On February 5th the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to a Los Angeles Lakers team that ran out of eligible players. It was their sixth straight loss. On February 6th the Cleveland Cavaliers fired their general manager, Chris Grant. The feeling when David Griffin stepped in as acting General Manager was that everyone but Kyrie Irving could go, good riddance, let's start over, these guys are a mess. And even Irving was getting heat; people were wondering how long he was for the Wine & Gold.
Well, it's been a week, the Cavs have won four straight games and now go into the All-Star break amidst their best stretch of play in years. The players appear to like each other, Anthony Bennett has played like an NBA player, up is down and cats are marrying dogs. Has the team really turned a corner? Are they buying into Mike Brown's system? We don't know. But I do know that the following has happened in the last week:
- Kyrie Irving referred to Dion Waiters as a good friend
- Dion Waiters got really excited after Kyrie Irving hit a big time three against the Detroit Pistons, even though he hadn't received much run in the 2nd half.
- Anthony Bennett scored and rebounded and didn't foul or turn the ball over at an alarming rate, and was a crucial factor in the Cavs getting a win over Sacramento.
- Kyrie Irving and Mike Brown have been laughing together on the court during games. On multiple occasions.
- The Cavs won two games that Anderson Varejao didn't play in. C.J. Miles missed one and was limited in the other.
- Kyrie Irving has been respectful and relaxed with the local media following games.
So there are some definite good things going on. The problem? David Griffin has a week until the trade deadline, and he has some tough decisions to make. Among them?
- Anderson Varejao's value is probably pretty high. Do you move a guy who might not be that productive when your young guys are ready to contend?
- Luol Deng is a free agent this summer. If the Cavaliers keep winning they will have a great chance to re-sign him. Even if he wants to come back, do the Cavs want to invest in a guy who doesn't really shoot and has a lot of mileage?
- Jarrett Jack has a long-ish term contract. Is he a long-ish part of the Cavaliers future?
These are all decisions that would involve the Cavaliers being sellers, in terms of giving up players who contending teams might be interested in to make a playoff push. It would be hard for the Cavaliers to get back a player who will be immediately as helpful to the team as Varejao and Deng are, for instance.
But there are other routes the Cavaliers can take. They could choose to do nothing at all. If this Cavaliers team is starting to figure things out, well, why rock the boat? Struggles with a new coaching staff and young team were probably going to be inevitable. If they are growing as the year goes on, you probably don't want to do something that might undercut that. Even as the Cavs have won two games without Varejao, the fact remains that the team has been pretty awful as a general rule when he isn't on the court. Even someone like Jarrett Jack appears to be a genuinely helpful guy to have in the locker room (he also hasn't been that bad lately).
And what if the Cavs are actually buyers? Are they willing to put Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett in deals for star type players, even as they have put together really good games of late? You would think so. But what about short term deals for guys like Pau Gasol? The team already went out and added Luol Deng. If the team really is hoping to make the playoffs, doesn't it make sense to give yourself every opportunity to get there?
As it stands now the Cavaliers are three games out of the 8th playoff spot in the East. Charlotte has the last spot locked up followed by Detroit, New York and finally the Cavs. New York and Detroit have been playing well of late. Charlotte has been rumored to be looking towards making a move that helps them stay in the playoff picture and perhaps even make some noise. If Cleveland finishes 17-12 to get to 37 wins they will probably be pretty close to getting in. Even that is asking a lot from a team that is 20-33.
I don't know what the answer is to any of these issues. If the Cavs can get decent assets or players for Luol Deng or Anderson Varejao, I think Cleveland needs to be open to that. Cleveland can be more patient with Varejao because he will likely still have a lot of value this summer, both to the Cavs and on the trade market. Deng doesn't give you that time, and with his lack of three point shooting, is someone I would be wary of investing in long term. I am not advocating a trade; I would want to see what the Cavaliers were looking at acquiring. But I am open to moving him, recent winning and all.
So what do you guys think? What type of moves should the Cavs be looking at making? We will have a bunch of coverage of the deadline in the next week, including our own ideas of ways to improve the team's prospects. If there is something you'd like us to explore, let us know.