Well, that sure escalated quickly. On December 24th, Sam Vecenie wondered aloud if the Andrew Bynum experiment was a failure. Just a few days later, we have learned that Bynum has been suspended indefinitely. So where does this leave the Cavaliers?
At 10-19, The Cavs have issues that go beyond Andrew Bynum. They struggle to defend, they struggle at times to score, and are prone to mental mistakes that derail their hopes in close games. As Sam explained, Bynum was probably their biggest active problem. High usage players that clog the lane, shoot around 40%, and don't defend are never great to have around. Another major issue, the play of Alonzo Gee, also seems to have been removed. He has not seen minutes in the past two games after a stretch of poor individual defense and horrid shooting forced Mike Brown's hand on removing him from the starting lineup.
They have some bright spots, though. Kyrie Iving is back to being a superstar. Earl Clark is hitting threes well and reliably. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao are both playing well, and Dion Waiters is excelling in his role off the bench. Throw in the surprise performance of Matthew Dellavedova, and the Cavs could be on the verge of finding some solutions.
So where do we go? Let's start with Bynum. The Cavs have a few options, and ESPN's Brian Windhorst does a great job of outlining them here. The Cavs can basically pay him to sit at home, and keep the current roster as is, trade him before January 7th and save the team he's going to a whole lot of money now (Sam Vecenie outlined a few options here), cut him before January 7th, which would save them 6.25 million dollars, but sitting at $61.6 Million, the savings would only put them about $3.2 million under the $58.679 million dollar salary cap, or they can hold onto him throughout the season, and either trade him at the deadline, or before the draft, since Bynum's $12.25 million salary for next season is not guaranteed until July 10th. There are a lot of teams in flux right now, and probably not many teams willing to give up a real asset looking for Bynum's services.
Across twitter, many NBA reporters, both national and local, are suggesting that teams don't have any interest in Bynum at the moment, at least via trade. Remember, the Cavs offer of $6 million guaranteed exceeded what the Hawks and Mavericks were willing to guarantee. Bynum's health and reputation will not do him or the Cavs any favors at the moment. While Bynum showed flashes in a couple of games, and the Cavaliers guards struggled to get the ball to him to get him going or keep him hot in others, he simply did not play well.
The second issue is the Cavs biggest hole: Small Forward. Any Bynum trade would probably first look to address that. As mentioned in Windhorst's article, the Bulls are looking to keep Luol Deng, Paul Pierce, another small forward that matches Andrew Bynum's contract slot, would probably not be willing to play for the Cavaliers. In talks for Jeff Green, Fox Sports' Sam Amico suggested that the Cavs backed out because they liked the roster as currently constructed. With Bynum suspened but still on the roster, signing someone off the street to get minutes at small forward is not possible, although it probably wasn't likely anyway. The only remaining big men on the roster are Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Henry Sims. Sims would be the most likely player to be cut to look at another forward, but it doesnt seem likely with so little depth in front of him.
In his mailbag for the Akron Beacon Journal, Jason Lloyd suggested that the small forward position isn't barren for lack of trying, and most teams are trying to strong arm the Cavaliers into giving them Dion Waiters to fill that hole via trade. Along with Mike Brown's recent change to suggest it, Lloyd also says that Earl Clark is and was tabbed to hold down the small forward spot this season, with a newly slimmed down Anthony Bennett planned to do so in the future.
As far as options go, the Cavs really only have two: Use what you have now, and see where it takes you, OR, use the assets you've acquired to make the team marginally better now. I say marginally better, because there really isn't an impact player on a bad team that they Cavs could pry away with their young players. Aside from the players mentioned above, the two most talked about this offseason, Kevin Love, and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing great basketball, and not on the trading block. The Timberwolves are 14-15, but unless things really go south there is almost no chance of them unloading Love. The TrailBlazers have the best record in the league, and there is no chance they trade Aldridge this season. The Knicks and Nets are both terrible, but both have suggested they aren't making any moves.
For the moment, the Cavaliers most likely course would seem to be to let the current roster play out and see what they have, unless a great deal presents itself. They have 9 players 23 or younger, Earl Clark (25), Alonzo Gee (26),CJ Miles (26), Jarrett Jack (30), and Anderson Varejao (31) are the rest. The team is ridiculously young, and with the benching of Alonzo Gee and suspension of Andrew Bynum suddenly there are plenty of minutes available for a bulked up Tyler Zeller, and a slimmed down Anthony Bennett. The recent play of both has been promising, and in a strong draft year, I will continue to suggest the Cavs give as many minutes as possible to these young players to see what they have, and advance their progression. The margin between a top lottery selection, and a playoff seed in the east is razor thin, so the Cavs could conceivably challenge for one without damaging their odds of the other.
This offseason is an important one. The Cavs will have maximum cap space, a mountain of trade assets, and decisions to make. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be eligible for contract extensions. The salaries of Earl Clark, Henry Sims, Alonzo Gee, and Matthew Dellavadova are all unguaranteed. CJ Miles is a free agent. Anderson Varejao has only $4 Million of his $9 million salary guaranteed. The Cavaliers owe it to themselves to find out as much as they can about these players, and it doesn't make a ton of sense to bring in more veterans to cloud the picture up unless others are being removed. They bet big on Bynum, and they lost. It's time to go another direction.