There seems to be a "win now" mentality around the Cleveland Cavaliers currently, from both the front office and the fanbase. Losing for three straight seasons is not fun to endure, but jumping the gun and pushing ahead before the time is right could end up being more detrimental in the long run.
Beyond that, there doesn't seem to be a quick fix available to launch the Cavs into contention. The 2013 free-agent class is sparse, and the 2013 draft is devoid of first-year impact players.
Internal growth will play the biggest role in a Cleveland renaissance, and so will health. Nearly every Cavalier of significance missed huge swaths of time due to injury.
Outside of that organic growth, how can the Cavs contend in 2013-2014? With defense.
Cleveland was a mess defensively last season, but the hiring of Mike Brown should reverse that trend. Brown is an excellent defensive coach, but he also needs the correct personnel to carry out his scheme.
Let's start with the draft. If the Cavs are taking a defensive tact, then Nerlens Noel has to be the choice at No. 1. Ideally, he'll be back in time for 2014, having studied Brown's defense while he was out. Once he's ready, he should be turned loose as a weak-side shot-blocking monster.
Brown should hide him on the other team's weaker post player as he learns, but encourage him to roam and make plays above the rim.
Then, at No. 19, the Cavs should grab the best perimeter defender available. Pair him with Alonzo Gee, a solid defender in his own right.
Let defense determine both selections.
As far as free agency, there are two superior defenders available: Tony Allen and Andre Iguodala. Cleveland can afford both but will have to overpay.
Give Allen a raise from his current $3.3 million to $5 million.
Iguodala will be more expensive. Assuming he walks away from the more than $16 million he is owed next season, he has to realize he will not make that annually over a three- or four-year contract. He's trading one big paycheck for smaller, but longer, ones. Perhaps $12-13 million.
That's still too much, but that would be the trade-off.
With the addition of Allen and Iguodala, the Cavs would have two lethal perimeter defenders to unleash in Mike Brown's system, with an elite shot-blocker in Noel backing them up. Throw in Anderson Varejao's energy and hustle all over the place, and it would be awfully difficult to score on those four guys.
The trade-off is an almost excruciating offense. Cleveland would be forced to rely on Kyrie Irving creating shots, hot streaks from Dion Waiters and offensive rebounds and tip-ins from Varejao.
Any spacing on offense would go away. There's not a single guy to stretch the floor. Irving can knock it down from deep, but he would be the guy with the ball in his hands, not catching it. Iguodala is capable but not reliable from deep. Allen should probably shoot nothing further out than a layup.
That's a recipe for a ton of games with scores of 89-85. But this system would play to Mike Brown's strengths and to Irving's ability to win close games down the stretch.
Would these moves have repercussions? Yes. They would kill the cap space for 2014, when Cleveland really wants to put its dollars to use. And they would result in the opposite of eye-catching hoops.
But the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers, and to a lesser degree the San Antonio Spurs, have made it to the conference finals behind superior defense with below-average offensive play. San Antonio has combined its stellar D with awesome offense and is two games from playing in the Finals.
If Cleveland wants as many wins as possible in 2013-14, a defensive mentality is its best bet. These moves would hamstring future options, but Cleveland would make a huge leap from cellar-dweller to the playoffs.
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