Spring is a time of rebirth and hope especially in the Northern part of the country where the sights of flowers starting to blossom and the lawns starting to turn green brings smiles to those of us who went through the tough winter. Residents of Northeast Ohio are in a particularly celebratory mood as the Cleveland Indians have gotten off to a surprisingly strong start leading the American League Central heading into this weekend. According to the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant is feeling very good about his team’s prospects after suffering through a winter of discontent.
For the first time since the 2005 campaign the Cavaliers are sitting at home as the opening round of the NBA Playoffs started last weekend. However rather than concentrating on all the things that went wrong during the “Lost Season” for his team he told reporters that he is excited about moving forward and believes that the franchise is on the right track to recapturing their former glory.
Although this past season evoked memories of the 2002-2003 campaign things ended on a positive note for the Cavaliers as the squad would go 5-5 in their last ten games and they won their final two contests of the year. A frosty relationship between Cleveland coach Byron Scott and forward J.J. Hickson thawed out after veteran Antawn Jamison was lost for the season due to injury and Hickson showed that he is indeed the real deal. The Cavaliers look forward to having five players back next fall that had surgery during this season as well as their two lottery picks for the upcoming NBA Draft. The team also still has a $14.5 million trade exception that the Association granted them when LeBron James took his services to South Beach.
Grant appears to believe the future’s so bright he’s got to wear shades. The General Manager who just completed his first season at the helm told media members “From our standpoint, we’re in a really good position: high picks, trade exception, flexible contracts. We can make a lot of different things happen. On top of that, as you all know, our ownership group is very supportive and aggressive, which puts us in a position where we can go out and attack things but also with the understanding it’s got to be sustainable and successful.”
The Cavaliers G.M was asked if the fact that players who were thought to be going to turn pro have elected to stay in school such as Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger. Grant responded “It’s not something we can control. What we can control are the guys who are ultimately in the draft and then try to figure out who that group is. So, from our standpoint, we know we’re going to add two good players to our team, not even considering the trade exception and some other tools. So I feel like we’re in a good spot, regardless of who’s in the draft. Every year we know one thing: We know there’s 10-15, 12-15 good players. Our job is to figure out who those guys are. Those are the marching orders we give our scouts: Go figure out who those guys are.”
From this veteran NBA observer’s perspective the team has three areas that they need to concentrate on filling; at the point, at small forward and in the pivot. Dependent on where Cleveland ends up in the lottery which will take place on May 17, of course will play a major part in the club’s rebuilding prospects. Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving would go along way to speeding the process along and if the Cavaliers can acquire a quality center in the draft that would resolve two problems.
Can the team utilize the trade exception in order to fill the void created when James deserted the team last summer? If Cleveland wants to acquire a true “Go-To Player” that is most likely their best option. Grant will have his work cut out for him as he tries to find a partner to make that happen. He will also have the option once the season starts to possibly trade veterans such as Jamison or Anderson Varejao in order to bring in more young talent for the roster.
Over the past few seasons we have witnessed teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies achieve very quick turn arounds in their respective fortunes. This bodes well for the Cavaliers and their fans as they pick themselves up after bottoming out this past season.