of the Warriors’ lineup max players reside which means the team has had to find talented gems in the back half of the draft to contribute to their success.
In 2016, the Warriors acquired the rights to the No. 38 overall pick, Patrick McCaw, from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations. In 2017, Golden State acquired the rights to another No. 38 overall pick, Jordan Bell, from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations.
Notice a trend?
With the Warriors needing to lock NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant into a long term deal this summer and future free agency looming for All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the franchise will need to continue finding young role players to complement their collection of stars.
There could also be a deal involving All-Star level talent.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo back in 2016 in a draft week deal with the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo didn’t emerge as an All-Star caliber until the following season (after being dealt to Indiana), there are usually a couple of big names in play come draft night.
Consider the 2017 draft day deal that saw the Chicago Bulls send Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for talented two guard Zach LaVine.
This year, the most prominent name potentially on the market is San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumor mill reports Leonard is frustrated and wants a trade to the Lakers. The Spurs are, of course, attempting to keep their franchise player with a series of meetings. Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his public trade demand limits what San Antonio could demand in return. Teams will be hesitant to give up prime assets for a player that won’t commit to their franchise long term. While San Antonio doesn’t have to make an immediate deal their leverage hasn’t been compromised with Leonard’s specific trade destination request.
The NBA Draft can best be described as a crapshoot with prospects being hit or miss. There are teams that make their bones via draft day acquisitions, or working between the lines, which is a storyline to watch during the draft tonight.
NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft
With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.
From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.
As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.
With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.
The sense I get from chatting with executives and agents is there's far more uncertainty entering the NBA Draft than usual. So many teams are open to moving up, down or out. No consensus outside the lottery. It's gonna be absolute chaos. I'm pumped and jacked for it.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 20, 2018
One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.
While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.
Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.
Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.
With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.
Latest buzz: Hearing Michael Porter and Trae Young are both falling, and that even Knicks could pass on Young at 9. Meanwhile Wendell Carter is gaining steam, strong candidate to go in 4-7 range.
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) June 20, 2018
Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.
Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.
Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.
Luka Doncic has moved to forefront of Atlanta's internal conversation on the third overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, league sources tell ESPN. Michigan State's Jaren Jackson and Duke's Marvin Bagley (if Kings pass on Bagley at No. 2) remain in contention for No. 3.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2018
Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.
More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Members of the Knicks organization met in-person with Texas’ Mohamed Bamba in New York today, team sources told ESPN. The meeting is an indication that the Knicks are considering trading up from the No. 9 pick. Bamba is projected as the fifth pick in ESPN's latest mock draft.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 20, 2018
DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.
Ian's report is accurate. The Knicks are reportedly exploring the option of trading up to the #4 spot in the draft, currently owned by Memphis. The Grizzlies have been adamant about shedding Chandler Parsons' contract in any deal. https://t.co/z4Yp0w6hfq
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 20, 2018
Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.
Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.
A source tells AA that ESPN, Turner Sports and Yahoo reporters all won't tip picks at Thursday's NBA Draft. The NBA says they expressed a no-pick-tipping "preference" to their media partners, but claims each organization made its own call. https://t.co/rySL02Nig1
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 20, 2018
It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.
Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.
NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?
Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.
Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.
For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.
So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.
Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.
All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.
That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.
Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?
It all starts with the Nets pick.
No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.
It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.
So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.
Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.
Next is addressing who should be traded.
Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.
Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.
Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.
How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.
Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.
Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.
Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.
That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.
It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.
One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.
That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.
Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.