Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who are ready to embark on yet another era of pro hoops in Cleveland.
1. It’s not hard for me to envision this starting lineup for the Cavs in 2018-19: George Hill at point guard, J.R. Smith at shooting guard, Rodney Hood at small forward, Kevin Love at power forward and Tristan Thompson at center.
2. That would mean the bench would look like this: Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, swingman Cedi Osman, center Ante Zizic, sharpshooter Kyle Korver, big man Larry Nance Jr. and shooting guard Jordan Clarkson.
3. I understand that roster may not inspire you. I don’t know how well that team would do — though I think with ball movement and some serious determination to prove lots of critics wrong, it could do better than you think.
4. Mostly, I think this is a roster that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue actually likes. I also believe it is the framework of a roster the Cavs are preparing to start the season with.
5. For those of you screaming that the CAVS MUST TANK … well, good luck with that. First off, you need someone to take the current players in trades. The Cavs tried. No one wants them. Or at least, no one wants some of their contracts.
6. Know who opposing teams want on the Cavs? You guessed it — Sexton, Osman and to a lesser degree, Zizic. Basically, opposing teams want the young players. The Cavs aren’t trading them.
7. More than that, the Cavs want to give this roster a shot. Love is an All-Star. Thompson has been a starter for a team that’s appeared in four straight Finals. Same with Smith. Hill and Korver are also vets who have “been there before.”
8. So rather than just trash everything and start down the unforgiving path of playing the lottery again, the Cavs are going to see what they can do as is. Lue intends to implement a new offense predicated on sharing the ball, playing unselfishly and smart. The Cavs intend to run an actual offense. How about that? They definitely have some shooters. Why not give it a try? If it works, the fans could have a regular season full of fun.
9. There will be time enough to tank in February, if that’s what the Cavs decide to do. Opposing teams will be much more open to some of the Cavs’ contracts then.
10. Korver is drawing at least some interest, apparently from the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. All are Eastern Conference contenders, and Korver would be a major boost off the bench for a team looking to reach the Finals.
11. But all of those teams are hesitant to surrender a first-round pick for Korver. So the Cavs are likely to hold on to him. Again, those teams could change their minds in February.
12. One opposing team executive warned of the dangers of the Cavs potentially going in the tank. “The only thing it guarantees is a losing culture,” he told me. “You also get a high draft pick, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a winning player. And in the event you do draft a star, it will take a few years to win. So that star will likely want to leave because you’re losing. You really need to get lucky if you start losing on purpose. It’s a thankless (approach).”
13. So what did the exec view as a better alternative? “Put the best product on the floor possible every season, then draft wisely,” he said. “It worked wonders for the San Antonio Spurs for years. That’s how to build a winner in a smaller market. Don’t need to draft high. Just draft well.”
14. Moving on, I’m still a little stunned LeBron James decided to leave for the Los Angeles Lakers. That team has virtually no shot to get to the Finals. LeBron has to know that. At least in Cleveland, he could’ve kept his streak alive. In LA? Well, not happening. Not with this Lakers roster. Not with the Golden State Warriors (and a few others) very firmly standing in the way.
15. So that’s truly what I find perhaps the most stunning — that LeBron chose to leave knowing his days of getting to the Finals are very likely over. And yet, he must be OK with it. Then again, at 33 years old, he’s probably right to start thinking about retirement. And if he wants to try to be a Hollywood player, well, he probably need to live in Hollywood to have a chance.
16. This decision, clearly, was not about basketball, as former LeBron running-mate Dwyane Wade predicted after the season. That’s OK. This reminds me of when Michael Jordan returned to play for the Washington Wizards. He no longer cared about winning titles. He just wanted to play some ball and keep his brand alive. James can play some ball and build a bigger brand. That’s his right and that is what he has decided to do.
17. As for the Cavs, I wouldn’t get too fired up about them tanking or not tanking. There is pro basketball in Cleveland. Enjoy it, man. Honest. Just enjoy it. People are always looking for a reason to complain, to argue that their way to build a team is the best way. I get it. “Fan” is short for “fanatical.” But let’s see what general manager Koby Altman and owner Dan Gilbert can do now. Maybe, just maybe, it can still be fun.