Less than a month before the Cavs 1st preseason game, what’s going on with our team? There’s more than meets the eye.
Some of you may be thinking, it’s the offseason and nobody really starts caring about NBA news for another month or so. Then others watched the Browns last Sunday, and are quickly remembering why we like the Cavs so much.
This season will have lasting implications for the franchise, with quite possibly more of an impact than any year since the fateful voyage of the 2009-2010 Cavaliers team; that campaign ended with our team being shredded and moving in a new direction (towards the lottery, again).
What happens during this season will have an enormous influence on where the Cavs land after the upcoming season, which will most likely be more important than where we finish this year. While it’s fun to think we could land in the 8th playoff spot (which I think is actually a realistic opportunity we have this year) and make an improbable run through the playoffs – we’re clearly not ready nor built for that yet.
With the Bynum addition, we’ve made a bold prediction that a player who hasn’t seen the court in about a year and a half is going to be a difference maker for us. More likely, his impact and upside for this season is limited, and the team relies on Anderson Varejao to provide the always-present spark of energy and rebounding. During our conversation with Brian Windhorst, he seemed very pessimistic that the Bynum experiment will actually work. He hasn’t seen the floor in any capacity, in over 16 months and missed the entire season in Philadelphia. But you knew all of that already, and still maintain the optimistic view that Bynum will return to form. We can certainly hope.
Consider the implications of the Cavs upcoming year. One of the easiest storylines to anticipate is that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and even Kobe Bryant are all entering free agency. Obviously, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Wade or Bryant don’t end their careers in Miami and Los Angeles respectively, but stranger things have happened.
Kyrie Irving could become a free agent in 2015, which is approaching way too quickly. Of course, there’s the very real possibility Kyrie signs a rookie contract extension in which case he wouldn’t become an unrestricted FA in 2017. Understandably, Cleveland desperately needs him to be content with his situation and stay a Cavalier for a long, long time. Provided we finish with a respectable record, contend for the playoffs and see improvement from Waiters and Thompson, the Cavs future is bright. Cleveland, while unlikely to be a free agent destination, will show positive signs for the future and we could land some bigger name players. And whether you want to accept it yet or not, the Cavs are going to make yet another, serious run at LeBron James. Let’s be honest, we don’t have a realistic opportunity to land any of the other top free agents.
We all know that the small forward position is one where we’ve struggled to fill for the last few years. While targeting LeBron or another big-time free agent is always fun to dream about, we have to consider the very real possibility that the ability to lure LeBron back may not exist. So, what’s Chris Grant’s next move?
If the season were to play out exactly the way we want it to, Andrew Bynum is helping Kyrie Irving and Waiters win games during the second half of the season. That’s a big if, but an intriguing one at that. Is the core of Irving, Bynum, and Waiters enough to lure LeBron or others to the Cavs? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, we need to add another starting-caliber player to regain legitimacy and be a team that returns to the playoffs and contention each year. Some have speculated that Danny Granger could end up being a target for the Cavs via trade– that would be a nice addition, wouldn’t it?
That’s where the Cavs really could be a potential player. If you’re not able to sign a big free agent, you either build through the draft, or make a trade to add talent to your roster. It’s obvious that the Cavs haven’t had a lot of success in free agency over the years, and we’re already building through the draft. The next logical step is to make a big-impact trade that brings another all-star to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving to play with.
Now, let’s also remember the simple truth that things in the NBA don’t always turn out the way we would like. In the unfortunate scenario where this season resembles the last few years, we’re looking at a very bad prospect for the future. Why would a big-name free agent come to Cleveland, if Kyrie Irving leans toward departing Cleveland and the team isn’t showing signs of improvement?
Evidently, this year’s team holds a lot of power over the future of this organization. Make the playoffs, or at least be in contention for a playoff spot, and there’s a chance we’ll make a big trade before the deadline. Maintain the perennial bottom-dweller status, and we’re doomed. Undoubtedly, a lot of that falls on Kyrie Irving.
In my opinion however, this season will be a memorandum of where Waiters and Thompson are at, and if Varejao can stay healthy for an entire season. The addition of Jack to the backcourt will be an instant upgrade from last year, and his play will help the Cavs win games as well (we hope). This season will set up the future for basketball in Cleveland, either good or bad.