I’ll admit it, I sipped the Kool-Aid with the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers.
No, I didn’t foolishly think this team – missing LeBron James and relying on Kevin Love, mid-level vets and inexperienced players – was going to make a deep playoff run. Still, I thought the idea of Cleveland sneaking into the postseason seemed doable, provided everything went right.
Four games into the season, we’re still waiting for something, any one thing to go right.
The Cavs are a wreck, and I’m being polite in saying that. In fact, they may very well be the worst team in the NBA.
One would think the front office is panicking, trying to figure out what can be done to get the Cavs back on track and contending for a low playoff seed.
Don’t do that. Don’t try and correct this. Don’t maintain the same goal of trying to get this team into the postseason.
Instead, the Cavs need to step back and let this rebuild start to take shape the way it was supposed to the second James left town.
Sure, it sounds a bit defeating to see an absolute mess of a team and say “eh, just let them keep losing.” This is especially true when you consider the Cavs had done just enough work to effectively convince everyone this season could be enjoyable.
Still, how can you watch this team and think gunning for a bottom-barrel playoff seed is in any way achievable? How can you see the Cavs get boat-raced by the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets at home and still think they should do whatever it takes to contend?
Those two near-blowouts turned almost-comeback wins against the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves feel as though they occurred in a different season. It took just three games for coach Tyronn Lue to change his strategy from “develop younger players” to “prioritize the vets.” There’s no defense, effort is slowly vanishing and players are getting cranky.
The answer to all of this is not “well let’s make some moves to help the team win now.” That’d be the worst thing the Cavs could do.
Instead, they should accept the fact playoffs are a pipe dream and do what they can to keep their 2019 first round pick.
As you know, said selection has to land within the top ten, otherwise it gets shipped to Atlanta. While Cleveland appeared to be at peace with this outcome when selling the idea of being a playoff contender, we now know that won’t be happening. This should be good news, as it increases the team’s odds of landing high in the draft lottery, creating the opportunity to add a top-tier rookie and speed up the rebuild process.
At the end of the day, this should’ve been the Cavs’ priority from the get-go, not trying to spend the next few years in NBA purgatory. A low playoff seed might have been encouraging for fans, but it also would’ve meant Cleveland had to sit out the entire 2019 draft, setting this rebuild back even further.
Now, the Cavs should focus on retaining their first rounder so they can add a talented rookie to an already assembled core of young and developing players.
Sorry, Cleveland, you’re bad now. That’s confirmed, and needs to be accepted. Stop playing ill-fitting vets. Go back to developing the youth on the roster, the goal you stated back in June.
More importantly, keep your draft pick, which should land quite high in the lottery thanks to the fact this roster is a big enough mess that there’s no effort required when it comes to tanking.
Any moves or changes which could made for the sake of righting the ship need to be scrapped. Start working the phones to move vets like Kyle Korver or J.R. Smith. If Love is unhappy about the changed approach, I’m sure his contract will make it possible to net solid returns in a trade.
This talk of playoffs was fun and all, but now reality has hit. It’s time to embrace it.
To think, just a few months ago I was venting about the Cavs risking the loss of their 2019 first rounder. Now I’m wondering who they’ll take with what could very well be the top selection in the draft.
For the sake of this team’s future, I hope it stays this way for the rest of the year.