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.