Geyer: The Cavs, again
Ellen Geyer | Monday, March 15, 2021
I live a life of perpetual frustration.
Every time things seem to be looking up for the Cavs, they take a turn for the worse again. But hey, I guess that’s just how it goes when you’re a Cleveland sports fan.
I don’t think it’s dramatic to say that the Cavs had nothing to lose at the outset of the 2020-2021 season. Having failed to qualify for the Orlando Bubble last year, the Cavs had a 10-month offseason — a span of time ideally for building up a young corps of players and developing better chemistry among veterans. Andre Drummond was acquired from Detroit in February 2020 in the hope of providing some perspective and experience to a directionless team. J.B. Bickerstaff replaced John Beilein as head coach. Isaac Okoro was picked up in the first round of the draft, and somehow Matthew Dellavedova made his way back to northeast Ohio. It was a revolving door of players and staff, all of whom made their way to provide some hope in a tumultuous period of rebuilding.
The Cavs haven’t had direction since LeBron left. The only relic that remains from his era is Kevin Love, who seems content returning to the NBA Finals in memory only. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin’s a great player (and an even better guy), but he’s simply not capable of putting the team on his back the way a certain 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward could. Unfortunately, this is not a reality that Dan Gilbert or any of the front office guys in Cleveland have been able to realize yet, so Love is stuck as the face of a franchise he doesn’t seem particularly interested in playing for anymore.
With Love past his prime, the Cavs have tried to turn to Larry Nance Jr., son of former Cleveland legend Larry Nance Sr. But Nance has yet to blossom into the storyline that he’s been pigeonholed into. As a power forward who’s been riddled with injuries, Nance is the only player left in a series of confusing 2018 trades the Cavs made in what seemed like an effort to rebuild. But with George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood all gone, Nance seems less like a viable player and more like the fragmented remains of a failed experiment.
The most promising prospects the Cavs have are their young bloods, namely Colin Sexton and Darius Garland, a point guard pair that does most of the heavy lifting on the scoreboard. But neither Sexton nor Garland seem prepared to be the face of the franchise, leaving a situation that is nothing short of confusing in Cleveland.
That leaves the Cavs with a bunch of half-baked players. Love knows how to win championships, but sometimes it seems like he can hardly get himself up and down the court. Nance has a great storyline going for him, but he’s never really broken out as the star player everyone hoped he would be. Sexton and Garland know how to play new-school ball, but they’re not ready to lead anyone besides themselves.
The Cavs are currently 14-24. They’re 13th in the Eastern Conference, 4-12 in their last 16, and some $19,000,0000 over the current 2020 NBA Salary Cap. With two more solid months of games ahead of them, Cleveland is going to have to do some serious introspection before the Mar. 25 trade deadline if they are to have any hope of a playoff appearance — or better yet, of some basketball that’s palatable. To that end, they have three big options:
- Get rid of Andre Drummond. Drummond has been a very consistent piece of the Cavs scoring machine, a true center who can rebound like he means it. But there have been rumors of a Drummond buyout deal with Los Angeles or Brooklyn, and if there’s one thing Cleveland has learned the hard way (read J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson), it’s that they can’t keep players around who don’t want to be there. The Lakers and the Nets have real money, and the Cavs could use the dollars to pick up a big man or two to fill the void Drummond would leave in the lane.
- Offload Kevin Love. Every time a trade deadline rolls around, Kevin seems to be on the chopping block. But years removed from the first rumors of a “Loveless” Cleveland, Kevin has not done much besides decline in value. Love represents an old era of Cavs basketball, and with his age and injury-prone body, sometimes it seems like he impedes growth more than he encourages it. It’d be nice if Cleveland could get rid of him while he still has some value; otherwise, he’ll continue to take up more cap space than he’s worth scoring-wise.
- Trade Larry Nance Jr. and a sixth man or two. Given that Nance hasn’t developed into the type of player the Cavs thought he could, it might finally be time to let him go. If Cleveland can sweeten the deal with the likes of Dylan Windler or Damyean Dotson, it might be worth their while — they could trade some frontcourt firepower for either cap space or future draft picks. Both of those things would contribute to the mission of building up a young team.
With all of that being said, I must conclude by admitting that things will not likely get better for the Cavs this year. If we’re lucky, we can expect a playoff-ready team in a season or two, but things have been confusing at best and catastrophic at worst in the aftermath of the LeBron era. But it’s only fair that they’re not doing well — after all, the Browns made the playoffs, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that miracles can only come one at a time in Cleveland.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.