With a 19-63 record, the Cleveland Cavaliers sank to new lows this past season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers 2010-2011 season could not get any worse. When LeBron James left town, he seemed to take the heart of an entire city with him. Ravaged by injury, the Cavs stumbled to a 63-loss season, a record-breaking losing streak and officially ended the King James era.
There were some subtle wins, however. Save for a few games, the Cavs played hard and carved out a few quality wins, including a win against the world champion Los Angeles Lakers, a victory against the Miami Heat and two against my New York Knicks.
On top of that, management made some astute personnel moves, the most impressive being trading for the under-achieveing Mo Williams for ex all-star and a first-round pick. That pick ended up becoming the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, giving Cleveland the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in June. This brings us to this point. Given the opportunity to rebuild, here are the steps to take this summer to return this franchise to respectability:
Derrick Williams wowed scouts in the NCAA tournement and could be the best talent in the 2011 draft.
Just Cleveland's luck that they grab the first pick in a weak draft. With very few "sure things," many are calling this year's draft class the worst since the draft of 2000 where Mike Miller earned Rookie of the Year honors. The first pick does give the Cavaliers some options, however, and they really need to do their due diligence and maximize the pick. That is why trading it is the way to go, and there are two franchises they could turn to deal with.
The overwhelming favorite to go No. 1 this year seems to be Kyrie Irving. Irving looks like a quality NBA point guard: smart, good size, high basketball I.Q. Problem is he appears more Andre Miller than Derek Rose, solid, but unspectacular. Plus, as funny as it sounds, point guard may be the Cavaliers strongest position with the aforementioned Davis and the often underrated Ramon Sessions sharing the duty. Obviously, neither is a long-term solution, but both are serviceable.
Enter the Timberwolves. The Minnesota Timberwolves own the second pick, just missing the opportunity to pick first despite having the worst record in the NBA. They went point guard crazy two years ago, drafting three in the first round, but still have a major hole at that position. The T-Wolves might jump at the opportunity to grab the Duke product.
Trading the first pick for the second and a player (push for Spanish product, Ricky Rubio, but maybe grab last year's first-rounder, Wes Johnson) could help bolster their talent. The pick they receive could then be used to draft athletic forward, Derrick Williams. The 6'8" forward amazed scouts in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament with his deft outside touch and unique combination is size and athleticism.
This scenario works two-fold. If the Cavs pull of the trade, the great point guard of the future that the can actually afford to wait on in Rubio and an athletic scoring prospect with a high ceiling in Williams.
Another possibility could reside in L.A. The Clippers drafted Eric Bledsoe with the 18th pick last year, but he was inconsistent at best. Pairing a quality point man with Blake Griffin is certainly a priority and could possibly land you all-star center Chris Kaman. The oft-injured Kaman is a quality scorer and rebounder who could really help the struggling Cleveland offense. While he, in no way, would be a top pick in any draft, he would fit in nicely with young power forward J.J. Hickson and rugged center Anderson Varejao.
Brandon Knight figures to be the secong point guard selected in the 2011 draft.
The biggest reason why it is so easy to pass on Irving is because the odds say Brandon Knight will fall in your lap at No. 4. To reiterate, there are probably no superstars in this draft. Brandon Knight, however, grades out as a comparable prospect. Lean and athletic, Knight figures to be a combo type guard in the League with a relatively high ceiling. While not having the savvy Irving flashed at Duke, Knight is the more explosive athlete and actually played last year. The step down from Irving may not be as steep as some think.
Always looking at the worst case scenario (which with the Cavs should always be the case), Utah could snatch Knight at No. 3. This would leave Enes Kanter as the next prospect on the board. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Kanter. Many compare him to Luis Scola, the grizzled big man possessing a soft shooting touch and a basketball high I.Q. Truthfully, if Knight is off the board, Kanter would be a great consolation prize here. The Cavs need to build up their talent base this summer and getting either would go a long way in doing that. Drafting Kanter here would slightly change the blueprint here, but we'll get to that a little later.
Anderson Varejao's gritty play has earned him high trade value throughout the NBA.
With a 19-win season, it would appear that Cleveland had no talent. The truth is Cleveland had little talent, but possessed a few assets: namely, Baron Davis, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao.
Baron Davis has been a frustrating figure. Supremely talented, Baron has been inconsistent throughout his career. A two-time all-star, Davis often starts the season out of playing shape and ends the season on the disabled list. Davis, even now, can explode for huge nights, and when motivated, can change a game. He's always been a quality citizen and could be an asset for a contending team looking for a short-term upgrade (Lakers...). The Davis deal was already a coup, netting the first pick overall. Getting anything of value would be icing on the cake here.
Antawn Jamison has always been a solid scorer in the NBA. While many often seen as a non factor, Jamison carries a 19.7 ppg avg with the ability to score without plays being called for him. Even at his advanced age, he still can put the ball in the basket and has been a true professional throughout his12 seasons. Best of all, Jamison's $15 million-plus contract expires after the 2012 season, which is a huge chip in the pocket of the Cavaliers. Watch for a contending team with a high payroll and a closing window looking for bench help (the Spurs come to mind) to make some calls.
Varejao is probably a keeper. Signed throughout the 2015 season, Andy's contract is a hefty one (about $8 million a year). The 6'11" center, however, holds significant value throughout the league. The 28-year-old is a defensive specialist and averaged a career-high 9.7 rpg before succumbing to an ankle injury midseason. He has been dependable and could definitely play a part in the Cavaliers' furture.
The only caveat to this is if the Cavs draft Kanter and trade for Kaman. In this scenario, Varejao becomes expendable and might demand a sizable package on the open market. Although I am sure the Cavs would prefer to hold on to Andy, a deal for him may fetch them talent that will help them in the rebuilding phase.
Bryon Scott is a proven coach in the NBA earning coach of the year honors in 2008.
Byron Scott is a winner, plain and simple. He guided a struggling New Jersey Nets franchise to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2001 and 2003. He was named Coach of the Year in 2008, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 56-win season. Most impressively, he took on the challenge of taking the reins of the Cavaliers at their lowest point in franchise history and gave the team an identity. The franchise needs to be patient, as this is a total and complete rebuilding project. Expect growing pains, as Scott is a notorious taskmaster. Patience is a virtue, however, and the Cavs have no other choice but to let Scott put his signature stamp on the franchise. Quite honestly, there are few better equipped for the task.