Since the announcement late last week that David Blatt had been hired as the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the response from the media has been almost universally positive. He's been called a "genius," and it has been repeatedly said that his "players love him." He seems like a great hire by David Griffin and Dan Gilbert.
It has also been noted, though, that there is some risk that comes with hiring Blatt. He's been an incredibly successful coach overseas, but he has no NBA experience whatsoever. He's never played in the league, or been an assistant coach in the league, or had a front office job with a team. Basketball is basketball, but the NBA presents certain realities -- the schedule, the egos, the slight variations in the rules -- that will require Blatt to make adjustments to his style.
And as much fun as it has been to read all of the glowing reviews of Blatt from national writers, the fact is that most of us don't really know much about him beyond what has been written over the last few days. That's why I am very much looking forward to his introductory press conference, which will be on Wednesday morning. It will be the first time Cavs fans get to hear him speak directly to issues impacting this team, and the Cleveland media's first chance to get some specific information from him.
Here are a few issues that I'd like to hear him address.
What does he want the Cavs to get out of the draft?
Since his press conference is happening the day before the NBA Draft, I'm sure this topic will come up. I don't expect him to tip the team's hand in terms of who they are actually going to pick on Thursday night, but it would be interesting to hear how he personally values a player's "NBA readiness" vs. his upside, or what type of player he thinks would be successful in his system. I'm also curious to know what type of needs he thinks the team could address with a second round pick.
Will he coach the Summer League team?
The Summer League is a great opportunity for young players to develop, and it can also be an opportunity for new coaches to learn the ropes. Steve Kerr, for example, is planning to make his head coaching debut in the Summer League. The first Cavs game in Las Vegas will be July 11. It's likely that Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, Matthew Dellavedova, Carrick Felix, and the Cavs two draft choices Thursday night will be on the team. It could give Blatt an opportunity to get to know some of his new players.
What kind of assistants will he look to hire?
Grantland's Danny Chau wrote: "The NBA has a much more rigorous schedule than European leagues, and Blatt will need a strong assistant or associate head coach to help him reconcile his impulses as a coach and the realities of the league." Ideally, it would be great for Blatt to have someone on his staff who has NBA coaching experience. Vinny Del Negro has already been rumored to be a candidate for such a position.
What type of players fit his system?
David Griffin, during his own introductory press conference last month, talked a lot about the need to develop a roster with a better "fit." Plenty of speculation followed about what exactly that meant for players currently on the roster, especially Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. I now want to hear Blatt talk about what kind of players will work best in his system. How much does he value outside shooting from his bigs? How important is rim protection? Can his system accommodate two guards with similar skillsets? His thoughts on these matters will allow us to further speculate on the respective futures of Thompson and Waiters.
What are his plans for Sergey Karasev?
Blatt coached Karasev on the Russian team that won the bronze medal at the Olympics in 2012. However, Karasev, who was just 19 years old at the time, played sparingly on that team. He also played sparingly under Mike Brown last season, but Blatt may envision a bigger role for him.
How does he plan to maximize Kyrie Irving?
Back in May, AJ Mitnick wrote about Blatt's team-oriented approach at Sheridan Hoops:
This season in Maccabi, Blatt has led a group that over 60 games into the season (the Israeli league playoffs are still going on) has a leading scorer averaging 11 points a game, but a whopping 11 players averaging 6 points or more. Throughout Blatt's time with Maccabi, it has been abundantly clear that his players have little interest in their stats or individual glory, and have organizationally embraced valuing the success of the club over individual achievements.
An approach like that sounds nice, because balanced team basketball is nice. However, this particular Cavs team has a unique and talented offensive weapon in Irving, and I am curious to hear how Blatt plans to utilize him within this team concept. I doubt very much that his goal would be for next season's leading scorer to average only 11 points per game.
Hopefully the media at the event get to the good questions. There are definitely a lot of them.