Mar 31 2011 12:53PM

The State Of The Cleveland Cavaliers


Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

Maybe I should let Dan Gilbert write this. He’d probably try to convince Cleveland that his Cavs will be in the 2012 NBA Finals.

Alas, he did not write this. Therefore, they won’t be in the Finals soon, Clevelanders. Thus, I must write this story of the Cavs and Cav-Nots.

Where to begin …

1. LeBron gone.

2. The Cavs replace him with no one.

3. Shaq and Z gone.

4. The Cavs replace them with perennial third-string center Ryan Hollins, who has never played 1300 minutes in any of his five NBA seasons.

5. Starting center and team’s best player Anderson Varejao gone due to ankle surgery, only playing 994 minutes in 31 games. That means Cleveland has no centers—other than third-stringer Hollins—to replace him.

6. Add it all up and you see why Cleveland went from NBA’s best record in 2009-10 (61-21) to worst train wreck in 2010-11.

This really is a sad organization that doesn’t have a clue what it is doing.

They will have two picks in the 2011 NBA Draft—likely picking in the Top 4 and also the Top 10—but you have to wonder if GM Chris Grant even knows what he’s doing since we’ve seen no sign of intelligent life since Danny Ferry and Mike Brown left town.

Seriously, this team should have been contending for an eighth playoff spot this year—even with LeBron James’ departure ... Varejao, Jamison, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and Mo Williams were a solid crew to build around.

But both the general manager and head coach botched things up from the beginning: 1. by not giving that crew a supporting cast; 2. by not playing those five together when they had the chance (only 36 minutes this season as a unit at a +4.26 adjusted plus-minus rate).

Head coach Byron Scott should finish 30th in the Coach of the Year voting. He did the unthinkable early this season—playing J.J. Hickson over Antawn Jamison, then trying to make Jamison into a converted small forward.

Grant did virtually nothing, other than taking on more salary in the Baron Davis/Williams-Moon February trade that also gave Cleveland another Top 10 draft pick.

And it's that combination of bad coaching and bad management that led to Cleveland having the 29th-best offense and 30th-best defense this season (Translation: NBA's second-worst "O" and worst "D").

Oh, and for the record, the Cavs only have until July to use the $16 million trade exception they got from Miami in the LeBron deal. After that, they are not going to have the salary-cap room to acquire a star free agent any time soon. They’ll probably be at the $53 million threshold this summer.

So most likely, the Cavs’ 2011-12 nucleus will feature Davis at point with Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson at the backup guard spots. They’ll probably mistakenly draft on need and select rookie lottery swingmen for their starting 2 and 3 spots (Parker is a free agent this summer). And their bigs next season most likely will be Varejao, Jamison and Hickson.

Who knows? They actually could double their wins total next year and reach a 30-win mark with that roster.

But seeing their track record over the last nine months, I doubt the suits would allow them even to do that.