DON'T LAUGH, IT MIGHT BE EASIER THAN YOU THINK: A FREE-AGENCY BATTLE PLAN FOR THE CLEVELAND CAVS

Who didn’t feel bad for Cavs fans last summer, when their favorite son broke up with them in the most public fashion anyone could possibly imagine?

Apparently the basketball gods did.  As if losing LeBron to free-agency wasn’t punishment enough, the Cavs decision to trade Maurice Williams for that fat, disinterested, salary cap (among other things) eating bum, Baron Davis seemed like adding insult to injury. Why trade two solid, reasonable paid veterans (Jamario Moon was included in the deal) for an unmotivated has-been with two years and 29 million dollars left on his contract? Doesn’t make a ton sense, right?

Well, those aforementioned Basketball gods must have felt they deserved a break. How else to explain the fact that the Cavs won the Draft Lottery with the pick they got from the Clippers (a pick the Clips included a chaser to help them to better swallow the bitter pill that was Davis’ contract), despite having less than a 3% chance to do so?

Just like that, Cleveland was sitting in the catbird seat on draft night, owners of two of the top four picks. In the blink of an eye, they went from having Baron Davis as the face of their franchise (yikes) to having Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, two young building-blocks and potential franchise players.

Pretty lucky, I’d say.

RIGHT MOVE


Kiss that gift horse right on the mouth


Like I said, this team got pretty damn lucky. It’s not every day you get the #1 pick in the draft more or less donated to you. Now, these guys find themselves in the same situation Oklahoma City was in 2 years ago, when GM Sam Presti decided to blow the team up on draft night and start over with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green and almost nothing else. Pretty amazing.

If the three superstar model is all the rage in the NBA these days, Cleveland might just be two-thirds of the way there right now. If that’s the case, all it will take is patience to find the third. In the meantime, they’ll be blessed with a metric ton of salary cap space this time next year, after Antawn Jamison’s 15 million dollars comes off the books and they use the amnesty clause to shed Baron’s (ahem) dead weight.

Just like that, you’re looking at a team with youth, cheap labor and more than a little potential. Add the fact that Anderson Varejao is still here for four more years, and damn if it doesn’t look like they could actually make some noise here.

Of course, it won’t be easy attracting big-ticket free agents to Cleveland, but it’s no longer a shot than winning last years’ lottery was.

WRONG MOVE


Impulse spending


The key here is all the money they’ll have to spend, and the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of worthy players to spend it on this year. The trick is to not be in a hurry. Yeah, there’s a few good players out there, but certainly no superstars, and definitely nothing like the bonanza we’ll be looking at next year. If there is a lesson to learn here, it would be the mistake Joe Dumars made with the Pistons in 2009, when he decided to spend his cap money a year early since he felt he wouldn’t be in the hunt for LeBron or Wade. Poor Joe went and spent a total of 90 million dollars on Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Detroit has a record of 57-107 in the last two years.

In other words, just because you’ve got the money to spend doesn’t mean you should.

BOTTOM LINE


Things look so much brighter than they did 12 months ago. The best thing you can sell to the fans of a beleaguered team is hope, and the Cavs have plenty of hope to sell with the additions of Irving and Thomspon. Trust me, they’re gonna take their lumps for the immediate future, but this could the beginning of a complete franchise rebirth.

-John Hathwell

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