Cavalier Thoughts: Hope And Patience In A Hopeless And Impatient NBA

With the recent moves of Steve Nash to the Lakers and Ray Allen to the Heat, it’s abundantly clear that the NBA, despite the salary cap restrictions and measures put in place to end the lockout, is still a league of haves and have-nots. With free agency, the teams in California, New York, and Florida are getting the upper hand with players taking less money to team up with other stars. As a Cavaliers fan, my only hope is that the more restrictive salary cap will make its impression in the coming years and prevent what’s happened in Miami from ever happening again. My other hope is that by the time the Cavaliers are ready to truly compete with deep trips in the playoffs, some of this free agency sleepover pillow party stuff will be reigned in.

What does it take to curtail this movement? I’m by no means a cap expert, but I think it starts somewhere around eliminating the retention of Bird rights for sign and trades. Make teams draft their stars and reward them for drafting well.

Meanwhile, it’s probably best to focus on what the Cavs are doing compared to the rest of the NBA circus/soap opera. The Cavaliers are doing it the right way. Or, to put it better, the Cavaliers are trying to build a young sustainable core that will allow them to compete for more than just one short burst. Once they hit a certain point (probably after one more draft and offseason, admittedly), they’ll look to add those free agent pieces or make a big acquisition via trade, using Gilbert’s willingness to take on salary.

As Scott pointed out after the draft, Byron Scott’s dream of an up-tempo offense is starting to take shape. The Cavaliers from owner to general manager to head coach on down have a plan of the type of team they’re trying to form. There’s no disconnect. How many teams can say that they have a pair of guards that can create in the lane, handle the ball in the final seconds with the game on the line, and connect consistently on three point shots? With Irving and Waiters, the Cavaliers hope to have that. They’re going to outrun teams too with their athletic big man trio of Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller. Alonzo Gee fits into that plan at small forward.1.

To me, the most comforting thing with this draft (and last) was just how sure the Cavalier front office has been of themselves. In the end, maybe Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters don’t work out, but it won’t be because the Cavaliers got caught unprepared. At the four slot for two straight seasons, the Cavaliers essentially got the guy they targeted. If you believe what the Cavaliers said after last draft, they had Thompson at #2 on their board. Byron Scott at least had Waiters as his second most desired player. I believe that the Cavaliers probably would’ve taken either Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal had they slipped, but their scouting told them it wasn’t worth it to trade up. It also told them Waiters was the guy to take over Harrison Barnes. I was ready and hoping for the wine and gold to take Barnes at four after the draft fell where it did. But, I saw the drawbacks with him. I maintain that Harrison Barnes could very well be a go-to guy in this league, but he wasn’t the Cavaliers’ go-to guy. There are concerns with Waiters, as with all picks, but one of them certainly isn’t the fact that he wasn’t a starter at Syracuse. Ask any Orange fan, and they’ll open laugh in your face if that’s your greatest concern with Dion.

The Zeller trade was a no-brainer for me. A guy who could’ve been a Top 10 pick in this draft slipped, and the Cavaliers were prepared and had the ammunition to make that trade up. If Zeller can be a longterm solution at the center position, he’s worth that trade and subsequent pick three times over. With the state of the NBA center position being a neglected one for most good teams, if Zeller realizes his potential, I think he’s more than adequate there. Just seeing a diverse offensive player there for the first time since Zydrunas Ilgauskas left the team will be a refreshing change.

So yeah, for this offseason and maybe the next, for Cavalier fans, free agency will resemble The Island of Misfit Toys, every train has square wheels, every elephant is polka dotted, and so on. The Cavaliers will sign someone at some point, and you just have to hope they don’t unnecessarily tie up money long term and maybe they find an integral bench player in the process.

The road to contention is truly a journey for teams like the Cavaliers. Last go around, the Cavs got their one mega-star, primarily missed in and neglected the draft, and settled in free agency. This time, the good young core has to be in place so the ancillary pieces are just that. When the time comes, we know Dan Gilbert will make the financial commitment to bring in those veterans who can put a team over the hump.2 Until then, we as fans have to remain patient as long as the franchise continues to put one foot in front of the other and head back in the direction of the playoffs.

  1. And hopefully off the bench in future years []
  2. Delonte West and Ben Wallace in ’08, Shaq and Jamison in ’10 []

  • bossman09

    It’s a League where the players have more say than the teams/league does regarding player movement. It’s really not a product I care to watch since there is no respect for the game and not really any history to speak of. I love what the cavs were, but it’s becoming harder and harder to watch as the players decide they need to be build super teams to win championships and will work to make that happen.

  • Mal

    With Ryan Anderson heading to NO and Eric Gordon likely not coming back, isn’t it a pity we can’t peruse him now???

  • Wow

    Well said. The league is a joke, everyone needs to accept it.

  • Joe

    I think you’re mistaken on hoping Zeller realizes his potential. That’s already happened. He was a pick with very limited ceiling potential but also very limited bust potential. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves handing Waiters the ball in the final seconds.
    Btw, teams are already rewarded for drafting well, and penalized in cap flexibility for handing out bad contracts. I don’t know what else you’d like the NBA to do in the respect.

  • D

    I believe that the Cavs right now have a shot at getting to the playoffs in the east. I think people are sleeping on this team. They’re not going to go deep, but with four ffirst round draft picks in the last two years, 3 in the top 4, its absurd to think that it should take another year. I don’t believe that’s the case. Everybody talks about the “OKC” model but the Western Conference is MUCH tougher than the East. We saved a year on the rebuilding process by getting those two top 4 picks in the same year. And keep in mind, Kyrie and Tristan are on 4 year deals. This is year two. You CAN’T keep losing if you expect to be able to resign them long-term. At some point the Cavs need to start winning and this year they need to either get to the Playoffs or just miss it.

  • Roosevelt

    I don’t see this free agent season as such a blow to teams like the Cavs. Stars ganging up succeeded exactly once, in Miami, while in New York and “Brooklyn” it looks like it’s going to be a disaster, even if Howard ends up in Brooklyn.
    I do like the term “free agency pillow party,” though.

  • Bryan

    Gordon is going back. NO will match the Phoenix offer.

  • anti

    Facist! I don’t need to accept anything.

  • mgbode

    I think you’re mistaken IMO. take a look at the complete lack of 2-way centers in the NBA right now. Zeller might not reach his potential, but, if he does, he would be one of the few (I counted 10 last time we did this exercise)

  • Steve

    There’s a significant lack of 2-way anything in today’s NBA. If you aren’t a superstar who dominates the ball, you’re better off filling a specific niche rather than doing a few things kind of well. Zeller seems to be more of the latter than the former. He’ll probably be a solid contributor, but he doesn’t do anything well enough to really stand out.

  • KyrieSwirving

    I’m so sick of the sky is falling attitude because the lakers got nash. The expensive luxury tax hasn’t started yet, give it time and we’ll see how willing they are to spend 4 dollars for every dollar they go over the tax. They still may be forced to do trades or amnesty someone when the big taxes kick in, and even if not, its not like its any worse than it was so chill out everybody.

  • Steve

    They will have Kyrie and Tristan here for at least 4 years. If they make the playoffs because of Irving, Waiters, Thompson, and Zeller, that’s one thing. But they shouldn’t be trying to add pieces to make it to the 7 or 8 seed. That will eat up the cap space and likely leave the Cavs in NBA purgatory.

  • D

    We’re already on year two of Kyrie and Tristan’s 4 year deals. So there’s 3 years left, not four. Its going to take this team probably about another 4 or 5 years before they’re one of the top teams in the east. But that process has to begin NOW. The process of being the 8 seed, getting kicked out. Coming back as the seventh seed, getting kicked out, etc. The Cavs need to be working towards getting to the Playoffs NOW. If we’re not competitive until year THREE or FOUR of Kyrie and Tristan’s rookie deals, they may not either sign a long term extension or stay at all. They need to start this process sooner than later. I agree we shouldn’t add players just for the sake of adding players, but if we want to be able to keep our very competitive players, we need to start winning soon. This year they need to get to the playoffs or just miss it.

  • mgbode

    Kyrie and TT will be RFA’s after their deal. I do not forsee much of a chance that we will not match whatever Kyrie signs. TT could falter and maybe he leaves, but, if that happens, then we really wouldn’t be missing him.

    I agree on your timescale, but the good thing is that we do not have to panic because we will have our young players for the entire timeline.

  • mgbode

    I think people are just saddened that guys like Ray Allen are willing to take a below market deal to further stack a stacked team like the Heat. Or Nash turning down $3mil extra per year from Toronto to sign-n-trade to the Lakers. The CBA really can’t stop players from doing that (and really it shouldn’t).

    It’s been going on forever with players near the end of their careers though. Barkley to Houston, Malone/Payton to LAL, Rodman/Harper to Bulls, etc.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I disagree on the time scale if it takes an additional 4 or 5 years something is wrong or went wrong drastically. What the Cavaliers have is one more draft to go in a perfect world next years crop offers up a few more ready to play NBA guys and this time the Cavaliers seize the opportunity and draft accordingly. By then there will be no need to draft on potential it’ll be about instant returns. At least I hope so anyways. Mix in a possible FA move or two and lets roll into being relevant again!

  • mgbode

    I don’t know. I did misread that (thought he was counting last season). But, still, it very well could take 4 more years before we are a top team in the East (if things go well).

    Just take a look at the Thunder. If you grow from within, then it takes time for the team to mature. Presti drafted about as well as anyone could have even hoped to draft and it still took them into Durant’s 5th NBA season to be considered a top team in the West (they made the WCF last year too, but were considered a team on the rise rather than a top team the entire year).

  • mgbode

    I think Zeller can be above average rebounding, defending, shooting (FG & FT) and running (for a big man).

    A 7ft David West (pre-surgeries) was the best comparison IMO. In today’s NBA that is a top10 C (it’ll take a couple years to get there if he does).

  • porckchopexpress

    What I don’t get is that for the better of the late ’90s and early 2000’s people killed NBA players for not caring about winning and only caring about the lifestyle, and how much money they could make. Now some players are forsaking some money for the opportunity to win and people are killing them for not “winning the right way”, whatever the heck that is. Meanwhile in our “National Obsession” players frequently leave for top dollar (Mario Williams) or because the owners are so greedy they have set up a ridiculously low cap and they often cut loose very talented players (James Farrior). No one dogs the NFL, its always basketball and its always directed at the players and it doesn’t matter what choices they make.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Here’s my thing the Cavaliers can’t completely buy into this whole notion that the right way to build a team is via the draft. It’s not. There comes a point where you get as much from the draft as possible then ice the proverbial cake with FAs. It’s the same basic principle I apply to all professinal sports. If you think you can win solely based on drafting you are living in a dream world. That rarely happens anymore. As you pointed out with OKC look how long it took and that’s with people forgetting what Durant had to endure at rhe beginning of his career. Also keep in mind how he didn’t hold the Thunder up when he resigned.
    As far as the timeline goes I can’t say one way or another I need to see what happens this season. I’m looking on the bright side here with the belief that Thompson will progress and show more of why the Cavaliers valued him so highly. Irving will be Irving no issues. Meanwhile Waiters and Zeller come in get their feet wet and find their places. Hopefully Gee is back and possibly the addition of Brooks from NJ. That is your core of six. Let them play/learn/grow and the rest is a mix of skills and $$$. There still remains however one more draft which could prove to be almost as important as the first.
    It won’t be easy the recipe is really just at the second stage but there could very well be success sooner rather then later. Like Kirk writes however it’ll require patience and yes even hope. Three drafts = three years so when all is said and done you are probably looking at 5 years total. That’s a long time but it happens when you build an entire franchise based on one player.
    Note: When I talk about success I don’t mean championship I mean contending, winning divison titles. Once that’s achieved then I feel like we can discuss championship aspirations. No?

  • mgbode

    not sure about the NFL-side of things as the revenue% I thought was similar for overall NFL players compared with MLB and NBA was only slightly higher. (after latest round of CBA’s not sure if that still holds or not though)

    as far as the first part, I agree. doesn’t really matter what happens, fans want what is best for their teams and the decisions made by the players often conflict with it as they are making the best decisions for themselves.

    players have always “ring-chased” near the end of their careers and fans have seemed willing to accept that over the years though. I think the reason that Nash and Allen are getting more heat on it than usual is due to the LeBron/Wade/Bosh FA trifecta setting the tone for the players to seize even more control over the NBA.

    otherwise, a couple of late 30s HOFers switching to championship teams should be considered par for the course as shown above.

  • mgbode

    the Durant re-signing being a big deal was a farce though because he was a RFA getting a max-deal. Love isn’t happy in Minny yet he didn’t hold them up either. It’s because they don’t have too much of a choice (they can sign the 1yr qualifying tender and setup the Melo/Dwight situation, but most players aren’t that callous).

  • mgbode

    the rest I agree with you. I do agree that we need to dip into trades (more likely) or the FA-pool with our cap room to fill out the roster and possibly find an undervalued piece.

    I’m a bit disheartened that we didn’t seem to try to stick our nose in the Houston firesale (I like Budinger) or make a move for Ryan Anderson at the rate he got (possibly giving Orlando back a PF asset back). But, I understand the desire to feel this process out as well and we should be competitive barring injuries this season (just under .500) and better next season (start talking playoffs).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    True dat!

  • Dan-O

    The superstar team trend will be curtailed when a star-studded team consistently falls flat to a true team built with core players. The Mavs did it last year, but unfortunately the Thunder didn’t quite make it this year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Time will tell the way the Cavaliers are doing it is painful for me but I understand it’s what happens when you don’t do it “right” the first time. That being said I’m hoping the Cavaliers are true to their word when they say when the time comes they will look to explore FA and add a piece or two. We heard this regurgitated at nauseum with the Indians to the point is has become a punchline but I have more hope for the Cavaliers.

    Anderson would have been interesting certainly a better version of Harangody and the opposite of what Varejao/Thompson do. I’m interested in these Orlando-NJ talks hopefully if the Cavaliers are involved they don’t overplay their hand because I’d like to add Brooks. Brooks/draft pick even more. Heck I’d take a first the following season even. I like the fact Grant would only take Humphries in a S&T if it was a 1-year deal. This demonstrates Grant has his eyes still on the prize. The prize being whatever plan he set in motion two years ago.

    Being competitive is all we can ask for right now. I think the upcoming season will be another “lump taker” but hopefully it’s the last for awhile. Honestly I wouldn’t mind a so-so season as long as players like Thompson and Waiters show progress. Thompson the most of course. Irving and Zeller should be the pillars of the foundation with Irving continuing as the face of the franchise. Lets hope.

  • Steve

    Above average rebounding and defending for a big man? I don’t see it. I see him as perfectly cromulent there, but not actually that great.

    Howard, Bynum, Duncan, Noah, Hibbert, Chandler, Gasol, Jefferson, Monroe, Gortat, Nene. That’s 11 that I don’t see how Zeller outplays.

  • mgbode

    my top9 currently are:
    Dwight, Bynum, Horford (pending injury), Jefferson, M.Gasol, Duncan, Garnett (better once switched to 5 pending knees), Hibbert, and Monroe.

    After that you get the 1way guys like Andy, Ibaka, Noah, Chandler, Perkins, Nene, etc.

    And, next season, I would be very surprised to see him crack into those guys even. But, 2-3 years down the road, I could see him in the top10, possibly.

  • Steve

    Completely disagree that Nene is a one-way player. The guy is way underrated. And guys like Varejao, Ibaka, Noah, and Chandler are what I’m getting at. They impact the game so much at one end of the court, and let other niche players specialize on the other end (without being complete deadweights, you’ll notice I left out Perkins). That’s where the game is heading. Teams are finding that a guard that can drain 3s and a big man that can defend the rim, but are close to liabilities at the other end of the court complement their star better than 2 average players do.

  • mgbode

    it depends on the system you run. you can run a system that helps mask deficiencies (like SA does with Bonner and did with Bowen in the corner), but there are only so many deficiencies you can have on the court at the same time. you need both specialists AND some “average” guys on your team to mix and match.

    funny about Nene is I have always considered him an over-rated player. he gambles too much on defense, doesn’t rebound as well as he’s given credit for (under 10 per 36min in every season), and really doesn’t do much more than dunk on the offensive end (that said, his best skill is the ability to find a way to get a dunk in the crowded mess underneath)

  • Steve

    He’s actually got a pretty high usage rate for a big man, so he’s doing a lot more than finishing dunks. Mix that with a fantastic TS% and you’ve got a very efficient player.

    And your stars cover the “average” guys responsibilities. There’s little point in putting out a guy who generally needs the ball in his hands to score, or needs some extra help on defense at the same time your star is out there. On offense, you want a shooter or two to space the floor for him, and on defense you want someone to help him defensively so he can expend more energy running your offense. “Average” guys can do neither.

  • mgbode

    eh, there’s a million ways to build a team. guys like Terry I would consider average guys but they fill a role (bench scoring machine). plenty of just below average defenders who are just above average 3pt shooters (and vice versa) that make a living in the NBA on good teams (Derek Fisher anyone). bigs who can block the lane, rebound and hit 10fters. those type of guys.

  • I hope they stick with the plan for another season, lets see what we have and where they need to add or replace players.I would rather see what Kevin Jones can do at the league minimum then be tied up to Humphries(trade deal with Orlando) for 4 years at over 10 mill at season.He is not going to win us a extra 20 games.Then what if Bynam wants to sign here or another great free agent next season and we cant because we cant move him? There will be a fire sale when teams have to pay a 4 to 1 penalty and i would rather us have the cash to get who helps us the most. not some guy that no teams want now.