Below, five Fear the Sword staffers answer questions about the Cavs. If there’s a question you’d like to see the staff answer, drop it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We are over a month removed from LeBron deciding to sign with the Lakers, so how have your thoughts on his decision changed since then?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): I am more interested in the post-LeBron Cavs than I was. LeBron’s decision seemed like the one he was always going to make and how the team coped was always going to be one of the more interesting decisions in the process. What they’ve done since — signing David Nwaba, re-signing Kevin Love, taking a flier on Sam Dekker, etc. — is more solid than I would have thought. And now we get to see if the Cavs can be competent without LeBron.
Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade): They haven’t, really. As Decision 3.0 neared, it became clearer and clearer that this was a preordained move based on a lot of stuff that didn’t have much to do with basketball. As the Lakers have surrounded LeBron with a hilarious cast of fellow free agents with seemingly zero pressure to add talent this year, those theories have been confirmed.
Ashley Bastock (@AshleyBastock42): Ever since the NBA Finals, when LeBron talked about wanting to play with “cerebral” teammates, I thought it was him laying out why he was leaving. The only thing that my thinking has changed on is the fact that this was 100 percent going to be a basketball decision. I think the move was a combination of what L.A. has to offer outside of basketball and LeBron being excited about revamping a historic franchise. Basically, the move wasn’t made because he thought it would give him a better chance to win a 2019 title — something that I didn’t necessarily think would be a part of his reasoning at the end of June.
Zac Lockwood (@thezlock): I don’t think my thought have changed in all honesty. LeBron James decided what was important to him and then determined that the Los Angeles Lakers would be the best place for him based on those factors. I’m just excited to hopefully see him in more movies.
Zack Geoghegan (@ZackGeoghegan): There hasn’t been much of a change. It’s something I’d accepted as a very real possibility following the Finals loss, although watching old LeBron highlight videos has become a task without my eyes swelling up. I’ll still be cheering for him in Los Angeles, but I’m even more excited for the Osman/Sexton era to officially begin.
2. Thoughts on Collin Sexton’s summer league performance?
CM: There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I liked what I saw from Sexton. He was aggressive, should have some athleticism and competed even in some sub-optimal lineups. I have a feeling that he’s going to struggle a decent amount to start, especially if the Cavs let him play a lot early and perhaps start. But summer league showed that he’s going to go after it the entire time he’s on the court. It doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be good, but it’s a start.
CR: He looked a lot better than I thought he would. He’s got long arms, and despite substandard height at the position, he has the ability to use those arms to create interesting angles to get layups off. He’s going to have to really expand that creativity once he’s playing against NBA level bigs, though he’ll really appreciate the extra spacing the Cavs can provide. His passing sense is slightly better than advertised, though he’ll always be an attack first, ask questions later sort of player. Overall? I was impressed.
AB: He showed his speed in transition, and his ability to use that speed in the half court in one-on-one matchups. For as good as he was, however, I think it’s only a glimpse of what he can do. Obviously in summer league there are way more iso situations compared to what he’s going to be in during the regular season, so we should take what he did with a grain of salt.
ZL: Collin Sexton is very fast. He has a pretty good idea of when to kick it into overdrive and how to use that speed to score, but he’ll have to adapt that to real NBA competition. I really want the kid to develop a more reliable shot from basically every distance, which is something I think he may be able to do.
ZG: His intensity was the first thing that stuck out at me. Some of the young players I enjoy watching the most (Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray) get EXTREMELY into the game and I know Sexton is going to fill even the most least-interesting games with some sort of excitement. I think he has a lot to work on, but he’s blazing fast and can attack the rim at will. I don’t put too much stock in Summer League, but I was optimistic about Sexton’s performance.
3. What is the best move the Cavs have made this summer?
CM: Re-signing Kevin Love was good and I love that the Cavs brought back Channing Frye. But I love the team bringing in David Nwaba. He’s a good defender, a decent cutter and shooter inside and still has room to grow into a well-rounded, three-and-d wing. It’s the type of signing the Cavs should be making in hopes of finding versatile, smart players on affordable deals. This is what the player development business looks like.
CR: Signing Kevin Love to an enormous extension. The Cavaliers are losing the last vestiges of the best team in franchise history. Sure, logic dictates that a tank could be prudent, but we, erm, have hardly seen the Cavaliers do that particularly well in the past. It’s also worth noting that Love’s presence doesn’t guarantee that the Cavaliers will be better than a bottom-10 team, a concern given their first-round pick protections. Ultimately, culture matters, and keeping Love around helps actually build one.
AB: Other than drafting Collin Sexton, signing Billy Preston. He is still raw, but without all of the drama at Kansas, he likely would have been a first round draft pick. If the Cavs are serious about getting in the player development business, this is the guy who should be their main focus, and who could potentially turn into a key piece.
ZL: I am 100 percent with Ashley. Thinking back to the pre-LeBron Kyrie years, I loved having a player make the SportsCenter Top 10 and forcing the media to say positive things about a team that wasn’t that good. Billy Preston, a dominant force in the YouTube hoops mixtape arena, will do just that, as will Collin Sexton.
ZG: Bringing back Channing Frye. Not only because he’s a great locker room guy and one of Kevin Love’s good friends, but also because he always likes to have fun. On a team that is now expected to struggle, I’m looking forward to Frye bringing some flair both on and off the court. The Cavs aren’t going to be contending for a title, so might as well have fun with it.
4. What do you think is more important for the Cavs to do: re-sign Rodney Hood on a multi-year deal or agree to an extension with Larry Nance Jr.?
CM: I think an extension with Larry Nance Jr. is far more important and likelier. He fits long-term alongside Love better than Tristan Thompson or Ante Zizic. He has room to grow and he has local drawing power that the team needs post-LeBron. Hood was disappointing after being acquired from the Jazz and has not be consistent enough in his entire career to be a core part of a long term planning process. If they could get him at a decent price for three years, that would be fine. But Nance should be the priority.
CR: I’m still not 100 percent sold on Rodney Hood’s long-term future on the Cavaliers in any context after how disastrous his half-season stint with the team was, culminating in his refusal to come off the bench in a playoff game. With that in mind, it’s an easy choice to say that locking up Nance to a long-term, team friendly deal before he hits free agency should be a priority for the team. There’s going to be a ton of free agent money to be had on the market next summer, and the Cavaliers can’t afford to get forced into a huge deal in restricted free agency by a team desperate for a splash after missing on sexier names.
AB: The Larry Nance Jr. extension. Rodney Hood showed sparks of what he could be this season, but I think what the Cavs were willing to give up and take on (Jordan Clarkson’s contract) in order to get Larry Nance Jr. says a lot about their faith in him. In the few regular season games he played with the Cavs, he started to expand his game, namely his shooting. Combine that with his presence in the post and I think he will play a huge role. The Cavs are already so guard heavy that they shouldn’t bend over backwards to give Hood a huge contract.
ZL: Larry Nance Jr. deserves the extension. I don’t want to see a Rodney Hood comeback year because it seems like he may only put up numbers in situations where he doesn’t have to win. A multi-year deal might mean relying on Hood in 2-3 seasons as a fringe playoff team in the East.
ZG: Agreeing with Zac and Ashley, extending Larry Nance is much more important. The jury still appears to be out just who Hood can be as a player, but we know what we’re getting with Nance. He’s young, insanely athletic, already a fan favorite, and could really develop into a sixth or seventh man. Nance brings a spark plug type dynamic off the bench and will work well next to a shooter such as Frye with the second unit.
5. If you were Tyronn Lue, and you were deciding what the Cavs’ starting lineup would be on opening night, what would pick be right now and why?
CM: It’s too early to know what Lue will do, but my guess is that the season will start with George Hill, J.R. Smith, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. In my ideal world, though, I would go with Hill, Collin Sexton, Osman, Love and Nance Jr. Sexton should be on the floor as much as possible with Love and Hill support Sexton as a ball handler and guard twos. Osman is by far the best option at the three spot and Love and Nance should be no-brainers.
CR: Collin Sexton, George Hill, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, and Larry Nance Jr. should make up the starting lineup in Cleveland next season. The Cavs have four players who really factor into the team’s future in Sexton, Osman, Love and Nance. All four need to be playing together and starting together. George Hill seems miscast as the starting two guard, but he should be able to provide additional on-ball playmaking alongside Collin Sexton, and his enormous wingspan makes him more than capable of guarding bigger perimeter players.
AB: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Kyle Korver. You have to at least get Sexton out there to see what he can do at the beginning of the season and then have George Hill come off the bench-- plus, playing him with three veterans who have played in big games before will help alleviate some rookie mistakes he’s bound to make. Along those same lines, Cedi Osman deserves the same chance so we can see what kind of strides he’s made since last season. Obviously, if Osman or Sexton struggle, you can easily insert J.R. Smith or George Hill back to the starting lineup, but those two at this point would probably be better coming off the bench. Having Osman and Sexton in the starting lineup will also be integral to “playing with pace,” one of Lue’s favorite attributes.
ZL: George Hill at the one just to make sure things don’t get too weird. Start Sexton because you really just have to at this point. Cedi was always the heir apparent to LeBron at three. Kevin Love is obviously the four and I think Tristan Thompson has posted enough workout videos to convince me to start him at the five. There are better lineup options that Lue could go with, but this just feels like what is going to happen.
ZG: Sexton, Osman, Korver, Love and Thompson. Sexton and Osman should play as many minutes as physically possible as I believe their development is the most important aspect of this roster moving forward. There are other veteran guards that can come in if they struggle, but making sure they play early and often is going to be key. Throwing Korver at the three will hurt defensively but keep things open with Thompson playing center while allowing four capable shooters on the floor at the same time. Love is an obvious starter and he and Thompson complement each other positively.