Hold the Rebuild in Cleveland

Lebron’s quiet exit marks the second time he has left the franchise. This time there was no televised “decision” special, just a low key announcement. This time Cleveland is in a better position than last time. A complete rebuild for the Cavs is unnecessary at this time. The current roster, while flawed shouldn’t finish near the bottom. Unlike the last time Lebron left, this time around they have more talent to work with.

The current players on the team are solid pros but lack a real playmaker. Lebron was the engine that made the team go, and without an elite playmaker this team becomes average at best. Kevin Love was an all-star in Minnesota, but is not a shot creator. The hope is that Collin Sexton is that player, however, it’s hard to tell with rookies.  Only time will tell.

Looking at the salary situation it appears that in the next few years keeping the core intact may be the best strategy in the short term due to salary commitments over the next few seasons.  Resigning Kevin Love is a clear indicator of the direction Cleveland plans to take.

For the most part, with the pressure to win a championship all but gone, it’s time for the Cavs to rebuild around Kevin Love with players that compliment his skill set.   My prediction this season for Cleveland is that they barely make the playoffs or just miss the postseason.

While the loss of Lebron hurts, at least this time nobody is burning jerseys, taking ads out, or publicly ripping Lebron. It’s a move that everyone saw coming after watching Lebron carry an average team to the finals. But this average team still has a few years ahead of them before a complete rebuild is required

Lebron James: Respect His Greatness

Like him or not, you have to respect Lebron’s greatness and his impact on the teams and the players around him after earning his eighth straight NBA finals appearance.

 

Some would say that the players on this year’s Cavalier team were subpar, but when you look at the roster carefully you had competent three point shooting in Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, and JR Smith. Athleticism in Larry Nance Jr. and solid role players such as Tristan Thompson and George Hill which essentially work out to a roster that matches Lebron’s unique skill set.

 

In order to get a to the finals a “Great” player must make other players around him better. Lebron has shown he can do that year after year. It’s not to say the players on his teams are below average, it’s more about his ability to get shooters going early in games or by finding open teammates for easy looks. He’s more Magic than Michael, looking to get is teammates going before taking games over. Often sacrificing his own offense to find an open teammate. Simply put, it’s time to actually acknowledge that Lebron is a great player and to appreciate what he brings to the game before he leaves it.

 

Kobe wasn’t everybody’s favourite player, but eventually you had to respect his competitiveness and work ethic. But this “respect” only came towards the end of his career.

 

When most players are slowing down, Lebron just keeps going. Constantly working, improving, and leading his teams to greatness each year.

 

Take a moment to finally appreciate him.

Smart Drafting

A bad season can get you a lottery pick, but smart drafting takes your team out of the basement and into the playoffs. The keys to smart drafting are: don’t draft for need, draft the best available player, stay away from projects (if you don’t have the coaching staff or minutes to allocate to them), don’t throw away picks, and finally luck.

No team hits a home run on every pick, and given the value of picks since the success of the  process you can’t overlook the pressure a team is under when the clock starts. Teams that continuously draft poorly risk compiling subpar talent.

 

Looking at the Suns for example you would think they need a center or maybe another guard. But that’s not the case. When you finish last or close to it you need the best player available.

 

The best player available at any given slot gives a team the talent base necessary to build a team. Think Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Was Greg Oden a better player? No. Did Portland need a center? Yes. Enter Greg oden. That didn’t work out well did it.

 

Projects are good and bad. This draft had a few, and if the team has the resources plus the right time to invest, the payoff is big. See Greek freak as an example.

 

When the resources aren’t there a team just hopes a guy shows up and plays. That doesn’t work out.  See Anthony Bennett on that one. I’m a Canadian, and had to go there. But Cleveland reached on him and just didn’t really give him the tools to succeed.

 

Adding future draft picks onto trades seems like a great idea but it could sink your team a few years down the road if your gambles don’t pay off. Brooklyn mortgaged their future and ended up gifting picks to Boston amongst others to field a team that didn’t put a single worthwhile banner in the rafters. Years later there is some light there, but it will be hard to get a franchise player without a lottery pick.

 

Finally, luck is a good thing for drafts. Particularly when you have players fall down the board that end up as all-stars.

 

So heading out of the draft, hope that your favourite team doesn’t end up making a few of the mistakes above.

Straight to the Pro’s

One and done is a complete waste of time, especially given these players are not planning to graduate. I think the NBA needs to work the NCAA to provide an avenue to use the g-league to better fit the needs of these players.

Here is what I propose:

-Take the top 15 prospects and have them try out for a team that will play in the g-league.

-Add the players that make the cut to a g-league team run by the NBA
-Provide coaching, instruction, and financial management courses

-Give players a max of two years on the team to get drafted.
-If the player is not drafted they can either stay in the g-league or go to college dependant on if the NCAA is onboard to help.

Most years the top 15 prospects don’t really change from pre-season to end of college season baring an injury, so why make those players play one year of college basketball to make someone else money when they should be allowed to make money off their own image and likeness? Moving these players out of college basketball will water down the college product but will allow those scholarships to be used on another player that will most likely stay with the program. But given the parity of college basketball this could be an even better move from a competitive standpoint since more teams will have a chance at a title.

My plan seems grand, and most likely will have a ton of critics, but I think giving a young player and option to pursue their dreams and possibly fall back on school seems like a “real” world thing to do. But why do something that makes sense for the “student” athlete.

The Raptors: Either all in, or Completely out

The Raptors had a excellent regular season, and had a top playoff seed to show for it. They had several consecutive seasons of improvement, but they either need to make a franchise changing move in the off-season, or quietly start retooling the roster for some “not so good” years (possible tanking).

 

The Raptors have created a solid team and developed their young players well. For all of the positives, there are couple issues that firing Dwane Casey won’t fix. Getting embarrassed by Lebron is not something that will change next season unless Lebron moves to the Western Conference. The lack of an elite wing talent is not something that you can put on Coach Casey. He worked with the pieces he had and did a admiral job with them, but the roster had a ceiling which they have reached. Given the play of Philly, Boston, and Lebron being in Cleveland, along with an emerging Milwaukee team all of a sudden you have some tangible roadblocks to repeating the record they had last season.

 

With zero cap space and zero draft picks going into next season. What’s next?

 

It’s time to consider making a trade, which Masai is completely capable of (see the Carmelo Anthony fleecing of the Knicks).

 

To compete, the Raptors need a top 15-20 talent. Kyle and Demar are a solid backcourt and are both all-stars, but it’s clear that they need to add an elite wing player who is able to create his own shot. Paul George would work, but may not be possible given the salary cap situation. The win by committee approach is fine in the regular season, but in the playoffs you need a player that could create and score of the bounce which just wasn’t happening consistently from the wing. OG has the tools to be solid, but depending on the next steps (win now, versus win later) could be replaced in the starting lineup.

 

On the flipside, the Raptors could prepare for a tear down. With only three players under contract in the 2020-21 season, that could be a good time to start a rebuild. The Raptors won’t finish last next season, but given the lack of guaranteed contracts past next season tanking could be a future move. Given the changing climate of tanking, actually finishing last may not help the Raptors. So for better or worse, the Raptors have to ride this out unless something major happens which is the hope, otherwise we will be treated to a finish between 3-5 and an early playoff exit before some real decisions are made in 2021.