Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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I’m not the general manager of an NBA basketball team and I don’t even play one on television.
But, as esteemed colleague Sam Amico points out in his excellent column, the time has come for first-year GM Koby Altman to save the Cavaliers.
After Cleveland sleepwalked its way through another going-through-the-motions effort, this one against the Toronto Raptors, which resulted in a 133-99 beatdown, it’s difficult, OK, all but impossible, to disagree with Sam’s conclusion.
So, that having been said, what are some possible avenues for Altman, the second-youngest GM in the NBA at age 35, to consider?
Besides the obvious answer — “any and all” — let’s doff our (fake) GM cap and get right to it.
* 1. Go “all in,” to borrow from the Cavaliers’ playoff mantra from a season ago, which means calling the New Orleans Pelicans and saying, “Aside from LeBron James, what will it take for us to pry DeMarcus Cousins loose?”
You say it would take Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in the 2018 draft to bring bookie to Cleveland?
It would require throwing in a couple guys to make the salaries match (hello, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert), but with the Pels treading water and fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, meaning a likely first-round wipeout at the hands of Golden State — and with Boogie headed toward unrestricted free agency next summer — who knows?
Reports are, New Orleans (20-20) is not entertaining offers, at least not at this time, for Cousins, but your (fake) GM would do whatever is necessary to make it impossible for the Pels to say no.
* 2. Along the same lines, failing Boogie, your (fake) GM feels its time to revisit the possibility of dealing for Paul George.
After coming this close to acquiring George last summer before the Pacers called off the deal at the last minute, PG13 was sent to Oklahoma City instead.
However, while the three-headed monster of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and George looked good on paper, it has not translated well to the hardwood.
The Thunder have lost three consecutive games and stand 22-20, placing them sixth in the Western Conference playoff race.
Playing just above the break-even mark was not what OKC had in mind when it dealt for George, who like Cousins, is headed to unrestricted free agency come summer.
The Brooklyn pick and some guys included to make the money work just might be enough to pry George from the Thunder, especially if their fortunes continue to trend downward.
Adding a two-way stud such as George would provide a tremendous upgrade for Cleveland. Inserting him into a frontcourt with James and Love would also allow Crowder to return to the role in which he appears to be best suited — coming off the bench.
George, while not a physically dominant force like Cousins, would provide the type of length and versatility necessary should a Round IV with Golden State in The Finals come to fruition.
Why? Because it’s becoming more and more obvious the Cavaliers’ window as the lead dog in the East is closing, perhaps quicker than has been anticipated.
LeBron’s annual dog-and-pony show with unrestricted free agency looms over the franchise’s head next summer, akin to The Sword of Damocles.
If he departs, “the window” slams shut, anyway.
However, even if James stays, Boston’s emergence as the best team in the East, without the services of Gordon Hayward and armed with the Los Angeles Lakers’ unprotected first-round pick in the 2018 draft, could make LeBron’s decision (apologies) irrelevant.
That’s down the line, though. With the Cavaliers seemingly in a freefall, Danny Ainge might decide this is the time, to borrow from the Cavaliers, to go all in.
He could do so by should he so desire, opt to utilize the $8.4 million disabled player exception the Celtics were granted back on Oct. 28 after Hayward suffered a gruesome broken left tibia and ankle dislocation opening night in Cleveland.
With an open roster spot, Boston can sign, claim or trade for a player in the last year of his contract. The Celtics do have an open roster spot and with the ability to throw $8.4 million at any player, the have the best chance to land the top guy who becomes available.
Which brings us back to the Cavaliers chasing Cousins or George.
Those against such a move for Cousins sing a familiar tune — “Who will Boogie guard against the Warriors?” — but your (fake) GM counters with, “Who on the Warriors will guard Boogie, with James playing on the wing, Kevin Love lurking on the perimeter and Isaiah Thomas at the point?”
With the potential addition of George, it would help more on the defensive end, where Cleveland seems to be devolving by the game. He could chase Kevin Durant, freeing LeBron to check Draymond Green, which he has proven to do with great success, leaving Love on Zaza Pachulia. When Golden State goes small, implementing its vaunted “Death Lineup,” Love could be swapped out for Jae Crowder, George’s offensive capabilities offsetting the loss of Love’s offense.
Still others will insist the Cavaliers simply cannot part with the Brooklyn pick, pointing out that was the biggest asset they acquired in exchange for Kyrie Irving, not Thomas, Crowder or Ante Zizic and that the pick is insurance should LeBron decide to bail and hang his hat elsewhere come next season.
Your (fake) GM points out, even if LeBron decides to stay home next summer and finish his career as a Cavalier, as mentioned above, it may not matter, even if the team adds a pair of quality young players with Brooklyn’s first-round pick and their own, as well.
The reality is, Boston is already a tremendous team, one led by a guy regarded as one of the top two or three coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, still having a warchest full of assets in which to dangle and perhaps finally seeing a few cracks in the armor of LeBron & Co.
The Celtics smell blood and they have more room for improvement, with the most assets to push the fast-forward button and make it happen.
And very soon, as in before the trade deadline on Feb. 8.
As we know, championships happen in Northeast Ohio, well, once in 53 years, at current rates. Opportunities to win one simply cannot be wasted, or even taken for granted.
Your (fake) GM says, go get Boogie… or go get PG 13. Anything less is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
If it requires surrendering the Brooklyn pick, so be it.
Accomplishing either at least props a stick under the window sill that appears to be dropping, one embarrassing, humiliating loss after another.
And who knows?
If the Cavaliers can win a second NBA championship in three seasons, perhaps Cousins or George would decide remaining with LeBron & Co. or the next few seasons isn’t such a bad idea.