The decision LeBron James made to leave Cleveland after seven seasons with the Cavaliers has already impacted the way Dan Gilbert currently deals with Kyrie Irving.
As the conclusion of Irving's rookie contract approaches, the lessons Gilbert learned will continue to make an impact.
The biggest change the Cavs have already made as a result of LeBron's decision is a philosophical shift in the way they are building their roster. Gilbert has stated his current goal being to build now with superstars as opposed to previously building around superstars.
Dan has also spoken recently about being proactive on the trade market as unrestricted free agency approaches in the future for any player. Something that wasn't even remotely considered two seasons ago before James walked out the door and signed with the Miami Heat.
The Cavaliers attempted to build around LeBron James as their primary superstar
Dan Gilbert purchased the Cavaliers in March 2005. A few months later he hired Danny Ferry as General Manager, who then invested the team's resources in Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes.
The Cavs paid those three veteran journeymen over $18 million to surround James during his third season in Cleveland.
This philosophy was then viewed as a "win now" approach—essentially bringing in the best players currently available on that year's free-agent market and paying them whatever it required.
In hindsight, building around LeBron in this fashion stunted the Cavaliers growth. It allowed them to go only as far as Damon Jones could take them, which wasn't where Dan Gilbert and Co. were hoping to go.
Dan Gilbert is currently building with Kyrie Irving and other superstars
Gilbert described the philosophical shift that developed for him as a result of LeBron's decision during his year-end press conference following Kyrie's rookie year.
"We want to build a franchise with Kyrie or with other superstars, not around superstars," Gilbert said. "We think that's probably not a great formula for success, right? Or else we would have rings already here. We would have championship trophies. We believe the 'With' is the key here and we're looking forward to adding more great pieces."
In the five years after the Cavs drafted LeBron James, they then selected four other players in the NBA draft—total.
In 2004 the Cavaliers selected Luke Jackson with the 10th overall pick. In June 2005, Gilbert's first draft as Cavaliers owner, they didn't make a selection. From 2006-2008 they then drafted Shannon Brown (25th overall), Daniel Gibson (42nd overall) and J.J. Hickson (19th overall).
None of those players were viewed as potential superstars. They were drafted as pieces who could potentially fit as building blocks around James.
Since drafting Irving first overall, last year, the Cavaliers have already added three more first-round draft picks. Both Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson were selected fourth overall. Tyler Zeller was also selected by trading up to the 17th overall pick this past June.
Over the next three years, the Cavaliers will have the opportunity to make up to 10 picks. The hope is then that one of those young players acquired will turn into a superstar who the Cavaliers can build with—alongside Irving.
The Cavaliers were reactive, hoping LeBron would re-sign during the summer of 2010
The Cavaliers allowed LeBron to determine the future of their franchise by providing him the ultimate decision as to whether he wanted to stay or go.
As teams from all over the NBA paraded through Cleveland attempting to pry him from the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert sat by waiting out the process hoping James would stay.
At the time, there was no way you could trade a superstar like LeBron James under any circumstances.
Since LeBron made his decision, however, things have changed throughout the league. Carmelo Anthony was then traded by the Denver Nuggets to avoid the same fate. James Harden was dealt this past month for similar reasons.
That list will only grow larger as time goes on.
Gilbert is now determined to be proactive as unrestricted free agency approaches for any player
Dan Gilbert was asked if he would have handled LeBron's decision differently this past October and told the Associated Press the following:
''The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you cannot wait,'' Gilbert said. ''The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you cannot risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it.
So if Irving is not willing to extend, Gilbert will deal with that differently than he did with James. As a Cavaliers fan, hopefully he's not put in that situation.
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