This offseason is important. Very important.
The Cavaliers are no longer in 'rebuilding' mode. We were built to win this year and to begin a climb out of the bottom of the East. We signed some great (on paper) free agents, including Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, and Earl Clark. We expected growth from Kyrie, Tristan, Dion, Tyler, and even Anthony Bennett. We were hopeful that Mike Brown was going to come in, assert his solid defensive philosophy, and the team would buy into it. For all intents and purposes, we were positioned to make a solid run into the playoffs this year, especially given the current state of the East.
Then it became the "Season of 'Huh'" (coined by Ben Cox of WFNY).
In other words, nothing seemed to make sense and our lofty expectations crashed and burned. We lost to the Kings by 40. We blew a huge lead to the Suns. Anthony Bennett wasn't the best #1 pick of all time. We (will) finish below .500. Consistency, effort, and the ability to play team basketball all got called into question. Chris Grant was fired. Rumors were he was looking to trade Dion Waiters. Rumors abound from the so-called 'Kyrie's Camp' about him wanting out. Andrew Bynum getting suspended and traded. Losing a must-win game to the Hawks and then the Bobcats, but beating the Pacers and the [then] hot Knicks. The list goes on and on.
What to do now?
The first reaction any person would have would be to react and reach for a big-time solution. The current roster not working? Make a blockbuster trade for Superstar X. Not enough dynamic moves? Find a new GM. The coach not making it to the playoffs? Maybe find another coach.
I get it. It's completely natural.
Everyone wants, deep down, to make that one 'big move' to put their team over the top. Swinging for the fences to get Phil Jackson? Making a blockbuster trade to get a Superstar at the expense of our young players and future assets? Getting a 'proven' coach? Satisfy and convince our own Superstar by continuing to make huge trades and acquisitions with each year (remember Wally, Shaq, Ben Wallace, Antwan Jamison, and the rest?). And the thing about the 'one big move', you want to be the one when it happens. Everyone does. It's normal. It's an easy way to think.
That's why, exactly why, you have to resist all temptation in the world and Stay The Course.
Don't do anything huge. Don't make that 'one big move'. Don't blow it all up.
Still with me? Good. Let me explain.
The One Big Move is generally a myth. Unless you're Miami, Los Angeles the Celtics, and maybe even the Knicks, chances are this is generally impossible. Cleveland is a small-medium market team. Our dynamics are different. Let's take a look.
We won't attract huge demand in free agency. If we do, we'll have to overpay whoever comes here. Now, that being said, it might be worth it, say, if we get someone like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, or any other 'Superstar' out there for them to come to Cleveland. But you know the trouble with that thinking? Two things. First, you get left out in the rain. Sacrifices for 'cap space' and look what the Knicks and the Bulls got: Amare and Boozer. All that holding out for a true Superstar let them get screwed. Second, the free agent you get isn't the free agent you expect. All we need to do is look towards Detroit. Josh Smith? Or even back a few years. Charlie V and Ben Gordon? Tying a franchise's hopes on the free agency is dangerous. Especially in a place like Cleveland.
That being said, you're probably not thinking free agency. A trade is at the forefront of most peoples' minds these days. The issue with trading for a big name is not the inability for that person to be productive (which, in fact, might still be an issue). But, what we have to give up in order to acquire a big name. A draft pick or picks? Sacrificing long term benefits for short term gains (imagine if we had more draft picks in 2005, 2007, and 2010). No one wants to turn into what the Knicks have right now, with or without Phil Jackson, namely, no future, huge contracts, inflexible cap space, and their superstar simply [probably] walking away from them. Draft picks help guard against what's happened to the Knicks and even the Nets. Trading a mess of draft picks is a New York move. It shouldn't be a Cleveland move.
So what about trading players? As our GM said, an 'un-tradable' player is really a misnomer. Everyone has their price. That being said, what do we have to trade? Mostly young players. Developing players. The players we drafted. This may be all well and good, but why would we do this? This is another version of sacrificing for the long term in order to benefit in the short term. Dion, Bennett, Delly, Zeller, and the rest will only get better in time. If anything, their draft stock will only increase. Plus, there's no given that the player we bring in will 'mesh' with the rest of the players on the team. Additionally, let's say we send Dion, Delly, and Zeller away...that just brings us three more holes to fill (see Free Agency, above). This is also dangerous. Lastly, look at what happened to the Pacers this year after the trade deadline? Sometimes chemistry and the human element matter more than stat sheets and advanced analytics.
What about firing Mike Brown and getting a new GM? As we can see with any organization, it takes time to implement a system. The Spurs are the perfect organization based on consistency. Looking at the 'available' coaches is another gamble. Not only are you starting from scratch again...but remember how excited everyone was that the Finals-appearing Byron Scott was hired? You can never be sure what you get. Plus, GM's are tricky. They'll want to install their own systems, their own coaches, and, in a way, hit the 'reset' button with who they have. We can't go backwards anymore. And. Please. Don't. Hire. Isiah. Thomas. Or. Joe. Dumars.
So what do we do?
Stay the Course.
For one, we make sure Mike Brown is here next year. Let's let David Griffin remove that 'interim' tag from his GM position. I'm even willing to re-hire Chris Grant due to his trade abilities and his ability to draft well (look at how well Dion, Kyrie, Zeller, TT, look in retrospect! Also, Bennett could prove us that he was worth the #1 pick next year...) We keep all of our players and all of our draft picks, save the ones that go to free agency. We draft a high quality player with our lottery pick. We build on this year to next.
One, Coach Brown now seems to be getting to his players and installing his offense and defense. We have seen flashes of what this Cavalier team is capable of. Having another year of his defense and offense under our belt, this Cavaliers team will only improve. Who knows, he might even turn into the next Gregg Popovich.
Two, our players are extremely young. They're still learning. They're getting used to each other. Pretty soon the immaturity will give way and our players will turn into veterans who give 48 minutes of effort and consistency. Our team still has so much potential, from Irving to Bennett. If they're given one system with the same guys over the next couple of years (and prove next year that this is possible), I don't see how they can't be successful. Maybe we should even prepare to insert Zeller in the starting lineup soon.
Three, we have to reward loyalty. When you wrote that letter back in 2010, it spoke to me in a way that no one but a Cavaliers fan would understand. Loyalty. Hard Work. Determination. This is what builds a successful franchise. Our players are more than cogs in a wheel. They're more than their stats suggest. So, that being said, keeping Anderson Varejao, even at a reduced salary when we extend him, would show Cleveland how dedicated we are to those that are dedicated to us. We need to lock-up Delly for his surprising and amazing season. We need to treat our players as people that mean a lot to not only the Cavaliers, but to Cleveland as well.
Four, this still allows us to sign role players in Free Agency. Maybe we resign Hawes? He's proven to be a very capable player with a knack for getting outside of the arc. Maybe we get a plug for the 3-spot to take the load off of Kyrie and Dion every night. But, we won't have to do much, and that's the key. We have a solid core in place.
Fifth, there is only one scenario where I see someone getting traded, namely, if a player does want 'out' and hates it in Cleveland, it's best to get rid of them. The player that will get coaches and GM's fired alike should always be avoided. Plus, if they're a high quality player, you can be assured to get some good assets for them. Why am I saying this? Because the group can beat the superstar individual. Team sports live and die by their singular identity. Their sole purpose. No man is above the group. That's why the military is so dedicated to discipline and following the orders of your superiors, no matter what. As officers, we are taught to come up with the 70% solution and execute. The 70% solution executed with the upmost force will always overcome a 100% solution thought of the day after. Everyone is forced to buy in. That's the only way you win battles. That's the only way you win championships.
Lastly, and most importantly, people want the 'big move'. You'll pressure yourself to make it. Anyone would. But you know what Cleveland is known for? Being tough. Being blue-collar. Being dedicated to the grind. Being dedicated to hard work.
And that's what we have ahead of us: Hard Work. It will take time. It will take maturity and growth. People don't go into business, or law school, or anything and expect to get by based solely on their raw talent and ability. You hit the books, the gym, and the pavement every day. Then, and only then, can you ever hope to achieve greatness.
So please, stay the course.
Your Cleveland Cavalier Fans.