NBA Handicapping: Cleveland Cavaliers after GM Firing
by Trevor Whenham - 2/12/2014
On Feb. 6 the Cleveland Cavaliers fired general manager Chris Grant. You can’t call it an incorrect move, though it is far from one that will instantly fix the countless issues this mess of a franchise has. David Griffin, most recently the team’s VP of basketball operations, has been named GM, but just on an interim basis. He presumably would like the job full time, but it’s not clear yet if he is auditioning or if he is just a stopgap until a permanent GM can be picked. Whether it is Griffin or another GM, though, there are a shocking number of issues facing the new GM going forward. Until these issues are addressed, this is going to be a tough team for bettors to trust. Amongst the biggest issues:
Playoffs aren’t impossible: The team sits just four games out of the last playoff spot in the lowly Eastern Conference — even though they have lost 15 more games than they have won. I’m not suggesting that they are going to make the playoffs — I don’t think it’s likely. With an interim GM auditioning for a permanent role, though, and an owner who very publicly declared that his team was going to make the playoffs this year, the relative closeness to the postseason could be a big factor. It could cause them to make different decisions than if they were just building for the future. At the very least, it further complicates an already complicated path to excellence — or at least mediocrity.
What to do at the trade deadline?: The new GM faces a massive challenge when it comes to the trade deadline — and it’s uncertain how much freedom he will have to make moves. Do they try to move Dion Waiters, or is his upside worth trying to weather his attitude issues a while longer? Do you trade Luol Deng after assuming you can’t resign him, or do you wait until the summer to talk contracts and risk losing him for nothing? Do you just blow the roster up and start over with building around Irving? Do you bring in players or draft picks? Is it worth doing anything at all knowing that other teams won’t be inclined to give you full value for your assets? No easy answers.
What to do about Deng?: Deng is the closest thing to an answer they have had at small forward since a certain player headed to South Beach. He also came at a not insignificant cost — Bynum and a pick. He hasn’t been particularly strong with the Cavs, though, and he has already rejected a three-year extension at $10 million per year. Is he likely to stay around and sign an extension? And would you want him to? Is it worth tying yourself to him for the long term? Can he help you win? I’d be inclined to shop him at the deadline and hope you could at least come out even from the first deal. He’s a good player, but he’s not a difference-maker at this stage for this team.
What to do about Bennett?: As much as I liked Bennett as a college player, I’m not going to try to defend him and his play so far this year. He has been lousy. At least some of the blame for that, though, rests on the coaching staff and how they have handled him. His confidence was fragile, and they shattered it. He has played his three best games of the season since the end of January, though, and it’s at least possible to believe that his career can be turned around. The next GM — whether interim or full time — needs to get Bennett back on track to move this team forward. It’s a massive task but a crucial one.
Can he make Kyrie Irving happy?: Publicly, Irving insists he is happy in Cleveland and wants to stay. Privately, though, reports keep popping up that he wants out. Irving isn’t a megastar, but he’s a perennial all-star of the future, and he is crucial to this team. The new GM needs to do everything possible to keep him happy and get him signed long term.
Brown is still terrible: Mike Brown is a terrible coach. Or, at least he has not proven to be a good coach when he doesn’t have LeBron James around to mask his serious shortcomings. He’s clearly not a fit for this team long term, and it would be shocking if he were to return next year. Do they keep him around to play out the year? Or do they ditch him now and cut their losses? And who do they bring in next — a hiring they can’t get wrong? And who is involved in making that hiring at this point?
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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