Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
- Follow Amico’s Cavaliers and NBA coverage on SI.com - October 30, 2019
- Amico: Larry Bird called, and I almost wrecked - October 30, 2019
- Amico: McLeod offered friendship, support above all else - October 30, 2019
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 111-98 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
1. Kevin Love intends to play every game. Tristan Thompson is on the way. On paper and on the floor, the Cavs should be better. And that may not be good news.
2. Basically, the last thing the Cavs need to do is start winning. Every once in a while, it’s OK. Go ahead and beat the sad-sack Suns at home. Just make sure you don’t do it at their place.
3. Yes, I’m telling the Cavs to stay in the tank. Granted, that isn’t likely to be an issue. Even when the Cavs (13-46) try to win … well, the record speaks for itself. But let’s be honest, there are two, maybe three, captivating prospects in the upcoming draft. I’m talking about Duke’s Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. From what I hear, Murray State point guard Ja Morant looks a lot like Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard (though I have yet to see Morant play). He may belong in the conversation, too.
4. So it’s pretty important for the Cavs to get a top-three pick. Granted, the odds are basically even among the top four teams under the new lottery rules. Finishing with one of the three-worst records doesn’t really guarantee much. But it sure beats decreasing your odds by winning seven more games.
5. Now, this is a big change for me. In the previous non-LeBron James era, I despised the idea of not putting your best foot forward every game. Tanking is for losers, I would often say. It can have a terribly negative impact on culture and more often than not, it doesn’t work. Also, some of the league’s best players were drafted after the third pick — Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some other obvious ones.
6. Nonetheless, this year feels different. Why? Well, for one, coach Larry Drew has done a great job of keeping things upbeat in spite of all the losing. Yes, general manager Koby Altman and team owner Dan Gilbert deserve credit, too. There has been no drama, no selfishness and mostly, a group that typically plays hard. When you have one of the the worst records in the league, that’s all difficult to do. But the Cavs have found a way.
7. Secondly, the Cavs need an immediate contributor. They need a reason to feel good next season, win more games, add someone to Love, Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman to get the fans excited again. They can do that through two types of transactions — trades, and the draft. Let’s face it, big-time free agents aren’t coming to Cleveland. Not after a season like this.
8. It’s therefore vital for the Cavs to stay bad, really bad, so they can start to get good.
9. Again, I understand the need to keep Love involved and for Thompson to be a part of things. Thompson in particular has been a great locker-room guy this year, and still as relentless and energetic as ever on the court (when healthy). I also know the Cavs started the season 0-4 with those two on the floor.
10. Still, these Cavs are better than the team that started the year. The younger players have improved and the veterans will always play with pride. Drew has also said he isn’t in this business to lose on purpose. No one is. No one should be. But there are ways to make sure you don’t get too hot and win too much. And you do that by resting some of the best players.
11. It’s true that NBA commissioner Adam Silver despises the idea of tanking — or holding out players to make winning more difficult. It’s not a great look for the league. I get it. But if I’m the Cavs, I’m saying, “Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Commissioner. We’re going to do what we want. We’re going to do what’s best for the future of the franchise.”
12. Altman will be determined to make some trades this summer. He’ll really try to move exiled shooting guard J.R. Smith. He will probably make some calls about Thompson. He’ll listen when opposing teams ask about Love. He may even attempt to package some of those six second-round picks for another first-rounder (or two).
13. Mostly, when the lottery ends on the night of May 14, the Cavs want to say, “We’re No. 1.” At worst, they want to finish second. Third or worse? Well, the pick might suddenly become a trade asset. A lot will depend on the NCAA tournament, pre-draft workouts and several other factors that play a role in determining the rise and fall of the top prospects.
14. Either way, the Cavs just want to take care not to put themselves in position to win too many of these final 23 games. If it means sitting Love, so be it. If it means using the newfound “workload” excuse next to Thompson’s name on the injury report … so be it. For the rest of this year, there should be little winning in the standings. It should be about dreaming of the offseason possibilities, of a team that features the likes of Love, Sexton, Osman, a few others not yet on the roster, and a young man they call Zion.
15. Finally, I wrote more about the Cavs, Love, etc., following Thursday’s game. You can read that story here.