If one thing is clear after the moves that General Manager Chris Grant made last week at the trade deadline, it’s that this organization is chomping at the bit to get back into the postseason. Consequently, they’re not about to wait around and endure another season or two of this emotional brutality. Yes, like it or not, Dan Gilbert has not-so-subtly put his foot down, drawn a line in the sand, whatever cliche you want to use. Gilbert’s a proud man, and publicly, he is displaying an unyielding, calculated determination that may surpass that of any owner in professional sports.
Let me start by saying I do not necessarily think this is the best way to build the team. In a “perfect” world, the Cavaliers would finish in the bottom two or three of the league this year and the next two years. In that time, they would avoid taking on major salary except in the case where it yields them further draft picks. Then, when the time is right and the draft picks are ready, free agent signings and taking on salary for the sake of talent can take place. That’s the ideal rebuild for the small-market Cavaliers.
But, humans are impatient, Cleveland fans are impatient, and son of a gun, I am too! That’s why Dan Gilbert gave the green light to Chris Grant for a win-win trade for the Cavaliers with Baron Davis and the unprotected Clipper first round pick. For those looking to acquire assets, how often are you able to get an unprotected first round lottery pick? I can hear the shouts now of a weak draft class, and I laugh at that notion. Last year’s draft was considered weak too with Wall and Turner at the top. Is it perhaps just a trend of less NBA-ready college stars? Plus, how many All-Stars and NBA starters were a) late first-round picks or b) second-round picks? The Spurs are a perfect example (outside of Duncan, of course). For those looking to compete as soon as possible, despite his injury issues and attitude problems, Baron Davis is still a Top 10 or 12 point guard in the league when he wants to be. I repeat, WHEN HE WANTS TO BE. It remains to be seen if Byron Scott and Baron Davis are truly on the same page now.
Rumors swirled around this team like a welcomed rainstorm during a drought about veterans Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker departing, as well as Rip Hamilton becoming a Cavalier in a deal similar to the Baron trade. Gilbert also admitted in last night’s FSN Ohio telecast that the team was close to acquiring a third unprotected lottery pick and will revisit that avenue in the offseason leading up to the draft. That leads me to the main point of this article: as this team is or will likely be constructed next year, it has the potential to win 35-40 games and at least heavily compete, if not make, the playoffs. Here’s my reasoning.
Say the Cavaliers pull off a similar deal with the Traded Player Exception with the Pistons. They get a first round pick and Richard Hamilton. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a 2012 pick and the team wins the lottery this year and the Clipper pick stays at 7-8. The team selects Kyrie Irving and Terrence Jones (or, Harrison Barnes or Derrick Williams). Their roster then might look something like this.
PG – Kyrie Irving, Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions
SG – Rip Hamilton, Daniel Gibson, Manny Harris
SF – Terrence Jones, Christian Eyenga, 2nd Round Pick
PF – J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Luke Harangody
C – Anderson Varejao, Semih Erden, Samardo Samuels
Yep, I realize that’s a whole lot of point guards that demand playing time. If Irving doesn’t land in the Cavs’ laps, then maybe it’s Williams or Barnes and Jones, or however you want to breakdown getting two of the top forwards (one small, one power most likely).
To me, that team is a playoff team if the rookies perform. No, they’re not a true contender, they’re not a threat to the East powers, and they’re not going to win a playoff series. But, I think it’s a start. And, it’s a lot easier to go for the playoffs if they have a top draft pick sitting there that doesn’t depend on their record.
If it’s not Rip, it could very well be Andre Iguodala in Philly or Monta Ellis is Golden State. I’m just throwing out some food for thought.
The team above also has room to improve. Don’t forget the six draft picks in the two drafts following this one. And, Jamison will be an expiring contract next year. If the team isn’t making a playoff push, count on the Cavaliers doing the right thing and sending him to a contender. The year after that, apply the same thing for Baron Davis.
For now, the Cavaliers get the rare opportunity to showcase their five rookies. In addition, Ramon Sessions and J.J. Hickson have the opportunity to stake their claim to being a key part of the next Cavalier playoff team. I for one am just glad that the Cavaliers made a smart move and are being proactive in this rebuilding mode. With a passionate owner, an experienced and patient head coach, and a strong fan base, the Cavalier organization is trying to get back to glory with a different blueprint. Time (and yes, some patience) will tell if it works.