There are two distinct schools of thought, when it comes to building a successful franchise in the Association. The Miami Heat have played in the last two NBA Finals and won the Title this past June, with a team built through Free Agency; with three All-Stars on their roster and the rest of the team consisting of role players and less talented starters. Teams that have attempted the Heat’s path to a Championship, include the New York Knicks and this season the Brooklyn Nets, who have based their marketing campaign to attract fans in their new city, on the players that they have labeled “The Core Four,” starting guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, forward Gerald Wallace and center Brook Lopez.
The alternative, is to use the blueprint that has made the San Antonio Spurs, one of the elite teams in the Association, since the dawn of the millennium. That is to build your team through smart draft choices, augmenting a young and talented roster with select Free Agent acquisitions. The Oklahoma City Thunder used that game-plan to turn around their organization in just four years, as they represented the Western Conference in the Finals, before falling to Miami in the series. The Memphis Grizzlies have gone with that philosophy as well and it has paid off with the perennial Lottery team making the Playoffs the past two years.
Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were at a crossroad; with a team built around an All-Star forward, who had decided to take his talents to South Beach. Newly installed General Manager Chris Grant had a trade exception at his disposal, valued at over $14 million, that he could have used to give the team a quick fix in a trade with another club. However, Grant decided to take his lumps, allowing the exception to expire and trading some veterans for draft picks to replenish his roster; including trading former starting point guard Mo Williams to the Los Angeles Clippers which landed Cleveland the number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Rookie Of The Year, Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers currently have one on the youngest rosters in the Association, with the only player currently on the squad over the 30, is reserve Luke Walton. They are hoping that forward Tristan Thompson; who was also taken in the first round of the 2011 Draft; can improve from his rookie campaign, when he showed flashes of greatness. Cleveland added another pair of first round picks this past June, adding shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller to the team, two more players they are hoping will be future cornerstones for the franchise.
Cleveland, reportedly is on the verge of adding another young player, who could compete for a starting slot in the upcoming campaign, according to the “Salt Lake Tribune,” as their sources have revealed that the team has reached an agreement with small forward C.J. Miles, that will put him in a Cavaliers uniform for the next two-years. Miles has played all seven of his seasons in the Association with the Utah Jazz, before he became an unrestricted Free Agent on July 1, he averaged 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists this past season. Financial terms of the deal have yet to be reported, but that is certainly not a concern for the squad, according to a report published this week.
Grant has done what can only be described as a masterful job of handling the team’s salary cap, as “Hoopsworld” has reported that the Cavaliers, have the most financial flexibility in the NBA, as they are currently are $13.384 million under the cap and still possess their “mini” mid-level exception slot which is $2.575 million. There are eight teams in the Association currently under the cap according to the article, however Cleveland has the most room by far, as they have more than $9 million available than their nearest rival, the Houston Rockets who are $3.687 under the cap. That could make them a major player, next summer in the Free Agent market, or allow them to bring in upper level players via trade, this upcoming campaign.
After having the circus in town for seven years, the Cavaliers went through a terrible season in 2010-2011, but they started to show potential this past campaign. With the flexibility that Grant has given his team, it should not be long before the circus once again comes back to Cleveland.