A Nightmare Situation for the Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is arguably the best player in the NBA. Last season the 25-year-old averaged 30 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds a game and won the MVP.
With LeBron leaving in free agency for little compensation, the team is no doubt going to take a huge hit. Getting two first and two second round picks and a large trade exception is not exactly fair compensation for the one of the game's greatest players. The Cavaliers will get no immediate help and the situation seems bleak.
There are many reasons why the Cavs are in trouble, I will examine some of the main ones as well as provide analysis on what the Cavs need to do to get better, and outline some possible scenarios an options the Cavaliers may have going forward.
They hired former coach of the year Byron Scott to take over the team which was a good decision.
Why They Are In Trouble: The Roster
Obviously the Cavs roster took a hit. There are a lot of problems with the roster, some of which I will expose later but for now let's focus on the talent level. On the Cavaliers current roster, I believe they have two legitimate starters. Mo Williams and Antwan Jamison are both players who could be a good third option, but neither of them is a first option.
Mo Williams definitely benefited from being a teammate of LeBron James last season as more than half of his points came from three-pointers. He isn't a true point guard and will struggle without LeBron next season. Not only does Cleveland lose LeBron, but they lose production from Mo Williams.
Anthony Parker, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, and Jamario Moon just aren't going to cut it. They would all be great sixth and seventh men, but none of them are good starters.
The Cavaliers are lacking a star and don't have anyone they can really rely on to get a basket when they need one. Who will take the shots down the stretch? The Cavaliers have a depleted roster, they need to execute some kind of trade or acquire some new young talent to beef up the roster.
If Cleveland goes into the season next year with this roster, I can't imagine them finishing with more than 30 wins.
The Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has really gone off the deep end. Yes, the value of his team decreased by $100 million because of one player's decision and he does have a right to be upset, but he is really screwing his team over by hammering LeBron.
Not only did he make a ridiculous promise that the Cavs would win a championship before the Heat, (not possible) but he was a total jerk in the process.
It was Cleveland's fault LeBron left. They couldn't surround him with the talent he needed to win a championship. Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams just weren't going to cut it. They forced him out. He wanted to stay, but they really couldn't make it happen.
Dan Gilbert really hurt the franchise when he trashed LeBron. He had to go somewhere else because he couldn't win a championship and I think people realize that. A teams owner is becoming a bigger and bigger factor in a free agent's decision and Dan Gilbert really screwed this one up.
Cleveland obviously isn't what you would call a hot spot for free agents and if this is how Dan Gilbert treats his players I can't imagine anyone wanting to go there. Gilbert isn't under the public eye often, so when he is, it would probably be a good thing to have it be positive. If this is the only thing people know about Dan Gilbert he will never live this down.
So now not only do the Cavs have a mediocre roster at best, but their owner is really digging them a deep hole. It just keeps getting better and better.
Last season the Cavs were second in the league in attendance, they sold out in every game. Without LeBron James on the roster the fans will obviously not be as interested. I can't imagine Cleveland selling out every game while not making the playoffs.
The Cavaliers will likely see a huge decrease in revenue, as they will probably sell significantly less tickets and lose a lot of money in concessions and jersey sales.
The Cavs could go from being second in attendance last season to being in the bottom 10. The next few years could be rough for the Cavs, they better hope the fans are more loyal than we thought.
They Play in Cleveland
Since the Cavaliers are from Cleveland, they are going to have a hard time attracting big name free agents. When a player can go to New York, Chicago, or even LA why would they want to play in Cleveland?
The Cavaliers got lucky when they drafted LeBron in 2003. He came right out of high school, and had lived in Ohio his whole life. Unless they can get another hometown hero like James, the Cavs are in a lot of trouble.
What Do the Cavaliers Need To Do To Get Better?
The first thing the Cavaliers need to do to get better is add a primary scoring option. There really aren't any free agents left that fit this profile, so the Cavaliers will have to work a trade. If they package up Antwan Jamison, Delonte West, and a future first rounder, (lottery protected of course, maybe one of the picks Miami gave them) I can see them getting someone like Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats who averaged 19 and 10 last season, is excellent defensively, and is only 27.
In the process they could also get Nazr Mohammed who has a big expiring contact. The Cavaliers should get rid of Jamison while he still has decent value. He is already 34 years old and probably doesn't have much left in the tank.
The Cavaliers need to get someone who can be a good long-term option for the team. Someone like Wallace can step in and be that guy and Mohammed can add depth in the frontcourt as it is likely that the Cavs will lose both Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Remember this is a team that in reality doesn't have much to offer so it's going to be tough, but between Williams and Jamison I would hope they will be able to get something done.
Once the Cavaliers can acquire a solid primary option, I think they need to focus their attention on getting younger. If you take a look at the roster, they really don't have much young talent. They have surrounded LeBron with mostly veteran players. They do have the athletic guard-forward Christian Eyenga stashed overseas, but he doesn't seem to be ready for next season.
Besides that, the Cavs don't really have any young players who are regular contributors. There are plenty of young players left on the free agent market, and they do have a little bit of cap room and a mid-level exception that could be used on a good young player.
The final thing I think the Cavaliers need to do to get better is clear cap room. Clearing cap room isn't something that automatically makes the team better. In fact, it probably makes it worse, but the Cavaliers are a bad team already so it doesn't really matter. The Cavaliers need to go into an all out rebuilding stage and they can't do that with their overpaid veteran roster.
They need to gut their roster and downgrade a little bit in order to get better. A roster without Jamison, Williams, Varejao, and maybe West might not be a bad idea if they can find a team willing to give up a good young player or two, an expiring contract, and a future first round pick.
For the Cavs at this point it's all about roster flexibility. They need to have cap space. They can't have veteran players with huge contracts because they aren't going to win at this point anyway. They should start by getting rid of Jamison's $12 million and go from there.
Possible Roster Moves For the Cavaliers
There are a few free agents that I believe would be valuable for the Cavs. First is Shannon Brown. Brown is an athletic combo guard that can bring good energy off the bench. The next player is restricted free agent Kyle Lowry. Lowry is a true point guard and could allow the team to trade Mo Williams. The last player might be a stretch, but restricted free agent Wesley Matthews would be perfect fit for the Cavs. He is a talented young player that would be a good long term option for the Cavaliers.
One player I think the Cavaliers should seriously consider trading for is the 76ers Andre Iguodala. The 76ers are open to trading Iguodala and he could be a great fit in Cleveland. If the Cavaliers could steal Lowry away from the Rockets and trade Mo Williams, Delonte West, and a Miami first round pick to the 76ers for Iguodala it might be a good deal for Cleveland. Iguodala is the proven number one scoring option that the Cavs need. Acquiring Mo Williams from the Cavs could allow the 76ers to have a good three man rotation at guard between Jrue Holliday, Louis Williams, and Mo Wlliams with Evan Turner at the three.
The Cavs are in a bad spot. It's going to be a long road back to the conference finals, but with good leadership from the front office, and some good transactions, the Cavaliers could one day be competitive again.