As the Cleveland Cavaliers organization and the city itself moves on from LeBron James’ departure, I find myself pondering the best way Dan Gilbert can restructure the franchise. As for my solution, I’d say strip the team and rebuild, here’s why…
A Weak Supporting Cast for JJ Hickson
It appears as if JJ Hickson will be the piece that the Cavaliers build around for the future, but he’ll need some help. Hickson is still developing, as he is now a designated starter for the first time in his career.
Besides Hickson, the Cavaliers’ only other player who can be considered part of the core of the team is Ramon Sessions.
He has raw talent, and with lots of work on his jump shot, Sessions can be a solid player because of his quickness. Sessions complements Byron Scott’s fast-tempo offense very well, but lacks offensive versatility.
As for the rest of the team, there is point guard Maurice Williams and forward Anderson Varejao, but both of these men might have more value on the trade market.
Maurice Williams can play both point guard and shooting guard, and his offensive abilities would be greatly appreciated by several playoff contenders. Williams’ defense is rather suspect, but he’s worth a first-round pick, and dealing him would remove over $9 million from the books.
Anderson Varejao’s trade value is extremely high at this point. The Cavs already have a future forward, and can use Varejao to load up on draft picks. He’s a hustle player, and has the ability to shut down any forward in the post.
Although his offensive skill set appears uncoordinated, Varejao has developed a smooth reverse around the basket and an above-average shot around 15 feet from the basket. He’s making a lot of money, and might be worth a mid-first round pick at the least.
Antawn Jamison’s contract also expires next season, and will play a vital role at the trade deadline for those teams looking to dump salary.
Jamison is out of his prime, although still productive, but ultimately will not be an X-factor for a current team whose ceiling is low.
The Cavs can’t go deep in the playoffs without a proven star, as it will take time to develop Hickson. It’s important for Cleveland to draft a back court star in next year’s draft to accompany Hickson.
The Cavs might win 30-35 games at the most with this roster intact for 2010, but this might not be the best option.
If the team is not going to the playoffs, why not play for a lottery pick? The 2011 NBA Draft showcases anticipated stars such as Harrison Barnes, Kyrie Irving and Perry Jones from Baylor.
The current NBA contains a majority of playoff teams who build around fantastic stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and point guards like Chris Paul or Deron Williams.
I firmly believe in having a perimeter star who can spread the floor and break down defenses off the dribble.
Byron Scott’s quick-pace offense will not survive with Hickson down low as the main scoring threat, simply because any offense stalls when the ball is dumped in the post.
The Cavaliers can pile up some draft picks in addition to loads of cap room if the majority of the team is traded.
Drafts make teams younger, but the Cavs will be fresh and loaded with potential if they play their cards right when preparing for the 2011 Draft.
Impossible Odds Against the Rest of the East
Simply put, the Cavs stand absolutely zero chance against the rest of the East for the next few years. There’s Boston, Orlando, and of course Miami. All three teams have loaded rosters and championship implications.
Even though Boston only has about two years left of durability with their current roster, now the “Big 4” with the addition of Rondo has depth and an ultimate level of chemistry together.
Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Rondo have all been to the finals twice together (succeeding once) and combine veteran leadership with Rondo’s fantastic court vision to make a monster team.
The Celts have added frontcourt depth with Shaq and Jermaine O’Neill until Perkins comes back, but they are the best team right now.
Miami is now the most hated team for Cleveland fans, but they are great on paper. The early struggles will disappear by January, and LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will blend nicely.
Miami might not be able to handle the “heat” of Boston’s frontcourt, but they’d certainly pick apart the Cavaliers.
As for Orlando, they will probably end up third or fourth in the conference, depending on Atlanta’s prowess.
Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and although they lost Hedo Turkoglu, the glue to the offense who killed the Cavs two years prior, they’d still beat Cleveland without him.
These are the three obvious roadblocks for Cleveland if they want to make a playoff run this season, but there are several more teams in the Eastern Conference who’d send Cleveland packing in round one.
Don’t Tease the Fans
Dan Gilbert’s a smart owner with high expectations and a will to win… But, Cleveland fans are waiting for a championship, not a playoff berth.
It would be nuts to see the Cavs and Heat bump heads in April for round one, but the fans want to win it all.
The best way please the fans is to prove your cause, which Dan Gilbert can do by making moves for the future, instead of staying with a mediocre roster.
The city’s fans are sure to show up if there’s a superstar rookie playing for Cleveland next season, and the Cavs can actually take much bigger steps if Christian Eyenga accompanies Hickson, Sessions and the 2011 lottery pick.
There may never be another player quite like LeBron James, but he’ll be easier forgotten with another big-name youngster in town.
Cleveland can have three potential All-Stars on one squad in a matter of a few years, and while the city is itching to hoist a championship trophy, the amount of patience in every fan’s heart cannot be matched. Patience is a virtue in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers hold tremendous possibilities with Gilbert at the helm, and even though he’ll spend money with immediacy when it comes to winning, I think waiting is his best option. The fans have his back.