Geyer: Cavs, tank harder! Hope (Zion) is in sight!
Ellen Geyer | Tuesday, February 26, 2019
It’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers are not what they used to be.
After four-consecutive Eastern Conference titles, punctuated by a championship in 2016, the Cavs, after reaching the highest of highs, are now free-falling into the lowest of lows. With an abysmal record of 14-46 on the season (that’s 30 percent), Cleveland has officially descended to the bottom of the NBA — far, far out of the playoff picture — to a place that it hasn’t seen since LeBron’s glorious return to the club in 2014. With ‘The King’, the Cavs enjoyed a nice break from reality, and behind their Big Three — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — they clinched an elusive title and completely transformed their otherwise-struggling franchise.
But now, just a season after LeBron’s departure and two after Kyrie’s, the Cavs are right back to where they started — well below .500, with minimal star power and absolutely no semblance of leadership. In a season marred by both drama (cue J.R. Smith) and injury (cue K. Love), Cleveland has faced a fractured locker-room environment, with its issues of discord heightened only by its firing of head coach Tyronn Lue — the guy who led them to its four-straight Eastern Conference Titles and Finals appearances — and promotion of Larry Drew, its four-year assistant, who only has four years of experience as head honcho (at other franchises, no less).
Drew and his team have floundered the entire season, with a lowlight being their losing streak from December to January; a month-long struggle in which they lost 12 games in a row by an average of 18.08 points. Although they snapped the streak with a six-point win over Los Angeles (don’t get excited, LeBron was out with an injury), the Cavs’ struggles continued to manifest for the remainder of January, as they lost six straight after that win against L.A. to finish with a record of 1-18 during the mid-winter span.
But after their abysmal 19-game stretch, the Cavs seemed to have perhaps turned a corner, with the return of Kevin Love being a huge point of support for their efforts. Since Jan. 27, Cleveland has posted a record of 5-5 — something which, for its team, is a very big deal. Further, the team has won back-to-back games twice since then, something that it has only done one other time this season. With rookie guard Colin Sexton’s emergence as a more consistent player, and veteran center Larry Nance Jr.’s solid rebounding skills, the Cavs have elevated themselves from their spot as resident worst-in-the-league at 30th to 27th. And although I am pleased with their progress, at this point, I do wish that my beloved Cavs would just remain consistent and continue to lose games.
Why? Two words: Zion. Williamson.
Anyone who follows basketball — actually, anyone who follows sports at all — knows that Zion is one of the most, if not the most, elite college athletes in the world right now. At 6-foot-7, 284 pounds, the 18-year-old power forward has emerged as a force to be reckoned with all across college ball. With an NBA career looming on the horizon as Williamson will undoubtedly capitalize on the one-and-done rule, the LeBron-esque titan is almost irrefutably a lock as the first pick in the draft come June. And the first draft pick goes to the worst team in the league. Do you see where I’m going with this?
As Kevin Love continues to age, the Cavs are in desperate need of a new face for their franchise — a reliable young player to re-energize the city and pull the rest of the team up by its bootstraps. But, if the Cavs continue to win, they will find themselves one or two spots above a place where they have a feasible shot at getting the first pick — the pick they need to acquire Zion and rejuvenate their franchise. And although they could still get some unreal talent with a later pick in an R.J. Barrett or Ja Morant, these rookies would not give them the star power they need, and that a once-in-a-generation player like Zion would provide.
To put it nicely, the Cavs are facing a rebuilding year. But after a season of pain and suffering, I would like to see Cleveland back on top next season. Cavs — please lose more. It’s the only way that wins will be in sight.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.