Koby Altman is in a less-than ideal situation. Kyrie Irving wants out. LeBron James could leave in a year. And the Cavs are strapped for resources as they look to improved their roster enough to compete with the Warriors.
Altman is replacing David Griffin and he has some brilliant shoes to fill. Griffin was on the brink of acquiring Paul George for the Cavaliers before the Indiana Pacers backed out at the last second. Dan Gilbert refused to pay Griffin the money he is worth and has earned (which he denied during Altman’s press conference) so he understandably left for greener pastures. When news broke that Kyrie Irving had reportedly requested a trade from the Cavaliers - who still had no GM - the clock for the future of the franchise was ticking. Now, the Cavaliers are in the midst of a new beginning with a potential franchise altering move seemingly not too far ahead.
How he handles it will define his future in Cleveland, which isn’t completely fair, but it’s the reality of the situation. Even before Altman was perceived to be the new GM, the Cavs were already having a subpar offseason. Signing Jose Calderon seemed unnecessary and the timing was way too early. The addition of Jeff Green brings little-to-nothing to the table as he plays poor defense and has an offensive skill set similar to a current Rudy Gay. These weren’t moves that Altman made all by himself, but he’s going to be stuck with them anyway.
Altman’s first true decision as GM for the Cavaliers came as a surprise to fans. Former-MVP Derrick Rose was signed to play as the “off the bench, backup point guard” according to Altman during his introductory press conference, for the veteran minimum of $2.1 million for one year (although the move will cost the Cavs over $14 million total in luxury tax). This is the same guy who once thought he was worth a max contract back in January.
One thing is for sure: Rose is not the type of player the Cavaliers need on their roster if they want to contend. While his numbers alone are something to get excited about, his bad knees, terrible defense, inefficient shot selection, and a lack of a consistent three-point shot are the exact opposite of what the Cavaliers need if Kyrie is indeed going to be traded.
There’s still a chance that Kyrie is a part of this team next season and we all go about our business as if this never happened. Altman and Gilbert were mum about trading Kyrie during the press conference but Gilbert did say “we expect him to be in camp”. It was most likely said in order to maintain Kyrie’s value so I’m not going to read into that too much. What I should be reading into is the fact that neither Gilbert or Altman explicitly said that Kyrie was NOT going to be traded.
But if Altman does decide to trade Kyrie, it could decide the future of the franchise for the next decade. If Kyrie is traded, the first things fans will expect is that the Cavaliers get a huge haul in return. Rumors have been circling that a possible Phoenix Suns trade is still up in the air with Eric Bledsoe, possibly Josh Jackson and picks being involved.
Ideally, the Cavaliers would like to bring back a already proven point guard who can make an immediate impact more than Rose or Calderon would (wow, that could actually be the Cavaliers backcourt at some point next season). After that, acquiring future assets such as picks should be their aim. Bringing in more picks means possibly using them as trade bait for another superstar down the road or even using them in the event of a rebuild. The Irving trade should be executed with the idea that LeBron could leave next season. Altman touched on LeBron’s future in Cleveland and he was emphatic with his choice of words.
“LeBron remains deeply committed to this organization. Deeply committed to this team, deeply committed to this city,” Altman said.
This could all be true, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t head for greener pastures if Kyrie is traded and the franchise derails. As of now, I’m going to remain deeply optimistic about LeBron’s future in Cleveland. At this point, the Cavaliers are in a position where they have little leverage with LeBron and they both know that. Commanding and receiving a huge haul for Irving is what could decide if LeBron wants to leave or not. Luckily, Irving is only 25 and should bring back a massive return for Cleveland that will help them immediately and in the future.
If the trade flops and the Cavaliers don’t end up as the perceived “winners”, the hot seat for Altman will be prevalent. Even worse, if LeBron does leave next summer, Altman and Gilbert will be the top candidates as the most responsible and I don’t see Dan Gilbert going anywhere. Whatever Altman and the front office does with Kyrie could decide the next five seasons in Cleveland. Whether or not those seasons are filled with success or rebuilding rests in the hands of a young and confident rookie GM.