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Phil Jackson Not a Source of Instant Contention for Cleveland Cavaliers

EL SEGUNDO, CA - MAY 11:  Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks during his last official Lakers news conference at the team's training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIApril 23, 2013

According to Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to Phil Jackson in an attempt to fill their head coaching vacancy. This comes after the Cavs parted ways with Byron Scott after three consecutive losing seasons (via The Akron Beacon Journal).

No matter how decorated a coach he may be, hiring Jackson is far from a source of instant contention for the Cavaliers.

There is reason to believe that Jackson can turn any team into a title contender, as he's won an NBA record 11 NBA championships. Jackson won six of those rings with the Chicago Bulls and another five with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Perhaps most impressively, Jackson has never missed the postseason in 20 years as a head coach.

Furthermore, Jackson has made it to at least the Conference Finals in 14 of his 20 seasons as a head coach. He's made it to the NBA Finals in 13 of those seasons and won titles in six consecutive seasons from 1996 to 1998 and 2000 to 2002.

In other words, The Zen Master knows how to win.

With that being said, the Cavaliers are not a team that is built for instant success. While Jackson could lead this young team to a postseason berth in the disturbingly weak Eastern Conference, competing for a title is another story.

Don't forget, the Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs with a record of 38-44. Unfortunately, the NBA champion has won at least 67.0 percent of its games in every season since 2007.

This would be a long-term project, not a case of instant gratification.

 

The Experience Factor

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team with supreme promise after landing three top-five draft choices over the span of the past two years. That includes 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, 2012 All-Rookie Second Team selection Tristan Thompson and current first year shooting guard Dion Waiters.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers really don't have much else.

Anderson Varejao is an All-Star caliber rebounder and a quality pick-and-roll defender, but he has also missed 81 games over the past three seasons due to injury. Tyler Zeller could be a quality replacement at center, but the 23-year-old is just as inexperienced as the previously alluded to crop of players.

Players such as Wayne Ellington, C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee are all quality role players, but none possess star power.

As great as Phil Jackson is at eliminating weaknesses via the triangle offense, there would be a significant learning curve in Cleveland. While they move the ball at a high rate, injuries and youth are both serious issues.

The postseason could be a reality, but dreams of a title are at least two years from becoming a reality—an alarming truth for a 67-year-old head coach.

 

The Rising Central Division

The Central Division has become the source of elite defense and postseason contention. In 2012-13, two of the top three scoring defenses came from the Central Division as the Indiana Pacers ranked second and the Chicago Bulls came in at third.

Indiana spent all but five games without All-Star Danny Granger and Chicago point guard and 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose missing the entire season, so it's fair to say we didn't see either team at full strength.

With this in mind, it's imperative that the assumption is not created that the hiring of Jackson would make the Cleveland Cavaliers the class of the Central Division. Indiana is a matter of development away from title contention, while Chicago had the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2011 and 2012.

With a healthy D-Rose, it's reasonable to believe that the Bulls can assume that position atop the East in 2014, as well.

For what it's worth, the Milwaukee Bucks are far from weak in their own right. They may have made it to the postseason with a record of 38-44, but they're also led by a 23-year-old point guard and a 24-year-old center.

Brandon Jennings is playing at an All-Star caliber level and Larry Sanders was second in the NBA in blocks per game.

While Phil Jackson's potential hiring would inspire faith, the Cavaliers are a long way from contending from a division crown. Great coaching is invaluable, but a lack of personnel often takes precedence when it comes to the postseason hunt.

Jackson would improve team morale and bring the best out of the players he possesses, but the Cavs will need much more than a legendary coach to become contenders.

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