The Cavaliers have selected Justin Harper with the 32nd pick of the draft. Our profile on Harper can be found here. I am fine with this pick.
Yes, I know the bylines here are very small. And I know the masthead that I asked my site designer, Spencer Hall, who has built the look of this site from the ground up for absolutely no money and deserves favorable mention from me at any possible time I can give it to him, to have removed a few minutes ago said “By John Krolik.” (If any of you remember, the pre-Spencer site looked like garbage, and for some reason, none of the post titles could have capital letters in them.)
However, it should be pretty clear by now that while I was the only person writing here for a while, that is now anything but the case. I should have had the masthead changed when Tom Pestak first came aboard as links editor, but I am lazy and didn’t want to bother Spencer, because, again, he does everything for free and I feel guilty asking him to do things.
I am making this announcement because a a lot of people on twitter and in the comments section thought I wrote Colin’s piece from last night, which was called “the best thing anyone’s written in a while,” “maybe my (meaning John Krolik’s) best post,” and “John Krolik at his best.” Obviously, that is something I’d like to avoid in the future. Sometime when it isn’t midnight, I’ll probably set up a separate twitter account for Cavs: The Blog so that every article doesn’t tweet under my twitter handle, and I’m already making some site fixes that I should have made months, if not years ago, to make it more obvious that this blog is now very much a team operation.
Tom, Ryan, Colin, Kevin, and Mo have all done or are doing tremendous work for this site, and deserve far more credit for whatever cache it holds at this current moment than I do, to say the least. It makes me very sad when they do not get the credit they deserve for a piece they write so please: even though they’re small read the byline on each piece written on this blog. Thank you for your patience. As a reward, here is the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Karen O is awesome. Now go read Colin’s piece and realize that he wrote it.
Clementine: I had you pegged, didn’t I?
Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
Clementine: Hmm. Probably.Joel: I still thought you were gonna save my life… even after that.
Clementine: Ohhh… I know.
Joel: It would be different, if we could just give it another go-round.
Clementine: Remember me. Try your best; maybe we can…
…Joel: I don’t see anything I don’t like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will, and I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that’s what happens with me.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
So here we are, eight years later. After all the hope, the triumph, the heartbreak, the bitterness, and a truly awful season of basketball, we return again to the beginning. The #1 pick in the draft.
Only this time, the team is prepared like it wasn’t before. The 2nd player the Cavs take in this draft will be considerably better than Jason Kapono. Anderson Varejao isn’t Carlos Boozer or Ricky Davis. This time, the team is ready to do things the right way from day one.
Of course, Kyrie isn’t LeBron. Maybe that’s the best part, more likely the worst one. But the team has the best thing it could have hoped for: a fresh start. Here are a few more scattered thoughts:
- Kyrie Irving is the guy. I hope there will be no real debate on this. He’s one of two players in the draft with both great production and great athletic tools, and he’s the one with a position. And it happens to be the most important position on the floor.
The “rap” on Irving is that he doesn’t have “superstar potential,” but ever since those new hand-check rules went into effect, hyper-fast guards who know how to score have been consistently surprising people. Marvin Williams was supposed to have more star potential than Chris Paul. A lot of people thought Beasley had more star power than the reigning MVP.
I’m expecting Irving to be “safe,” meaning he’ll step in and flirt with top-10 point guard status fairly soon, but I think he has a better chance of being one of the best players in the league in three or four years than most people do. I am absolutely itching for the Kyrie Irving era to begin in Cleveland.
- I cannot stress enough how important patience will be going forward. Kyrie can be built around, and the team has some pieces in place, but this team will be a work in progress for at least another year, and it must be treated as such. We learned that lesson at the expense of the poor Clippers tonight.
The Clippers made what seemed like a completely logical trade at the deadline: they cut salary and traded for a point guard whose skills compliment those of their budding franchise player’s. It ended up blowing up in their face, hard, to the point where I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt that the Cavs prevented the Irving/Gordon/Griffin era from launching in Clipperland. (Not a huge twinge, especially since that team isn’t going anywhere until they can get a coach who will make Blake buy in on defense, but a twinge.)
The point isn’t that the Clippers made an indefensible trade: they made their bet after flopping a set with a rainbow flop on the board, the Cavs had two spades in their hand, and they ended up hitting a flush on the river. (My poker is a bit shaky, but I’m pretty sure the odds of the Cavs coming out with that pick were even worse than what I just described.)
The point isn’t that the Cavs’ 2.9% chance ended up coming through — it’s that the Clippers, a team in no position to make a legitimate playoff run in the next season or two, made a move that took away from their upside for a short-term gain.
Teams in the Cavs and Clippers’ position should NEVER, EVER DO THAT. The move blew up in the Clippers’ face in the lottery in reality — maybe it would have ended up blowing up if the pick they traded turned into the 8th pick, and Jan Vesely ended up becoming an absolute monster.
The point is that the Clippers should know about far Mo Williams, Vinny Del Negro, Blake Griffin, and Eric Gordon are going to take them, and Griffin and Gordon are good enough so that they should have dared to aim higher and been willing to risk one or two years of underperforming the kind of expectations a talent like Griffin brings. The Clippers’ pick revitalized the Cavs’ franchise — they lesson they should learn from the trade that got it will be just as important.
- Next season is not the season. The season after that may not be the season. But there is progress that can be made, and it’s progress that should be made at the correct pace. I’m actually hoping for a 35-win season next year, with about 12 games where Irving goes off, everything clicks, and we see the team’s potential, which will lead to another high draft pick in a better draft before the team really gears up to become a contender in the East again.
- As for the #4 pick, I really have no idea at this point. (DARN YOU, HARRISON BARNES.) Walker and Knight are the guys I feel best about overall, but that would be a crowded backcourt, and there’s only room for one point guard. Valanciunas and Kanter are both question marks, and I have concerns about the former’s ability to stretch the floor for Andy and the latter’s athleticism. Biyombo and Andy would make a heck of a defensive frontcourt, and I can see using Hickson in spurts to make them both work, but he’d be a bit of a reach. Vesely fits a need, but he’s both a question mark and a reach.
All I really have to say about the #4 pick is that the Cavs should go with fit ONLY AS A TIEBREAKER. The team isn’t good enough to be all that concerned about fit yet. If they feel strongly that one player will be objectively better than another, that’s the player they should take, regardless of position. I call this the “Take Al Horford instead of Mike Conley” rule, because I’m too nice to call it the “Trade down and take Martell Webster instead of Chris Paul because you already have Sebastian Telfair” rule.
As the Cavs look to rebuild, I think the Thunder/Bulls model is the one they should be following. Neither team rushed its rebuilding process or forced any short-term moves, and now they’re built around:
- Offensive weapons at the point who can both score and run the offense (Assuming Irving pans out, check.)
- Wing players who can be relied on as scoring threats (GAPING HOLE — DARN YOU, HARRISON BARNES.)
- Great defensive frontcourts who can finish what guards and wings create offensively(halfway there with Varejao, and the #4 pick could be huge for filling this hole)
- A coach who has a system from day one, especially on defense, and has a plan for how his team wins basketball games. (I have my doubts about Byron Scott — extreme doubts — but I’m willing to see what he can do with a real basketball team.
Great role players are important as well, but those are the main things, and they can’t be forced. The Cavs are still missing a frontcourt piece and a major wing piece, and need a better system than the one they had next year. Those things won’t happen overnight, and the Cavs’ management shouldn’t try and make them.
That’s all I have for tonight. This is a great night, because for the first time in a long time, it really feels like tomorrow will be a brighter day for the Cavaliers. Remember that feeling as the season progresses.
It is once again hiring time here at Cavs; The Blog, which really excites me because I got a TON of really, really good applicants both times I asked if anyone wanted to be links editor, and could only choose one person each time.
As you are all aware, the story of this off-season for the Cavs will be the draft. Two lottery picks, and one of those will be at the very top of the draft. So draft coverage is going to be important. Unfortunately, I don’t really watch college or international basketball, so I always feel a bit out of the loop when doing draft profiles. With the two picks in the lottery, there really should be comprehensive profiles of the top 15 prospects on this site before the draft, and I’m not the one to do them.
So I’m reaching out to you guys. If there are any college basketball fanatics or international ball gurus out there, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject line “Cavs: The Blog Draft Expert” with some brief info about yourself and why you’re interested, as well as a sample of your writing if you have it. (Don’t be discouraged from applying if you don’t have a sample, but it would be helpful if you do.) I look forward from hearing from you guys, and go ping-pong balls!
The Cavaliers are atrocious. There is little quibbling over this fact. It has been confirmed in a painful fashion since late November, when a 106-87 undressing courtesy of the Celtics sent the Cavs into a tailspin in which they lost 36 of their next 37, many by embarrassing margins. Though their play has since improved, one could argue that on paper, they should lose every single game they play. The worst aspect of suffering through a season so bleak is the monotony of watching this team three or four times a week. It’s like being trapped in isolation; one grows delusional and begins to follow these threads of delusion for the sheer want of something to do. Once Eyenga learns how to shoot, play defense, and hones those passing skills, he’s going to be unstoppable! Fans of every team do this to an extent, but happy forecasts are the vice of the miserable fan. This is because an abysmal team extinguishes the realistic chance of victory on a nightly basis. Like the death of a friend might cause one to imbibe, an unceasing string of double-digit losses will force fans to scout their young players’ games for burgeoning skills and scour the college ranks for a savior.
A hefty amount of Greek literature (at least the texts that have survived this long) discusses Eros, primordial god of sexual love and beauty. Because most of humankind strives for such things, there is a strong link between Eros and desire, to the point where the deity’s name and the term have grown together, like the intertwined roots of a timeworn tree. Fragment 130 from the poet Sappho characterizes Eros in stark terms: “Eros the melter of limbs (now again) stirs me– / sweetbitter unmanageable creature who steals in.” This is one of the most apt descriptions of the sensation. Desire is a phenomenon which infects us. It melts us and stirs us and while we might writhe uncomfortably throughout, when the experience ends, we wish it would not have ceased and immediately leave off in search of something that will perform the process on us again. It’s this thirst for desire’s turbulence that causes some of us to suffer from drug or gambling or sex addiction. For many more of us, it’s a large part of the reason we love sports.
As a passionate fan of most NBA teams, one’s chief desire is to watch their team win on a regular basis. As a fan of an elite NBA team, one’s desire is devoted not just to wins, but to the acquisition of a championship. As a fan of a cellar dweller like the Cavaliers, your desire is a source of confusion. You want J.J. Hickson’s jumpshot to improve. You want Christian Eyenga to play smarter on the defensive end. You want these things to not happen during the season because you want the team to lose, so they can draft the player you want—Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker—and you want that player to be terrific. This is weird because, as a fan, you have literally no control over any of these things. If you are desirous towards a man or woman you work with, you may be able to win their affection through intelligence or charm or humor. J.J. Hickson’s jumpshot will improve or not improve based on his talents and the amount of time he spends developing those talents; you are powerless to alter it one way or the other. We use “we” when we refer to our favorite teams, but, despairingly, that “we” indicates only the pain or joy we feel due to decisions and events we cannot influence.
It would be easy to feel panicked in this situation. And while desire encapsulates angst and worry, panic is distinctly unpleasant. So, you want something to assuage this panic and prove to you the things you cannot control are being performed by trustworthy individuals. A Celtics fan may experience cottonmouth in the final moments of a tight playoff matchup, but they do not panic. Paul Pierce has hit that pull-up jumper from the elbow before. Ray Allen knows how to come off a double screen and knock down a clutch three. If you leave Big Baby open, there’s a good chance he will make you pay. Familiarity breeds solace.
In 2011, there is no championship for the Cavaliers to win; there are no playoff games for which we need a 4th quarter assassin. We need a future before any of those things are possible. GM Chris Grant will be the architect of that future, and he has done little to encourage Cavs fans to place trust in him. This is through no fault of his own. He’s just the new guy; we will learn more of his strengths and weaknesses over the coming years. It’s difficult to know how much input he had on the Cavaliers’ front office decisions over the five years he spent working under Danny Ferry (Dan Gilbert, upon his promotion, characterized him as “instrumental in a lot of things we’ve done”), though he obviously acquired enough influence that the Cavaliers felt comfortable handing him the keys. Since he has become the face of the Cavs’ front office, the only major transaction he has made was, by consensus, “good”: a top 10 pick in exchange for a couple role players and the burden of a talented underachiever with a lousy contract.
One wonders whether this top 10 pick will be a starter or all-star; if he will be overwhelmed by the NBA and end up balling in Greece with an ancient Sasha Pavolovic; or if he will desert us at the peak of his powers. Because that’s all one can do: wonder and hope. Maybe write an overlong blog post. The only certainty for a Cavalier fan is that this team will be constructed without their consultation. If the Cavs draft the next Darko with the fifth pick, we are afforded remarkably useless tools of dissent: boos and profanity. Anger will grow in desire’s stead.
But hope is a mysterious power. Battered as Cavaliers fans are, one dreadful season cannot drain us of our hope. We have experienced the euphoria of serendipity too recently to forsake hope. Drunk with its fervor, I send a plea into the ether of cyberspace, perhaps into the ears of someone who can help: build us a future. Build us a young team with talent and promise for whom we can desire victory. Give us look out for us next year! Then develop those players and add energy guys and bench scorers and athletic defenders who nail open corner threes. Build us a team for whom we can desire a playoff run. Build us a team that pushes a better one to seven games. Build us a team that exceeds expectations. Then add a final piece. A late-round draft pick, a reclamation project, a veteran who sets screens and rebounds. Give us a team for whom we can desire a championship. A team that melts our limbs. A team down four with three minutes left in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals. Give us desire, and let it render us dizzy and furious and barely swimming in its spirit-rendering sap.
There are two ways to look at this. One is good, and one is less good.
The Good Way: The Cavs traded cap flexibility and Mo Williams for a lottery pick
The Cavaliers are terrible this year. They will likely be terrible next year as well. The only way the Cavs were going to be able to dig their way out of this hole was to give up their current assets for draft picks, and they did that. Mo Williams is a name, and his spot-up shooting ability makes him attractive to good teams. However, he was exposed this season. He cannot create his own shot consistently, his defense is porous, and he cannot get into the paint.
As bad as Baron Davis may/will be in Cleveland, he will not be significantly worse than Mo Williams was. He will cost the Cavaliers cap flexibility, but we don’t know what that will mean after the new CBA gets done. Also, Gilbert has shown that he is willing to spend money, copious amounts of money, on the team. A buyout or something similar may be in Baron’s future.
The bad news is that the Clippers only traded their pick because they believe, as most do, that this will be a very weak draft. Still, the draft is not an exact science, and it still represents the Cavs’ best chances to find the players that will bring them back to respectability. In order to save this franchise, the Cavs’ scouting staff is going to have to hit two home runs in a draft with few sure-fire prospects. No pressure, guys.
The Less Good Way: The Cavs just traded for Baron Davis
Ramon Sessions’ play at the point was essentially the only good thing the team had going for it. Now Ramon has just lost his starting spot to a low-efficiency chucker whose passing ability and savvy in transition play mean he only works on offense if he is surrounded by talented offensive players. He will not be surrounded by talented offensive players in Cleveland. Baron is still a fast-break virtuoso, but I don’t see that making up for all the quick-trigger threes he’ll almost certainly be firing in Cleveland.
Baron is a guy who doesn’t play well in bad situations, and situations don’t get much worse than the one in Cleveland. And he’ll be taking the starting job of the one guy who was playing his butt off every night (at least offensively) and making the Cavs look like a competent offensive unit. I have watched Baron Davis. I know Baron Davis. I named my first blog after Baron Davis. Based on the last decade or so of Baron Davis’ career, he is exactly the wrong guy to turn Cleveland around. And the Cavaliers now owe Baron Davis just under 42 million dollars over the next three years.
One more thing: The hypocrisy is ridiculous
I understand hating LeBron James. I respect hating LeBron James. I have mixed feelings about this team, at its highest levels, sending an official “screw LeBron James” message, and those feelings are even more mixed now. Yes, LeBron has an ego. Yes, LeBron made it about him rather than about Cleveland when he left. Yes, LeBron could have tried harder when the Cavs were getting blown out in game five. It’s fine to harbor resentment about those things, even though LeBron is the best player in the history of the franchise. I understand tearing down your LeBron posters and putting up posters of guys like Big Z.
What I don’t understand is how burning LeBron James jerseys and buying Baron Davis jerseys is anything other than cheering for laundry. Baron Davis has all the talent in the world, and he has made a CAREER out of putting his ego above the game and quitting on his teams. He shows up to camp out of shape. He launches threes and jogs back on defense instead of running the offense. He does everything he can to keep himself in the spotlight and the bare minimum to keep his teams competitive. And he shot 11-32 in the last two games of the Warriors/Jazz series.
And don’t get me started on Antawn Jamison, who plays offense like a 6-9 Nick Young and doesn’t play defense. You want to call LeBron a quitter? Antawn quits on defense EVERY FEW POSSESSIONS. OF EVERY GAME. And nobody says boo. And Jamison and Davis are now the faces of this new, post-LeBron, pure Cleveland franchise. Sure, the team might suck, but at least it has a moral code: “If you’re going to be selfish and not work that hard, that’s fine. Just don’t prove yourself to be really, really good at anything before you screw up, because then people are really going to hate you. Just be adequate. It’s alright to treat your girl bad, so long as she’s the one you came to the dance with.”
This is not my favorite basketball season of all time. But now the team has hope for the future. And Baron Davis. Until later, campers.
I semi-accidentally triggered a “why are the Cavaliers THIS BAD?” discussion with my last post. In the comments, there was a lot of talk about how the Cavs’ epic futility has occurred because they built their team around LeBron, and the team is now hopelessly rudderless without him.
There is a grain of truth in that. The Cavaliers arranged their talent around LeBron, because that was the best/only option really available to them. However, that glosses over the fact that LeBron prevented the Cavaliers from accumulating talent. He did not do this by being evil or failing to commit long-term to Cleveland in order to convince Trevor Ariza to join the team. He did this by making the Cavaliers significantly better very fast, and very good for a number of years. This gave the Cavs fewer chances to add real talent through the draft, and the Cavaliers blew the chances they did have.
Think of team-building as a very basic mathematical concept. Trades are made when each team is getting something of theoretically equal value — therefore, a trade can only rearrange the overall talent level of a team to best suit its goals. Free-agency is nice, but big free-agency opportunities are few and far between — remember that Shaq is the only max free-agent signing to have won a championship with the team that signed him. (To date, that is. Yes, the Heat have a chance of joining the Lakers as the only team to craft a dynasty through free agency. And remember that they got Caron and Odom in the Shaq trade, traded Caron for Kwame, and flipped Kwame’s contract for Gasol — the initial capital all came from that Shaq coup.)
And as I’ve said before on this blog, teams that spend money in free agency are the ones that already have solid talent “cores” — teams are not good because they spend money. Teams spend money because they are good. The Cavs’ big post-LeBron acquisitions were Mo Williams, Shaq, and Antawn Jamison. They got those players for almost nothing, because the teams those three players played for did not feel they were worth paying the remaining value of their contracts. There are reasons for that.
On a fundamental level, the only real way to really and truly add talent is through the draft. This is a fairly basic concept. If you do not have good players or prospects, other teams will not trade you good players or prospects. If you do not have good players or prospects, it makes little sense to spend money on free agents. The only reliable way to acquire good players or prospects is through the draft.
Even a team like the Celtics, which was seemingly built on trades, relied on the draft. They drafted Paul Pierce, bought the draft rights to Rondo, traded a top-5 pick for Ray Allen, and traded Al Jefferson (considered an all-time steal at #14) for KG. With very, very, few exceptions, team-building always comes back to the draft. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the Cavaliers have used their post-LeBron draft picks to acquire:
2003: Jason Kapono, pick #32 overall. Lost to Charlotte in the expansion draft.
2004: Luke Jackson, pick #10 overall. For more on that, read my full writeup.
2005: No picks. (Effectively) traded their 1st-round pick for Jiri Welsch (click here for more) and their 2nd-round pick for Anderson Varejao.
2006: Shannon Brown, pick #25 overall. Eventually traded away as a throw-in to the Ben Wallace trade. Daniel Gibson, pick #42 overall. With Andy out for the year, Boobie is the best player on the team. This was a great pick.
2007: THIS FIRST-ROUND PICK WAS ALSO TRADED FOR JIRI WELSCH.
2008: J.J. Hickson, #19 overall pick. That’s been a roller-coaster ride.
2009: Christian Eyenga, #30 overall pick. Starting to look like a rotation player, maybe. Team also got Danny Green, who they later cut.
2010: Pick traded for Antawn Jamison.
Note: if anyone has an easy way to keep track of where all the Cavs’ 2nd-round pick went, I’d appreciate it, because it’s hard to keep tabs on exactly what the Cavs spend their 2nd-rounders on. Also, I am aware that the Cavs still have the rights to Sasha Kaun.
I mean, yikes. Eyenga, Gibson, and Hickson are the only rotation players the Cavs have managed to draft post-LeBron, and Jamison is the only rotation player, current or former, that the Cavs managed to get for a traded pick. That’s a miserable showing for six years of drafting. Oh, and the Cavs took their big free-agency shot at Larry Hughes.
Again, part of this is because LeBron made the team too good to fast. The Thunder got to rebuild with four top-five picks in three years, starting with the Durant draft in 2007. If the Cavs had the #3 pick in 2005, they would’ve gotten Chris Paul or Deron Williams. In fact, lets’ do this exactly (no CP3 over Deron): The Thunder drafted Jeff Green #5 in 2007: if the Cavs had the #5 pick in the 2003 draft, LeBron and Wade would’ve been Cavaliers from day one. And Deron Williams would have joined them when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2005. (Shaun Livingston in 2004 would have been a tough break, but no cheating.) Think about that for a while. By not carrying his team to a respectable record for the first two years of his career, Durant prevented himself from having to make an uncomfortable exodus to greener pastures later on. He really has done everything right, hasn’t he?
If they’d sucked in 2004, they might have actually snagged Dwight Howard. Now that’s the kind of young core that would have kept LeBron here forever. Instead, their success forced them to have to look for a Kobe-like minor miracle in the late lottery or full-blown Ginobili miracle in the later picks, and those aren’t easy to come by.
Why do the Cavaliers suck? It’s not because they built around LeBron. It’s not because they didn’t build around LeBron. The Cavs acquired an asset who wouldn’t have fit around LeBron without having to give up significant talent this off-season. His name is Ramon Sessions. You have been basking in his glory. The Cavaliers suck because the draft is the best way to acquire significant assets, the Cavaliers acquired one significant asset through the draft in the last seven years (Boobie is maybe .5 of a significant asset — what teams would give up a #1 pick for him? Consider that the #15 draft pick is an average 1st-round pick), and that significant asset left last summer. That’s why this team is historically terrible. That’s the story here, folks. Nothing less, nothing more. Until next time.
Wow. According to the AP, Varejao has a torn ankle tendon and may be done for the year. Obviously, this is completely devastating. Not only was Andy the team’s best player and the only guy playing any defense, but he was the only truly attractive trade asset the Cavs had. Keeping Andy isn’t the worst thing in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but trading him for the right package could have really helped the team rebuild in earnest.
Well, not much more to say here. The worst team in basketball just lost its best player. Lord only knows how much lower the Cavs will sink now. Never say things can’t get worse, right?