Cleveland Cavaliers Not an Example of What Not To Do

This hasn’t been the easiest time of the year for fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers. After enjoying a fun, and disappointing, run of 5 years in the playoffs (but really, it was mostly fun), fans of the wine and gold are forced to sit on the sidelines and watch other teams partake in the chase for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

It’s been a tough transition, going from being inside the action to having to just live vicariously through other newspapers and basketball blogs. Fans seemingly have come up with various ways to cope with this transition. Some have taken to vigorously rooting against certain teams and/or a certain player, while others have chose to ignore the playoffs altogether.

I wish it was that easy for me. Of course with a lifetime of heartbreak and disappointment on my sports fan resume, I sometimes find myself wishing I could turn off the ‘sports fan’ switch in my brain altogether. But just as I can’t suddenly stop being a Cleveland sports fan, I can’t suddenly stop caring about the NBA playoffs either.

So today, as I was wallowing in my sorrow over the Lakers’ loss to the Mavericks (I really felt the Lakers were the best chance the Heat had of losing…I hope I’m wrong), I was reading various articles about the downfall of the purple and gold empire. Of course, perhaps I should have considered the fact that if you lost to the Cavaliers this season, then maybe you’re not fit to win the Championship. That would explain the Lakers’ demise and would prove foreboding to Miami and Boston, leaving Dallas, Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Atlanta as the real title contenders.

Whatever the case may be, people in LA and fans of the Lakers across this nation are searching for answers today. I could write a book about understanding that feeling and reaction, but instead, I was just reading today when I came across an article in the LA Times’ Lakers Blog by Mark Medina in which he was trying to come to grips with Pau Gasol’s lackluster performance in the Dallas series.

The article itself is a good read and well worth it for any NBA fans in general. What really caught my eye, though, was something written by a reader in the comments section below the article. The comment, left by someone named Edwin Gueco, is talking about where the Lakers go from here, and in particular, I was struck by this remark:

Trading is more of parity and filling up ur needs in line with the players’ wishes(because they have a player options in their contract). Would u like to be Cleveland Cavaliers ending up with nothing on hand? Or rather be Denver Nuggets to get something from Melo/Billups trade? It’s all business.

This made begin to ponder whether or not the Cavaliers really are now the poster child of what not to do with your NBA superstar. The commenter was making a point that the Hornets and/or Magic are probably more likely to consider a 50 cent trade on the dollar to give the Lakers either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard because, hey, who wants to be the Cleveland Cavaliers?

But really, there’s an argument to be made as to who is better situated for rebuilding, the Cavaliers or the Nuggets? Look, there’s no question the Nuggets got more tangible value for Carmelo Anthony than the Cavaliers got for LeBron James. As a result, Denver is a better team than Cleveland is after losing their respective superstars. Yet I don’t consider the Nuggets a Championship contender.

Obviously, by the nature of them being a playoff team while Cleveland still has some work to do means that the Nuggets are naturally closer to a title than the Cavaliers are. But Denver has some major problems to deal with. They lost a superstar and they don’t have another superstar to build around. Surely they are going to do everything in their power to keep Nene and use him as their centerpiece.

When you look at the Carmelo trade, though, what did they really get? Raymond Felton is a free agent now and they already have Ty Lawson, a comparable player, for much cheaper and for multiple years. They got Wilson Chandler, a decent enough player who will be a restricted free agent and who may end up back in New York this offseason. The other player they acquired was Danillo Gallinari, the man New Yorkers once believed was the key to luring LeBron James to the Big Apple who is now a solid NBA role player, but likely no more than that.

Now, this wasn’t a bad trade for the Nuggets. They also acquired the Knicks’ 2014 first round pick and Golden States’ 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013. All this for a malcontent the Nuggets knew was going to sign in New York in the offseason anyway. So not bad. But the question is whether this makes them any closer to a title.

If they re-sign Nene, Felton, and Chandler the Nuggets will probably make the playoffs again and they will probably be a first or second round exit while missing out on quality draft picks. Sure, the Cavaliers got scraps of draft picks for LeBron, but they did also acquire a hefty trade exception. The Cavaliers are in a position where they get to make two top-10 draft picks this year and then still use the trade exception to try to land another solid impact player if they so choose.

I realize the 2nd top 10 pick didn’t come from the LeBron trade, but the point is that all things considered, the Cavaliers’ situation isn’t bleak enough to serve as a warning case for other teams. In retrospect, the Cavaliers did nothing wrong in keeping LeBron all year and trying one last time to win a title. Had they traded LeBron mid season, they would have received more in return for sure, and they probably could have avoided an embarrassing record losing streak and all the heartbreak of such a disappointing season, but they probably wouldn’t be any further along in their rebuilding process than they are now, other than maybe having one roster hole filled with a decent player.

So if you’re New Orleans or Orlando and you think you have a chance to win a Championship next year and/or if you think you have a 50% or better chance of re-signing your superstar player, then don’t let the Cavaliers be a warning of what not to do, but as evidence that even if you lose your superstar for basically nothing, you will still have options for moving forwarding and rebuilding the right way. And just because it didn’t work out for Cleveland, that doesn’t mean it won’t out for you.

Either way, I wish both teams the best of luck as they head into next season. I wouldn’t wish what Cleveland went through in losing LeBron James on anyone.

  • Boomhauertjs

    “I wouldn’t wish what Cleveland went through in losing LeBron James on anyone.”

    I would wish it on the Miami Cheat.

  • Mark

    When people make the “we don’t want to be like the Cavs and get nothing in return for our superstar that is leaving so we better trade him” argument, they are ignoring the obvious – there was NO WAY the Cavs could have/should have traded LeBron last season. Setting aside the idea that they thought the could sign LeBron, the Cavs were a 60 win team who, if not the favorite for the title, certainly in the top 3 teams with a shot to win it. So should the Cavs have thrown that opportunity away because LeBron might have left? Anyone who says yes is insane. If I knew he was walking away I would still say roll the dice and go for the title run. Those chances don’t come around very often, especially in Cleveland.

    The other thing is that all of these teams with superstars ready to walk away – Denver, Utah, Orlando, New Orleans – none of them were as good as our Cavs were last year. None were/are legit title contenders. Their situations are so different so the comparison isn’t apt.

  • BenCox83

    Plus, neither Orlando or New Orleans (or Denver or Utah) are in the same boat as the Cavaliers. The Cavs weren’t just another playoff team, they were favorites (60+ wins).

    For New Orleans and Orlando it’s this:

    Keep the Star Player, make playoffs, get bounced, Star Player bolts for nothing
    Trade Star Player for 50 cents/dollar so you at least get SOMETHING

    For the Cavs, it was this:

    Keep Star Player, get Top Seed, [hope to win title], Star Player bolts for nothing (but at least you got a ring…. yeck)
    Trade Star Player for 20 cents/dollar, enrage fanbase, break up 60 win team and 1 seed.

    For Orlando and company, I think what they have to do is fairly obvious.

  • masonjarjar

    The Q would have been burned to the ground by angry fans had the Cavs traded LeBron midway through the season. The rioting would have been epic. LeBron made everyone believe Cleveland had a chance. Carmello never pretended to want to stay. Big difference.

  • Harv 21

    @ Mark: exactly. Imagine dismantling that team in mid-season while they were on a roll for fear that LeBron might leave. That would have been excoriated as Gilbert’s abdication before LeBron abdicated against Boston. Silliness.

  • Fern

    Calm and rationale thought process written here. Personally I think us small markets have a little more patient and realistic thought compared to the destination-cities like L.A.

    (I wonder if any bloggers will read this comment and post a response on their site explaining why small markets are actually not of sane mind…)

  • jim

    No need to compare the Nuggets and Cavs situations as they were completely different. The Cavs had no reason to believe LBJ wouldn’t re-sign. In fact, they were in the midst of a title run. No one trades their best player in the middle of a title run because of questions surrounding his future.

    It’s alot easier for the Nuggets to make the Melo trade as (1) he publicly wanted out thereby putting the fans solidly behind the franchise and (2) they weren’t in the middle of a title run.

  • mgbode

    upon the backdrop of the Indians trading 3 high level players who also came close to winning a championship and the fans railing agains the team and ownership still to this day (despite the great start), and Gilbert had more reasons to play it out like he did.

    imagine if the Indians instead of trading Lee and Victor during an off year where they were bottom-feeding had done it in a year where they had the best record in MLB and were considered among the top 2-3 title favorites. that’s what trading LeBron would have been (actually I’d go farther since star players mean more in basketball).

  • smrtazz

    The Wilson Chandler link is based on a quote from the NY Post, which is akin to quoting toilet paper

  • crazycav

    Good points by the everyone in the comment section that the Cavs and Nuggets situtations are different. Dwight Howard is as good as gone from Orlando. This is the new NBA where the players all graviate to the hot spots to play . I sure hope the owners get a franchise tag like the NFL has to help stop these players from moving around.

  • christopher


    i hope they don’t and the NBA shrinks to three teams which forces it to close it’s doors forever.


  • Cody

    I read an interesting article earlier this month about the “1/1,000,000” chances that Cleveland could land Howard and Paul. It would take a lot to do that, but it is possible. The only reason I say that is because Dan Gilbert is a owner I think any player would want to play for. He has heart, dedication, and will give a super-star anything they want. The only players that would disagree would be Mr. Le-blow-job.

    Now like I said the chances of us signing two super-stars in the 2012 offseason are VERY UNLIKELY, but one can dream right? My theory is if we do get lucky in the draft and we end up with the 2nd pick and the 8th pick we will get two young’sters with some talent and potential. What better way to attract super-stars then young, dynamic role players.

    Now with this $14 million trade exception I hope Chris Grant can pull a miracle. If Ferry were still here I could see him doing something big, so I pray Grant will do the same. I think Memphis will be looking to shop Gay since they are doing so well without him this postseason. If so, I say bring him to Cleveland. Is he a super-star? No… not yet at least. He hasn’t had the time or even been given the super-star power yet. I think with him at the SF position would be a great fit. Then, if we do get lucky and get DWilliams I say shop Hickson for a young PG or future picks.

    My Ultimate wish is for the Cavs to get the 2nd pick and the 8th pick in the draft and take Williams at 2, and Knight at 8… then acquire Gay, and shop Hickson… one can dream…

  • ClevelandOG

    Comparing the Denver and Cleveland situations and debating which route was the best to take always seemed fundamentally wrong for some reason. To me it equates (very) roughly to Hiroshima saying to Nagasaki, “At least we only got hit by a uranium bomb instead of plutonium.”

  • Mark

    I’ll have some of whatever Cody’s having. Dude, pass it to the left.

  • ben


  • Believelander

    1 in a million, Cody, isn’t a bad number, but honestly, I made the point that Cleveland would be a prime destination (it is, after all, not Detroit) for any group of guys looking to make a ‘Superteam’.

    We literally dumped ALL of our salary cap that isn’t named Baron Davis, have a giant trade exceptions, a lot of draft picks in the next few years, and a pile of young players, any of whom may become the glue that a team needs to succeed. Miami is 3 guys (LeBron, LeBron, and Dwyane Wade), one of whom has his first name spelled wrong, then they have RuPaul Bosh, and a frightening collection of dinosaurs. Oh, and Bibby. They have Bibby.

    Really, that’s -not- the way to build a dynastic team. Neither is New York – they have Amar’e and That Guy Who’s Not As Good As LeBron James. And Billups, I suppose.

    The point is, this isn’t how the Bulls won 6 titles. Maybe things will shake out for the cHeat or Knicks, but maybe not. But if a couple of star players decided on a quiet town like Cleveland with a lot of cap space, draft picks, wiggle room, young players, and an owner with deep pockets, it could be the catalyst for a quick-fire method to build a true long-term dynasty.

    The thing that will inhibit the Heat or Knicks, I feel, is that if LeBron or Wade, or Stoudemire or Anthony go down, those teams don’t have a ton to fall back on. We could take on two guys like Paul and Howard, and then go from there with all of the room we have.

    Man, would that be dynamic next year. One can hope. :)

  • Yea I said it

    Yea right, what player in their right mind would want to sign w/the Cavaliers. After what they did to Lebron, no one wants that. You all demonstrated pure HATE, even now, look at all these comments. If I were LBJ I’d leave too. Nice try Cody!

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  • Jonathan Brill

    There was a big difference in the Melo and LeBron situations: Melo communicated to Denver that he didn’t want to play there anymore. He also told them where he was willing to sign an extension. Without knowing those two things, Denver would have been exactly like Cleveland. Dan Gilbert did not have those same advantages. If he did, of course he would have traded him. Can’t compare though, apples and oranges.

  • Ron

    I don’t know if the Bulls (my team) can beat the Heat, but I don’t see to Heat getting past the Mavs in the finals, if it comes to that.

  • JR Madness

    Just an FYI, but Felton is not a free agent he is signed on to next year and the Nuggets are not going to build around Nene it is actually Gallinari and Lawson are the two center pieces to the Nuggets rebuilding.