When the Cleveland Cavaliers entered the 2010-2011 NBA season there were differing opinions around this league as to what the post-LeBron era team would become. Many people projected that the Cavaliers would win 20-30 games, some (like myself) thought they had enough veteran leadership to win 40 games and challenge for the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs. And one writer for Yahoo even predicted the Cavaliers would win just 12 games this season.
Now, the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in the midst of the longest losing streak in the history of the NBA, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Wait a second; did I really just say that I couldn’t be happier about my hometown team being 8-44?
I know it is a hard concept to grasp, but the Cavaliers being this bad is possibly the best thing that could have happened to the organization.
After a shortened off-season, thanks to LeBron’s late decision, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have time to make many moves. In fact, their biggest moves of free agency resided in the management structure of the team. Mike Brown and Danny Ferry left the team, while Byron Scott and Chris Grant were hired in their place. Oh, and let’s not forget the biggest free agent signing of the off-season, Joey Graham.
Despite replacing the team’s all-time leading scorer with Joey Graham, the Cavaliers organization remained highly optimistic going into the season. We all know about Dan Gilbert’s bold prediction of the Cavaliers winning a championship before the Heat, but what many of you don’t know is that this sentiment was actually felt throughout the entire Cavaliers’ organization.
Well, a 25 game losing streak (and counting) later and I think it is safe to say that a championship is the last thing on anyone’s mind in the Cavaliers’ organization. While Dan Gilbert may have believed that the core of Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams would lead the team to the playoffs, it has led the team to something better: Rebuilding.
Thanks to key injuries to Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker, and Leon Powe at some point in the season, the Cavaliers were forced to play their young players. Ramon Sessions, Manny Harris, and Christian Eyenga were forced into larger roles much sooner than anyone thought, and the group has produced with inspiring results.
Ramon Sessions has become the aggressive distributor that the Cavaliers have lacked at the point guard since the days of Andre Miller. He isn’t afraid to take the ball to the hole and draw the foul, which helps other guys on the team get open and learn their roles around him. He does turn the ball over due to his aggressiveness, but that is all a part of the learning curve for the 24 year old point guard.
Manny Harris, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Michigan, has given the Cavaliers hope at the shooting guard position for the first time in years. After saddling the fans with the likes of Anthony Parker, Larry Hughes and many others throughout the LeBron era, the Cavaliers may have found a gem in the undrafted rookie guard. In a three game stretch against Orlando, Miami, and Indiana, Harris averaged 20 points per game as the starting shooting guard for the Cavaliers.
And let’s not forget about the development of Christian Eyenga. The man that made Cavaliers fans all over the country say “who” when they took him with the 30th pick in the 2009 draft has shown a rapid development for the Cavs in his first season. He started out in the NBA D-League, but has become an integral part of this young, developing rotation. He often takes ill-advised three pointers, but has excellent slashing ability to go with his shot blocking and chase down defensive dominance.
And the biggest silver lining in the middle of this 25 game losing streak is that the Cavaliers will be forced to trade their veterans. It is something that doesn’t come easy to the fans because it essentially means the team is giving up on the season, but hey the hope of a winning season ended with a loss against the Miami Heat back in December.
The likes of Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, and Mo Williams are just a few of the Cavaliers veterans that could be on the move. Moving veteran players could bring a variety of important pieces for the rebuilding process. Those pieces are draft picks, young players, and expiring contracts. And let’s not forget that the Cavaliers still have a 14.5 million dollar trade exception that could net them an important young player or draft picks.
So while everyone else wallows in sadness and pity over being a Cavs fan stuck in a 25 game losing streak, there are brighter days ahead. With the possibility of a No. 1 overall pick in the draft and an opportunity to add additional first round picks through trades: the Cavaliers have put themselves in great position to right this ship quickly. With a young core of Sessions, Harris, Eyenga, and Hickson and the possibility of adding a young stud in the draft, Cavaliers fans should be excited for a new era of basketball. One that is focused on team play and the development of a group of young players right in front of the city of Cleveland’s eyes.