The Cleveland Cavaliers, with several promising young players and a head coach who knows how to develop them, would benefit greatly from making the playoffs in this 2011-2012 season.
Every season, a few teams have to experience the debate on whether it will benefit them more to make the playoffs as a low seed, or to miss the playoffs and be entered into the NBA Draft Lottery. The Cavaliers are certainly one of those teams this year.
If the Cavaliers make the playoffs, they will most certainly enter the postseason as a very low seed, and have to face one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in the first round. The chances of the Cavaliers even making the playoffs aren’t very good. The chances of the Cavaliers actually advancing in the playoffs, should they make it that far, are exponentially worse.
So why would a team like the Cavaliers actually try to make the postseason, and potentially miss out on another game-changing player they could find in the lottery?
Here are six reasons why the Cavaliers would benefit (in both the short and long term) from making the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The Cavaliers ownership, staff and players were able to establish a culture of success during the LeBron James era. Year in and year out, the Cavaliers were one of the teams in the NBA that were expected to compete for a championship.
This expectation and mentality helped players meet, and sometimes exceed expectations.
First of all, when a team establishes a winning culture, it makes that team more desirable for talented players who are looking to join a winning team. Sure, it seemed like the Cavaliers struggled to sign marquee free agents, especially toward the end of the LeBron era, but that was due more to the lack of commitment from the superstar. If LeBron would have committed to the team publicly, the Cavaliers would have at least had the opportunity to bring in other very good players.
For years and years, the Cavaliers got solid production out of players like Sasha Pavlovic, Delonte West, Drew Gooden, Flip Murray and others. Creating that winning environment brought out the best in very mediocre players while their good players shone.
If the Cavaliers can reestablish that, it will help them to actually compete in the very near future.
It’s hard to imagine that it was only a couple years ago when the Cavaliers were in the playoffs as a favorite to win the NBA championship.
Now, not too much later, the majority of the players who were on that team are gone and there are a new group of young hoopers who have not had that exciting postseason experience.
Heading into a playoff scenario with no expectations, which is what the Cavaliers would do this year if they actually made it, would be the best case scenario for this young team. The players would be able to experience all of the excitement and exposure of playing postseason basketball, with no pressure to actually succeed.
This experience would prove invaluable for players like Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee and the rest of the young cornerstone players for the Cavaliers. Hopefully in the following years, when the Cavaliers carry some expectations into the playoffs, the young players will be able to draw from their experience and not be surprised by the bright lights of the postseason.
OK, so this may seem immature and vindictive, and it probably is, but the if the Cavaliers make the postseason, they will more than likely play either the Chicago Bulls or the Miami Heat. At this point in time, there would be no teams in the NBA more satisfying to defeat than the Bulls and Heat.
The Bulls are a division rival which has had some epic battles with the Cavaliers in the past, and the rivalry with the Heat needs no explanation. Should the Cavaliers make the postseason, and pull off the unlikely upset, it would be a defining moment in their young careers.
Those defining moments are underrated. They can set the tone for the careers of young players. If the young Cavaliers, like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, were able to lead the team past either the Heat or Bulls, it would solidify them as legit winners and leaders in the NBA.
Plus, the thought of ending the season for either of those teams is just too exciting for words!
During the majority of the past decade, that’s the number which occupied the attendance column on the Cavaliers' stat sheets.
Cleveland sports fans are famous for falling hard for a team with a chance to win, and for losing interest in teams when they stop winning (See: 1990’s Cleveland Indians with 455 straight sellouts compared to 2000’s Cleveland Indians).
If the Cavaliers can turn it around after losing LeBron such a short time ago and prove that they’re on the road to contention again, it will totally reinvigorate the fanbase. Last season, attendance numbers were still good because people renewed their season tickets in hopes of the return of LeBron. This season, those numbers have dropped, but not as drastically as they might have without a new No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers can really take advantage of the fact that people are still involved with the team by making the playoffs and show the whole fan base that winning basketball is making a return to Cleveland.
There is potential for the Cavaliers to make the playoffs this season, and still make a pick in the lottery.
No team in the NBA has the draft options and versatility of the Cavaliers this year. As it stands right now, the Cavs will have four picks in the top 40. If there’s a player they really love in the lottery, I’m sure they can use those assets to find a trade partner and move up in the draft.
And if they don’t trade up, or can’t find a willing partner, then they have those aforementioned picks in what looks to be a deep draft. Any team with four out of the first 40 picks should be able to acquire multiple playmakers.
If the Cavaliers manage to pull off the improbable and earn a playoff berth, April through June will be a very exciting time for basketball fans in Cleveland. Cavaliers fans definitely have quite a 2012-2013 season to look forward to.
The Cavaliers were fortunate to have drawn the first and fourth overall picks in this past year’s NBA Draft. General manager Chris Grant seems to have hit a home run with Kyrie Irving, and at least a double with Tristan Thompson.. A good GM should be able to build around those two picks without needing additional top draft picks.
Lottery picks aren’t just called lottery picks because of the process by which the draft order is selected. Lottery picks are a gamble for any team. There is no guarantee that a lottery pick will turn out like Kevin Durant, LeBron James or Derrick Rose.
Just ask Portland, who recently released former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who they selected before Durant. There are no guarantees in the draft, ever.
If Chris Grant is the skilled general manager that I believe him to be, he will be able to select a player in the 15-20 range (which is most likely where the Cavaliers would wind up if they manage to clinch a playoff berth) who will be able to step in and contribute on day one. He will also be able to build a team around Irving and Thompson with lower draft picks and intelligent moves in the free-agent and trade markets.
There are several GMs out there with flawed processes. Year in and year out, you see their teams drafting lottery players, yet they can’t put a team together that can dig itself out of the lottery. The better teams might find itself in the lottery very occasionally, but they don’t need multiple lottery picks to get back into contention.
I believe Chris Grant, along with Byron Scott, can build this team to a perennial contender again, and they don’t need to live in the lottery to do so.