Cleveland Cavaliers

What Exactly Is Cleveland Cavaliers' Plan for Future?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Team owner Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks to the media prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMarch 7, 2014

Having a plan is typically a good thing in life, or when running an NBA franchise.

Not long ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers had one of these. Actually, they had a few.

From 2005 to 2010 this was a team with serious playoff aspirations. Draft picks were dealt for veteran help, and all available cap dollars were spent trying to field a championship team. The Cavs made the playoffs five straight seasons and even advanced to the NBA Finals in 2007.

From 2010 to 2013, it was all about the rebuild. Cleveland hit the lottery hard, landing six first-round draft picks in just three years.

This season, it appeared the Cavs were ready to scrap the rebuild and focus on the playoffs once again. Cap space was filled up for the first time in four years due to Cleveland's summer free-agent activity.

Instead, 2013-14 remains very much up in the air. At 24-38, the Cavaliers probably aren't bad enough to land a top pick in the draft, yet haven't been good enough to earn a playoff spot.

For the first time in 10 years, the Cavs don't seem to have a plan.

Looking ahead to the end of this season and beyond, where does Cleveland stand and where should they be going?

 

Playoffs or Bust

Cleveland has shown their poker hand for the remainder of this season.

After trading five total draft picks for veterans Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, the Cavs are all-in for the 2014 postseason. Cleveland chose to sacrifice these draft selections knowing that both will become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Focusing on this season, the Cavs are somehow still in the playoff race despite being 14 games under .500. As of March 6, they sit just three and a half games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavs have been adamant about making the playoffs ever since they won the 2013 draft lottery, but have done little to convince us they belong there. 

The Cavs are still playoff contenders despite their poor record.
The Cavs are still playoff contenders despite their poor record.Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland does get to play the Charlotte Bobcats and New York Knicks this weekend, but after that things get ugly fast.

The brutal stretch begins with a three-game trip out West against the Phoenix Suns (36-25), Golden State Warriors (38-24) and Los Angeles Clippers (43-20). A return to Cleveland means three home games against the Miami Heat (43-16), Oklahoma City Thunder (46-16) and Houston Rockets (42-19). For those keeping track at home, that's a combined opponent record of 248-120, good for a 67.4 percent winning mark.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, it wasn't for a lack of trying. The Cavs are a very respectable 8-5 since making the switch at general manager from Chris Grant to David Griffin, even knocking off the Thunder on their home court Feb. 26. Bringing in veterans like Deng and Hawes were certainly a risk, but both moves could still pay off.

The plan, at least for now, is still making the playoffs.

So, what happens after that?

 

Summer Decisions

As previously mentioned, both Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes will become free agents this offseason. C.J. Miles will also hit the market, and the Cavs hold options on Anderson Varejao and Alonzo Gee.

Before they can decide on who to bring back, the Cavaliers first have to settle on a general manager.

Cavs acting GM David Griffin.
Cavs acting GM David Griffin.Mark Duncan/Associated Press

When acting GM David Griffin took over for Chris Grant on Feb. 6, he did so without any assurance he would be given the position past the end of the season. Owner Dan Gilbert has to decide whether to keep Griffin or to go with an outside hire. According to Zach Harper of CBSsports.com, "It is expected that the Cavs will make another hire this offseason to fill the position long-term."

Whomever is calling the shots in Cleveland will have their work cut out for them.

The first order of business should be to establish a plan.

Where does this franchise sit as currently constructed? Is a core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett really enough to build around? Do we let them continue to develop or sign veteran help that may limit their progression?

There's also the little issue of Irving's next contract. The Cavs can offer their star point guard a five-year extension this summer worth around $80 million. The question is, will he sign it?

Monroe should be high on the Cavaliers' free agent wish list.
Monroe should be high on the Cavaliers' free agent wish list.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 free-agent class has some nice players in it. Guys like Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Lance Stephenson, Trevor Ariza and even Mo Williams could pique the Cavs' interest. There's another possible free agent coming out of Miami, but that's a topic for another time.

Cleveland will also get a good pick in a deep 2014 NBA draft. Looking further ahead, they own three first-rounders in 2015. There's just no way the Cavs will want to add that many rookies to an already young roster unless they choose to go into another rebuild.

That won't happen. Right?

 

So, What's the Plan?

First off, Dan Gilbert should keep Griffin as his full-time GM. That's assuming, of course, Phil Jackson isn't interested.

Griffin has already done a nice job trying to change the mood in Cleveland. "This is a culture of we. It's not a culture of me. And somewhere along the way we lost that." Griffin told Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer upon being promoted. "I want to see us smile more. I want to see us enjoy this."

Keeping Griffin in charge would help provide some stability up top. This will especially come in handy when he fires Mike Brown, or should at least.

The Cavs should fire Brown, regardless of how this season ends.
The Cavs should fire Brown, regardless of how this season ends.Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of if they make the playoffs or not, Brown should be gone. No team that has Irving, Waiters, Deng and Hawes should be ranked 23rd in scoring (via ESPN.com). Brown's sorry offense could scare away free agents and make Irving think twice about taking $80 million. He's got to go.

Bringing in a big-name coach would be huge for the organization. Start with knocking on Mike Krzyzewski's door and go from there. Coaches like Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan, Tom Izzo and George Karl should also be considered.

From there, the goal should be to lock Irving up for the next five-plus years. For all the criticism he's taken in the past for his poor defense, lack of leadership and even occasional pouting, people need to remember he's still just 21. Given a good coach that will bring out the best in him, Irving could still blossom into one of the NBA's best.

The next order of business is to acquire a second star to play beside him. This means giving up anyone else on the roster, including draft picks, to make happen. No star player in the NBA today is winning alone. The Cavs have good trade assets in Waiters, Thompson, Bennett and Tyler Zeller. Combine this with their four first-round picks the next two drafts, and Cleveland could pull something off.

Don't expect Griffin to hold the same loyalty to guys like Waiters and Bennett that Chris Grant did. If he gets a good offer for either of them, we could see Griffin pull the trigger.

Griffin's plan, assuming he get the job, should be to build the best team he can around Kyrie Irving.

Grant may be gone, but he left the team in good shape in terms of salary cap and draft picks. Griffin needs to take advantage of this.

A new head coach, signing Irving to an extension and acquiring a second star player should be the goal starting this summer.

It's time for a new plan, assuming there is one now.

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