A team that’s lost 32 of its first 40 games. A team with no discernible stars and an uncertain future. The worst team in the NBA.
While that may sound like the 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers, it also describes the 2002-2003 version of the Cavs.
This has been a rough year for Cavaliers fans to handle. Going from winning 60 games in each of the past two seasons to the bottom of the league isn’t an easy thing for fans.
In addition to that, going from being treated to the talents of LeBron James each night to looking for Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison to carry the team each night has been a nasty transition.
The good news for Cavaliers fans is that things should turn around quickly for the team. Losing so many games this year will pay dividends down the road.
Dan Gilbert claimed that his team would win a championship before LeBron does, and, strangely enough, this disastrous season will help Gilbert come closer to fulfilling that vow.
In the 2002-2003 season, the Cavaliers made a conscious effort to lose as many games as possible to get as high a draft pick as possible. The team finished tied for last in the league and won the first overall pick in the lottery.
You’ll never guess who the franchise picked with that first overall pick.
The truth is, no matter what the Cavaliers brass may think, this team is not going to win as it's built. Even trading for Gerald Wallace or some other small forward won’t make a real difference.
If this Cavaliers team, built around the best player in basketball today, couldn’t win a championship, what makes you think the addition of a lesser star is going to put it over the top?
The best chance for the Cavaliers to win games is to find the next LeBron James and (fun fact) those are rarely available in trades or free agency. Plus, Cleveland is not exactly the destination of choice for many NBA players.
The only way Cleveland will find the next LeBron James is in the draft, and it will need a high pick in order to find one. No matter how painful it is, in order to rebuild in basketball, you have to lose a ton of games.
The mistake many a franchise makes is not fully embracing the rebuilding process. If a team tries to rebuild and compete at the same time, all it ends up doing is wallowing in mediocrity, either missing the playoffs or only making it to the first round.
This strategy makes a franchise never get a high draft pick, not allowing it to get the sort of impact player that can turn its fortunes around.
The difference between the first and 13th overall pick is the difference between Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough in 2009, John Wall and Ed Davis in 2010, and LeBron James and Marcus Banks in 2003. Who would you rather build around?
It is harder to find stars lower in the draft in the NBA than in the NFL or MLB, which makes getting a high draft pick critical to the rebuilding process. While the massive amount of losing this year is painful for Cavaliers fans, it’s the quickest way to having a winning team again.
So embrace the losing Cavs fans. Embrace the 55-point loss to the Lakers. Embrace the fact that the team is capable of scoring only 57 points. It’s the only way to turn things around.