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View from the Top

by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

View from the Top

Koby Altman Breaks Down Last Season, Looks Ahead to the Future

After a brief cool-down period following a difficult season, GM Koby Altman addressed the media on Friday afternoon, outlining a plan for a Cavs team he believes is poised for success.

Injuries and inexperience kept the Cavaliers out of the postseason tournament once this year, but Altman pointed to a promising young core that can only get better.

After having the previous season cut short, Cleveland got off to a solid start this year – winning its first three games and playing .500 ball through the first month-and-a-half of the season. But the injury bug derailed the team before it could really get going – most notably to their veteran leader, Kevin Love, who was limited to just 25 games.

Love was up and down when he did return, and had some frustrating moments down the stretch, but eventually closed with a bang against Boston – doubling up with 30 points and 14 boards in the final home game of the year.

”Kevin knows how to play, Kevin creates a gravity to our offense and the guys love playing with him,” said Altman. “He needs to get right; he needs to get his body right. This is a significant offseason for him to get his legs underneath him. He showed some glimpses of what he can do for us. His last game, he had six three-pointers and it was fun to watch the Kevin of old. I think he has a place here because we need that veteran leadership.”

Altman's most recent top pick, Isaac Okoro, showed glimpses of being a lethal two-way weapon for years to come.

Nathaniel S. Butler via NBAE/Getty Images

Love is also the only member of the team who was born in the 80s, and the Cavaliers youth was a double-edged sword this season. For a while, they fielded the second-youngest starting five in the league – and one bursting with potential – with Jarrett Allen, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro all then-under the age of 22. But that young core also has very little experience in closing out NBA games – and on several nights, it showed.

But those growing pains – and at times, it was painful – are necessary for a team hoping to take the next step. The Cavaliers took those lumps, but behind the steady hand of J.B. Bickerstaff, never fractured despite being forced to use 30 different starting lineups. And on Friday, Altman praised his head coach’s stewardship through some troubled waters – on and off the floor.

”I’m very thankful that J.B.’s been our coach through all of this,” said Altman. “He’s done a remarkable job. He was tasked with a tough job because of the injuries, navigating through COVID, getting his start (last season) cut short – 17 games taken away from him as he was establishing a culture and style of play, an offseason where we couldn’t see our players. We had to fight to get our mini-bubble here in town. (We had) no summer league, a really short training camp, two weeks to be around Isaac, and then we started.

”So we put him in a tough position, but he’s got a great disposition on how to handle those kinds of things.”

The Cavaliers will have another offseason to reload, with another Lottery pick to add to the arsenal and free agency to follow. And while the team has some solid pieces moving forward, there are issues to address.

"It’s not lost on me that we need to push this thing forward and start winning some basketball games."

One of those issues will almost certainly be the Cavaliers need to improve their long-range shooting. The league has tilted heavily towards the long-ball, and the Wine and Gold were second-last in three-pointers made and last in three-point percentage this past season. Cleveland’s brass knows this has to change, and it’s something they’ll likely seek this summer.

”The shooting piece is incredibly important,” explained Altman. “You look at the teams that are in the Playoffs now, the top teams are all in the top 10. When we were vying for a championship, we were No. 1 or 2 (in the league). So, I get that. We know we need to get back to launching them. We need to start taking more attempts, and that starts with Collin and Darius, who can really shoot. Losing Kevin Love for the majority of the year hurt.

”But it’s something we need to do more of, it’s certainly something we need – and we’ll keep addressing it.”

The Wine and Gold have another interesting offseason ahead of them – and they’ll get better (and younger) when they make their top pick on July 29 and in the following free agency period. And they have some decisions to make on free agents of their own.

The young Cavaliers aren’t that far away. They need another piece or two and will benefit greatly from the growing pains they encountered this year. Mostly, the squad needs to stay healthy to see what they really have.

And if it all comes together, they’ll be back in the Playoffs next year instead of watching them from home.

”Our fans, they want some winning basketball again, and I totally get that,” said Altman. “It’s not lost on me that we need to push this thing forward and start winning some basketball games. But in terms of (the rebuild), we’re in a really good position – and we do ask for patience, but we know organically that we’re going to get better next year. And there’s going to be some really exciting basketball next year because of that.

”It’s tough, there’s no quick fix. I can’t snap my fingers and turn this thing around. But I do know that we’re set up for sustainable success. And when we get it right, we’re not gonna look back.”

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