I actually feel sorry for Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant.
During the summer, his mentor Danny Ferry stepped down from his position and Grant was handed the reins by owner Dan Gilbert. He had finally gotten his big chance after paying his dues in Atlanta and Cleveland. However, that job was going to go one of two ways for him – rising with LeBron James and continue to add pieces to a contender, or falling with a roster full of complimentary pieces and no star.
We all know which direction NBA Basketball has turned in Cleveland.
So Grant, in his first year on the job, has his work cut out for him and is in a completely different mode than he has been going through with the Cavs for the past five years – rebuilding.
That’s not exactly an easy thing to do when you have an owner as antsy as Gilbert. While you never hear anything publicly outside of the infamous “Comic Sans email” after “The Decision,” Gilbert cannot in his wildest dreams have ever thought things would get this bad, especially after the start of the season when the Cavs looked like they could be in the mix for a playoff spot. You know this losing is eating at him and it would surprise no one if he was the driving force behind the rumor last week that the Cavs were after Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace.
The Cavaliers roster is built to compliment LeBron and without him there to lean on, the talent level drop has been dramatic. I don’t think anyone doubts the talents of a guy like Anderson Varejao. But he is the ultimate glue guy who is at his best when he isn’t featured. Before he got hurt, he was arguably the Cavs best player, but he will never average more than mid-teens in points. It’s pointless and unfair to dissect this current roster because it has a ton of holes, but I like what Grant is doing. Here is why.
The worst thing you can be in the NBA is middling. After the Price/Nance/Daugherty/Hot Rod era of the Cavs ended, they consistently were a 40-42 win team, sneaking into the playoffs and missing the lottery. That does nothing for your rebuilding, especially in a market like ours. No major stars are going to sign free agent deals here in Cleveland. That is the truth. So the Cavaliers are better off holding their cards, stocking draft picks and cap space, and hoping to hit the lottery with their own high draft picks. The last time they allowed themselves to hit rock bottom, they hit the lottery with LeBron James.
If things continue down this same path, the Cavaliers will have the most ping-pong balls with a chance to get the #1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With that, Grant is doing his best to scout out the top tier talent in the college game.
Last night, the Cavs GM was spotted in Waco, Texas, watching Baylor take on #2 Kansas. He was one of a whopping 10 GM’s and 35 NBA scouts in attendance to see several potential first round picks, including Baylor’s Perry Jones. The 6’11 freakish athlete is currently the #2 prospect per reputable scouting service Draft Express and #1 per NBADraft.net. While Jones played well, scoring 20 points (6-11 from the field, 8-8 from the line), he grabbed just two rebounds. He was also dominated in the middle of the Baylor 2-3 zone by Kansas’s Marcus and Markieff Morris, who both made themselves a ton of money last night.
As Jonathon Givony from Draft Express tweeted:
Just finished the 1st half. Perry Jones got absolutely destroyed inside by the Morris twins (13-14 FG). That was embarrassing.
Perry Jones is young, skinny & inexperienced. I understand him getting beat up by KU.
Marcus Morris (6’8 PF) projects as an NBA three man and has launched himself into the lottery with his All-American play this season. He had 25 points, showing a array of offense moves that had the scouts drooling. His twin brother Markieff (6’10 PF) had 19 points and nine boards while playing soild post defense. These two could have a Lopez-like effect on this year’s draft. Brook Lopez moved himself into lottery position with a spectacular Sophomore season at Stanford. His twin brother Robin was more of a complimentary player, but thicker. Both became intriguing prospects and were drafted 10th and 15th respectively in the 2008 NBA Draft.
With so many holes to fill, the Cavs really can take the best available player. Many experts think that with the success coach Byron Scott has had with Point Guards in the past (Chris Paul, Jason Kidd), the Cavs would love a shot at Duke’s injured PG Kyrie Irving, who was on his way to an All-American season before injuring his toe. Jones, however, has the look of one of these once in a decade kind of athletes. He just needs to bulk up.
We still have months to go, but Grant and his lieutenants will be scouting like crazy up until the June draft. They need to stay the course because as bad as the basketball may be on the court for the Cavs, the front office is doing the right thing.