(Editor’s note: This was written prior to the Cavaliers firing of Chris Grant.)
I’m convinced that a major part of the reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the way they are is because they’ve been tanking for so long. Only Alonzo Gee and Anderson Varejao are left from the first awful season post-LeBron, but that ethic is alive and well. The Cavaliers have won 19, 21, and 24 games in the past three seasons. They are on target to win 26 or 27 this season based on their 0.327 win rate right now. (Progress!) Despite Dan Gilbert’s desire to “flip the switch” after this year’s draft lottery, his top-down message didn’t arrive in the locker room as the Cavaliers continue to embarrass themselves and their fans. I never thought I’d say it this season, but it’s time to stop pretending this team is worthy of betting on. I hope Dan Gilbert makes that painful choice soon.
Even scarier than Dan Gilbert’s message potentially being lost on its way to the roster, maybe it did get there, but this is just the level of team that Chris Grant has built. Obviously, building a basketball team is more than just amassing talented basketball players. Few doubt that many of the Cavaliers have talent, whether we’re talking about Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters or even Jarrett Jack. Even the players who have achieved a modicum of success come to this “team” as it’s constructed and fall off. The result is that Cavaliers fans end up being disappointed in everyone the Cavs bring in as they under-perform in Cleveland compared to what they could do elsewhere. The resulting shot to the ego of the entirety of the Cavaliers world is brutal.
There are no hard, fast rules to be gleaned here. The Cavs aren’t proof of, or emblematic of any singular philosophical conclusion.
Is the problem Chris Grant, Mike Brown, the roster or what? Yes.
Is it Kyrie Irving or Dion Waiters causing the problem? Yes.
Is it the talent on the roster not being good enough or it just not fitting together well? Yes.
Is it the tanking culture the Cavaliers created or the players they picked after getting high picks? Yes.
You see where I’m going with this. Right now, everything is a problem. The Cavaliers have a multi-level problem that has no easy answers. One thing that I’ve already said – and I’ll say it again as I borrow a phrase from Joe Banner – is that this isn’t something that just needs more time. That was one of the things that Banner said about their assessment of Rob Chudzinski was that simply giving him more time wasn’t going to make things better. The same is true of this entire Cavaliers team.
Chris Grant? Time won’t help him here. He probably shouldn’t be given the responsibility of fixing this mess. (Note: Grant won’t be given the responsibility of fixing this mess.) I rarely ever call for someone to be fired, and I still won’t today, but I’m guessing this is the conclusion that Dan Gilbert will come to soon.
Mike Brown? Time alone won’t help him fix this mess either, however, I think Mike Brown is a good coach despite some obvious limitations. We know for a fact that he works well with an offensive coordinator as he had with John Kuester, so however his staff needs to change, I’d aim for that. Also in Mike Brown’s favor (well, in favor of him keeping his job for now) this is a roster that has now failed to respond to two very different coaches. All the malaise that was present with Byron Scott is still present today. Mike Brown might be a bigger problem than I know today, but right now, seeing as he’s been here for only 47 games, I would wait.
The roster? Time won’t help them as they’re constructed, but I’m going to cop out here. I am not close enough to the team to decide exactly how it needs to be reshaped from the perspective of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. What I do know is that I am not keeping any veteran with an ounce of trade value. Luol Deng should get passed along again. Anderson Varejao too. C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack, and even Earl Clark too if they can get anything for them should be gone. I’m against tanking, but this team didn’t tank. They “tried” their way to a 16-33 record. I just know it’s time to fold the hand for this season.
There are too many moving pieces in the NBA to get more specific than that. The only question in my mind right now is if Dan Gilbert trusts Chris Grant (He doesn’t.) to execute the strategy – whatever it may be – going forward. At least right now, we’re all still engaged enough to care to even talk about it. How much longer that continues to be the case remains to be seen.