The Cavaliers badly want to win without LeBron James.
They showed that when LeBron left for the Heat and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote in his infamous letter, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.” They showed that when they didn’t fully commit to chasing the 2018 championship, saving assets for a post-LeBron future. They showed that when they gave Kevin Love a big contract extension upon LeBron’s departure.
They’ve shown it everywhere but the court.
In the last 21 years, the Cavs’ worst season with LeBron (35-47 his rookie year) is better than their best season without him (33-49 in 2013-14). That includes a 19-46 finish last season.
Apparently, tolerance for rebuilding is already waning.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
The Cavs, who have sort of been at the bottom, from what I have understand, intend to move up. They intend to hit the gas a little bit.
Is this the Heat Effect? Not necessarily. Gilbert’s impatience predates Miami’s run to the Finals.
The Heat showed the value of winning. Its fulfilling on its own. It helps set a culture. It attracts free agents.
But Cleveland faces danger if trying to shortcut the process. The Cavs have two main mechanisms for external improvement:
No. 5 pick
If the right veteran is available for the mid-level exception, sure, sign him to a multi-year contract. If the right veteran is available for the No. 5 pick, sure, trade the selection.
That’s such a narrow needle to thread, though.
The Cavaliers were awful last season. Even with internal development from Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr., Andre Drummond helping over a full season and J.B. Bickerstaff eliminating the John Beilein drama… the Cavs have a long way to go before achieving meaningful success. They shouldn’t shortchange themselves in a future season – when they might be capable of winning – just to reach mediocrity next season.
I highly doubt there’s a justifiable win-now trade available for the No. 5 pick. Could an older free agent present so much value that it’s worth signing him to the full mid-level exception? Maybe.
Cleveland just ought to show caution while looking.