This just in: Kyrie Irving is really, REALLY good at basketball. As horrible as it may sound, it’s totally possible that he’s better at basketball than I will ever be at anything. He proved it last night against the Hornets. Irving’s 20 point fourth quarter flourish was dazzling and proved what we already knew to be true, that he can take over a game in an instant.
That’s why it’s important that the Cavs use Thursday’s NBA trade deadline to their advantage. They have spent the better part of three seasons now acquiring assets in order to rebuild the Cavs into a sustainable winner. It’s pretty obvious that this strategy has revolved around the idea of acquiring assets and then flipping those assets for either more assets or gradual upgrades. THe point being that the Cavs want to continue to improve their roster with Irving as the center piece but not too fast too soon. In that way, this is very much like the Oklahoma City model.
At what point though do the Cavs stop acquiring assets in the form of draft picks and role players on short-term contracts?
If you’re in favor of finally taking the necessary steps to improve this team immediately, you could argue that now is the time to go all in and acquire a top-tier talent to pair with Irving. There are plenty of them out there and available. The only problem is that many of them are pending free agents looking for massive paydays. So yes, while the Cavs have the assets to take a run at a Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, or even Danny Granger their pending free agencies this summer and next makes them less than desirable for the Cavs. The last thing anyone wants to do is use all of these assets to acquire an elite level talent only to have him immediately leave via free agency.
Here’s the other thing to keep in mind. With LeBron James’ free agency looming following the 2014 season it makes sense that the Cavs would want to keep any and all salary cap space available to make a run at him. It’s been widely reported that James has an interest in returning, but in order to do that the Cavs will ave to pay him at a level that is worthy of his talent level and also entice him into make a homecoming. That means no salary, with the exception of the rookies and Kyrie can be on the books heading into summer of 2014.
So honestly, if you’re looking for a blockbuster from the Cavs that brings them a star player already on a long-term deal you can forget it. The apparent strategy is to not get too good too soon and to have as much salary cap space available as humanly possible. End of story. This strategy also ensures that the Cavs don’t get too good too soon and keeps providing them with a top 5 draft pick and HOPEFULLY a legit running mate for Kyrie.
If the Cavs do get involved with any deals today, expect it to be in the role of a facilitator either as the third team in a three team deal who is their only to provide help to make salaries work. If they acquire any players they will more than likely be a free agent after this season or next and won’t provide any real significant improvement talent-wise. Also, don;t be surprised if the Cavs are willing to help teams looking for salary cap relief in much the same way the Grizzlies were a few weeks ago. This means taking on short-term salary along with acquiring yet another draft pick.
Right now, those draft picks are gold. They’re ultimately what is going to help build a young core for the Cavs, or will be the assets needed in order to finally make a big trade once it becomes clear where they lie with LeBron James. So to answer your question, we’re probably looking at another season in 2013-2014 that is similar to this season. That’s not to say it won’t be better though. Kyrie will be a year better. Tristan Thompson will be a year better. The current rookies won’t be shell-shocked and will have actual experience under their belts. And then there are this year’s draft picks which should help improve the overall talent level.
Of course, there is always the chance that I am way off base here and the Cavs shock the world and make a huge splash today. Crazier things have happened. I just don’t see it happening though. Look for the Cavs to play conservatively, acquire future tradable assets and make only marginal improvements to their roster.