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A Tuppence of Advice for the Cleveland Cavaliers…

As I wrote last week, it’s hard to project moves for the NBA cellar dwellers, because the free agents and draft picks are so… m’eh.  Worse, is that nobody has any idea what the NBA financial landscape will look like in 2058 when the NBA and player’s union agree to a new deal.  Thus, I think it’s best to keep my advice to the bottom feeders broad and general.  However, in the few cases that I get more specific, purely for the sake of maintaining my sanity, I’m going to make my loser-moves based on the current financial system, assuming a cap around 58 million and the veteran minimum.  The one exception is the mid-level exception, which I think is done like dinner.  Lets start at the bottom with the Cavs and move our way through the rest of the East this week…

Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63):

Lets be honest, owner Dan Gilbert did almost as much damage to his franchise as LeBron James did  He was petulant, ugly, and obtuse in his consistent blathering and letters.  His only bright spot all season was his, “not in our garage” text.  The rest of the time, he came off like a toddler whose toy has been taken away from him.  Given the fun state of Cleveland these days and Gilbert’s reputation around the league, it’s pretty unlikely that Cleveland will be a hot free agent destination.

The Cavs did make one great move this season, trading Mo Williams to the Clippers for Baron Davis and the Clips #1 pick.  The Sterlings obviously didn’t think much of the talent in this year’s draft and while I cannot disagree with them, post-LeBron Cleveland is in a position where they need to procure as many pieces as they can, and then see where the chips fall.  Right now the lottery odds give them a 19% chance of getting the first pick from their spot and a 2.8% chance with the Clippers pick.  So, I think it’s safe to assume that they’ll end up with picks 3 and 8… Sorry Cavs fans, you’re not the luckiest crew around.

In a normal draft, this might not be such a bad thing.  Last year for instance, the Cavs could have used those picks to take DeMarcus Cousins and Ed Davis and thus secured their frontcourt of the future.  In 2008 they could have taken Russell Westbrook and Brook Lopez; in 2007 the Florida frontcourt of Al Horford and Joakim Noah were available at three and eight respectively; 2005 had Chris Paul (or Deron Williams) and Andrew Bynum on the board.  Obviously I’ve cherry picked a little, but even in the years I didn’t list, there were solid players available in the three and eight hole.  This year?  Not so much.

Basically, this has become a two player draft with a lot of question marks following Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams.  Chad Ford’s mock draft has Enes Kanter going 3rd and Jan Vesely going 8th.  Hands up if you’ve heard of Jan Vesely… yeah!  Kanter has promise – he was after all recruited by John Calipari – but he hasn’t played competitive ball in over a year and if there’s a lockout, that’s going to be a reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally long time between meaningful game time for an 18 year old.  Still, I think you have to take him, because the other options (Jonas Valaciunas and Kemba Walker) seem even more desperate, but it’s sure tough to sell your fans on the promise of a Turkish center who hasn’t played since before LeBron was a 2-time MVP.

After that, I would keep my fingers crossed that Kentucky’s Brandon Knight remained on the board.  He looks like a guy who can pile up points in a hurry and he’s a tough defender.  I don’t know if he can run a team, but at worst he’ll evolve into a killer sixth man.  After the draft, the Cavs would have a solid little core of Kanter, Knight, JJ Hickson, and Anderson Varejao.  Not world beaters, but when you add in a top three pick in the stacked 2012 draft, then you begin to get somewhere.

Of course, the one problem with that, is the player the Cavs acquired to get the Clippers’ pick… Baron “Is that Bratwurst?” Davis.  The mercurial point guard actually played hard in his two month sojourn in Cleveland, likely as an audition to try and tempt a contender into acquiring him, but I think that Baron’s owed so much money (28 million for two more years) and has been so… uhmmm… chubby(?!?), that he’s basically immovable.  So, if I’m Gilbert, I’m trying my damnedest to ensure that the new collective bargaining agreement allows for a one time buyout of a player without cap ramifications: basically, the Allen Houston rule from the last labor agreement.  Now, the Houston rule only impacted luxury tax savings, not the actual cap, so Gilbert, needs to nag Stern into including a provision that cut players (who still would receive their entire contract) be removed from their team’s cap all together.

I think there will be some obvious other potential candidates for a buyout:

  • Rashard Lewis, Washington (46 million/2 years) – At least he doesn’t poop in anyone’s shoes.
  • Brendan Haywood, Dallas (35/4) – How many bad contracts will Cuban give middling centers?
  • Corey Magette, Milwaukee (21/2) – Torpedoed the Bucks with his malaise and ball stopping.
  • Elton Brand, Philadelphia (35/2) – Showed signs of life this year – still not an 18 million a year guy.
  • Joe Johnson, Atlanta (2,545, 546/the rest of time) – Would they?  Could they?  I would.  But they wont.
  • Brandon Roy, Portland (68/4) – Sometimes you can do everything right and it still ends up wrong.
  • Steve Blake, Lakers (12/3) – Maybe after Phil leaves he’ll remember how to shoot?
  • Andrea Bargnani, Toronto (42/4) – I’ll come to him tomorrow…
  • Stephen Jackson, Charlotte (19/2) – Captain Jack might still have some trade value, might!
  • Richard Hamilton, Detroit (25/2) – Or maybe Charlie Villanueva (24/3) or Ben Gordon (37/3).
  • Al Harrington, Denver (27/4) – Brought in to help convince Carmelo to stay.  Yeah…
  • Josh Childress, Phoenix (27/4) – I thought they overpaid, but I thought he’d be good.  I was wrong, they were more wrong.
  • Travis Outlaw, New Jersey (21/3) – Outlaw’s 7 million salary could be better utilized on Dwight Howard.
  • Gilbert Arenas, Orlando (62/3) – What?  You didn’t think I’d forgotten the spark-less Hibachi?

If they can remove Braon from their lives, then the Cavs could – with that solid core of Kanter, Knight, Hickson, and Varejao – continue to rent out their cap space for draft picks.  It’s not the sexiest method to rehabilitation, but Portland under Kevin Pritchard and the Zombie Sonics under Sam Presti showed that when combined with smart drafting, it’s the best way to re-build a deep, talented squad.  Of course, is Dan Gilbert’s organization capable of drafting wisely?

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