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.
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