Believed to be a playoff contender heading into the season, Cleveland has stumbled to an 18-33 start to the year.
With David Griffin taking over as acting general manager, what will his plan be?
Conventional wisdom says a team 15 games under .500 should be a seller at the trade deadline, but this might not be the case. Cleveland came out of Sunday night's win against the Memphis Grizzlies just four games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
So, should the Cavs go all-in for a final playoff push or begin yet another rebuild?
This is encouraging, optimistic and not exactly true.
After all, the Toronto Raptors are 18-12 since they traded Rudy Gay, who was arguably their best player.
Nevertheless, Cavs fans should appreciate these words by Griffin. He's clearly passionate about his job and the team in general.
Recent Signs of Life
For what it's worth, the Cavaliers are now 2-0 since firing Grant.
The move clearly affected some players, especially Dion Waiters, whom Grant drafted fourth overall in 2012. This from Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:
“Everybody was saddened by it,” Dion Waiters said. “Some of it you think, ‘Is it our fault for the way we’ve been playing that a man lost his job?’ A lot goes into consideration when you think about those types of things, especially for a guy who believed in me and made my dreams come true.”
Lloyd's article also states that news of Grant's firing drove some players to tears. Fourteen of the 15 players currently on the roster were acquired via trade, signing or draft by Grant.
Cleveland's first game post-Grant was a 115-113 road win over the Washington Wizards. C.J. Miles was back in the starting lineup for an injured Luol Deng and responded with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Miles told Lloyd before the game:
“CG gave me a chance. ... He brought me here to come in and remind people I could still play. He was a great guy, a good dude outside of business, too. He did some good things for me, helped me out a lot as far as coming here, presenting me with the opportunity to play basketball, start something new and start something exciting. I thank him for that.”
The Cavs showed a rejuvenated defensive effort in their second game since Grant's firing, a 91-83 overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Cleveland held Memphis to 38.4 percent shooting for the game and just 21.4 percent from the three-point line.
Wins like this are exactly what many expected when Mike Brown took over the Cavs—close, defensive grind-it-out affairs that feature big shots from Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
It may be just two games, but the Cavaliers have resembled a completely different team.
Can the Cavs Really Make the Playoffs?
It's still unlikely, but yes.
Cleveland sits just four games out with 31 games left to go in the regular season. This seems like plenty of time, although the Cavs have actually lost ground in the playoff race in the past month. Even with Luol Deng on board, Cleveland is just 6-9.
According to Hollinger's NBA Playoff Odds on ESPN.com, the Cavs have just a 1.4 percent chance at the postseason. The New York Knicks, who sit just two games ahead of Cleveland in the standings, have a 32.1 percent chance. Putting together a couple of wins in a row now would do wonders for the Cavs' playoff odds.
Looking ahead, the schedule is extremely favorable.
The Cavs' next four games are against the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic. The combined record of these four teams is just 69-137. Cleveland could make some major noise in the playoff race if it continues its newly inspired play these next four games.
After two big wins over Washington and Memphis, the Cavs would be foolish to blow things up now.
Cleveland could very well crawl back into the playoff hunt before the February 20 trade deadline and should still hold out hope for a postseason run.
The year certainly hasn't gone as planned, but making the playoffs should still be the goal.
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