Yes, you read that right. The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for their third head coach in three years thanks to the firing of Mike Brown (again). So who should the Cavaliers seek out? Who do they pursue head over heels in the pursuit of once again reaching the Promised Land that is the NBA Playoffs? The answer is quite simple: Mark Jackson.
What would make Mark Jackson want to come to Cleveland to coach the mess that is the Cleveland Cavaliers? The city and environment of Cleveland itself is not one of the most attractive locations to be: high crime rates and the impact the recession had on the city are felt even to this day. The sports teams (Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers) have not had a lot of success either. Throughout all of history, Cleveland has experienced six championships (2 by the Indians, 4 by the Browns), the last coming in 1964 by the Browns. This year marks the 50-year drought since Cleveland's last championship, the second-longest streak of cities with two major professional sport franchises.
So if Cleveland seems like a place to go and lose, why would a coach want to head there? Well, there are five huge reasons that Mark Jackson should head to Cleveland, all which could bring Cleveland back to the Promised Land.
1. Kyrie Irving
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Kyrie Irving is one of the most talented guards in the NBA. He has a solid mid-range jumper and his crossover can make a defender look helpless (just ask Brandon Knight). Plus, Irving has had some of his best games on the biggest stages (2014 NBA All-Star Game MVP).
Jackson and Irving could accomplish some great feats together. Jackson was a talented point guard in his 17 years in the league. While Jackson only averaged 9.6 points per game throughout his career, he was always and excellent and talented passer, averaging 8.0 assists per game. Irving can score at will, and there are occasions where he shows signs of being a spectacular facilitator, but passing is certainly one part of his game that Jackson could help work with and improve.
Jackson was also very effective with Stephen Curry in his time with the Golden State Warriors. Before Jackson took over in Oakland, Curry averaged 18.6 PPG and 5.8 APG, very similar to Irving's numbers from the 2013-14 season (20.8 PPG and 6.1 APG). In Curry's first season under Jackson, his numbers improved drastically to 24.0 PPG and 8.5 APG. There is no reason that success couldn't translate to Irving's game as well.
2. Cleveland's Guards
Jackson has a way with guards, mainly because he understands the game from their perspective best. Cleveland has a number of talented guards outside of Kyrie Irving. Dion Waiters has shown promise and the ability to score when he needs to (15.9 PPG in 29.6 MPG). Jarrett Jack played under Jackson at Golden State in the 2012-13 season, where he had statistically the second-best season of his career (12.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 40.2 3P% in 29.7 MPG). C.J. Miles is a free agent during this offseason, but has the potential to sign with Cleveland again and provide that floor-spacing with his three-point shooting ability. Jackson could have plenty of fun with the Cleveland guards if he so chooses.
3. Cleveland Starting-Five
The Cavaliers actually have a talented starting-five. With Irving at the point, they have the option of playing anybody from Waiters to Jack to Miles at the two position. Miles has the ability to play the small forward position as well if needed. The Cavs also have a team option on Alonzo Gee, a high-flying small forward. It is unlikely that Luol Deng will return to Cleveland next year as a Cavalier, as he was reportedly unhappy (although this was more with Mike Brown who has been ousted). Tristan Thompson is a decent starting power forward who produced very well when Anderson Varejao went down with injuries. The center position has some questions, but the Cavs have a team option on Varejao, and Spencer Hawes, who becomes a free agent on July 1, said he could very easily see himself back in the wine and gold.
The rest of the lineup could use some work, but that Cavs have plenty of salary cap space to make some moves and improve this roster and team chemistry (more on this later).
4. Strength of the Eastern Conference (or lack thereof)
The East is by far the weaker conference; there is no disputing that fact. While the East did enjoy success during All-Star weekend, and even won the All-Star Game, the West is much more talented from top to bottom. Eight of the top-10 record in the NBA this season belonged to teams out of the West (Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat out of the East). Not only that, but the Phoenix Suns, who finished ninth in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs with a 48-34 record, would have tied for third in the East with the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls. The Eastern Conference is just weaker than the West, and if a coach had to choose a league to go in and try to succeed, they would choose the East nine times out of 10.
5. Cap Space
The NBA is a money-driven league. We have seen players leave decent situations and head for teams with poor records all because of money (Al Jefferson and Josh Smith). There are a number of big names hitting the free agent market this summer other than LeBron James. Guys like Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, and Rudy Gay are all big-impact players who could hit the markets during the offseason. So how does a team catch a perennial all-star? With money.
Money shouldn't be too much of an object for the Cavs this offseason, as they will have an estimated $29 million in cap space. This gives the Cavs plenty of opportunities to chase after not only LeBron and other big names, but smaller pieces that could fit the system and make Cleveland a better overall team.
The Cavaliers haven't had a lot to cheer about lately, but Mark Jackson could immediately change that. Cleveland would be an excellent fit for the coach, and he could return Cleveland to the Promised Land that is the NBA Playoffs.