With the Feb. 20 trade deadline quickly approaching, should the Cavs stand pat and let the team grow with Deng, or will they pursue another big deal to add talent for a playoff push?
Cleveland general manager Chris Grant had this to say about an additional trade earlier this month to The Plain Dealer:
It's hard to predict. We've generally been pretty active. My preference is not to be active right now and let these guys settle in and learn [about] each other. But if a good opportunity presents itself, then sure we'll make another deal.
So how have the Cavaliers performed since the deal for Deng? Pretty average, actually.
Cleveland is 4-4 in Deng's first eight games as a Cavalier. While this .500 winning percentage is a nice bump from their overall .372 success mark, it may not be enough to climb back into the playoffs.
The Cavs should continue to be active around the trade deadline, and here's why.
Making the Playoffs Is a Must
Is anyone completely confident that this is a playoff team right now?
As of publication, Cleveland has a record of 16-27 and is two games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth seed in the East. They've gained just one game in the standings since trading for Deng on Jan 7.
We know Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is fed up with the lottery and fully expects three years of futility and high draft picks to equal a playoff berth this year.
With the state of the East, missing the playoffs with a roster of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Deng would be a tremendous disappointment. It's already shocking that teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors are ahead of the Cavs in the standings, given the talent levels on each squad.
Cleveland has to make the playoffs for a number of reasons.
Kyrie Irving can sign an extension with the team this coming summer. Locking him up at this point is a must, as he's an All-Star starter already at the age of 21. Playing on three straight lottery teams probably isn't going to rush him into signing a long-term deal.
Luol Deng will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. While Cleveland can offer him more money than any other team, the probability of him taking a few extra bucks over playing on a contender at age 28 is very slim. The Cavs need to make the playoffs this season and prove that they're a team on the rise and one that should be a part of.
The Cavaliers also have a fanbase to worry about.
With so much disappointment surrounding the franchise, beginning with LeBron's departure in 2010, the Cavs need a positive sign that they're turning things around and building a true contender. This season, Cleveland is a very respectable 15th in league attendance, despite being 11 games under .500.
Another year missing the playoffs could certainly affect this number next season, however.
The Cavaliers making the playoffs is crucial for their development, both now and for the future.
Chris Grant, We Assume, Would Like to Keep His Job
Taking over as general manager in 2010, Grant has make some great moves so far in his tenure.
Unfortunately, drafting Anthony Bennett wasn't one of them.
Six first-round draft picks in three years, including two first overall, should be enough to form a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Irving and Tristan Thompson were great picks. Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller are showing their upside, but Bennett has been historically bad thus far.
Byron Scott was the first to lose his job in the rebuilding process, even though he didn't have a whole lot to work with in his three seasons. One would think Grant would be next in line, as the team isn't likely to fire Mike Brown after just one year. When things go wrong and teams underperform, someone has to take the blame.
Anthony Bennett looks like a bust. Jarrett Jack was Grant's big free-agent signing, but he has struggled off the bench. Sergey Karasev was Cleveland's other first-rounder, yet he hasn't even cracked the rotation.
If the Cavs miss the playoffs, expect changes to be made, starting with the general manager position.
The Trade Assets are Plentiful
Grant has done a beautiful job of stocking draft picks and young talent that other teams desperately crave.
Seriously, the man got a first-round pick for Jon Leuer.
The Cavs are stocked with draft picks this summer and next. There's no way they'll want to keep the eight picks they currently own over the next two years.
In the 2015 draft alone, the Cavaliers have their own first-rounder, as well as those of the Miami Heat (top-10 protected) and Memphis Grizzlies (protected 1-5 and 15-30). There are plenty of teams (New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers) who have given away draft picks like they were tickets to the Winter Olympics.
There's also an incredible amount of youth on the Cavaliers, which isn't ideal for a playoff contender. Anderson Varejao and Jarrett Jack are the only Cleveland players to have celebrated their 30th birthday.
There will always be rebuilding teams with established talent just waiting to be traded. Cleveland should know, as they have been one of these teams the past three years.
Names like Arron Afflalo, Spencer Hawes, Pau Gasol, Caron Butler and Chris Kaman are some veteran names who could be on the move before the deadline.
Adding one of these names or other established veterans to the mix of young talent would almost assure the Cavaliers a playoff berth.
Cleveland can risk staying put and hope that Deng is enough to lift them into the postseason. If Grant wants to keep his job while appeasing the owner and fans, he should instead continue to be active at this year's trade deadline.
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