30 Teams in 30 Days: Why mess with a good thing?
After winning title, Cavs make only minor changes for another run
Since the Cavaliers won their first NBA title back on June 19, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason. NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2015-16 to the team with the best regular-season record — during the month of September as we look at 30 Teams in 30 Days. | Complete schedule
Today’s team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2015-16 record: 57-25
Who’s gone: C Timofey Mozgov, G Matthew Dellavedova, G-F Dahntay Jones, C Sasha Kaun
Who’s new: PG Kay Felder (via Draft); C Chris Andersen (via free agency); G-F Mike Dunleavy, C Albert Miralles (via trade)
The lowdown: The championship dry spell for both Cleveland and the Cavaliers ended with a stirring comeback from down 3-1, causing a massive celebration and parade.
Has J.R. Smith put his shirt back on yet?
It was that kind of summer in Cleveland, a city that for too long became the butt of jokes, but experienced the kind of euphoria that made grown men cry. Anyone and everyone with a love for Cleveland developed a lump in his or her throat after the Cavs beat the Warriors and again when the downtown streets swelled with happy and disciplined revelers for a once-in-a-lifetime parade.
Seriously, who cares that the Cavs didn’t add any meaningful parts to the roster this summer? Folks are still too hung over to notice.
When you win a championship for a franchise that never had one, and a city that last drank champagne in 1964, nothing else matters. Yes, there is another season to be played, but LeBron James and company bought themselves plenty of goodwill and tenure. If the Cavs fail to repeat, well, that won’t ruin the mood.
Besides, the summer’s biggest task was extending Tyronn Lue’s contract, which was done to the tune of $7 million a season. That’s quite a haul for someone who, until last February, hadn’t coached a day in his life. But such is the spoils of victory. Why mess with success?
Lue was targeted for coaching stardom anyway. He learned for years at the lap of Doc Rivers and was the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA as he sat next to David Blatt. The key for Lue, once he arrived in Cleveland, was getting the respect of LeBron; once that happened, half the battle was conquered. He has a solid rapport with the locker room, studies the game and was clearly the better coach in the NBA Finals. He isn’t afraid to make changes, as evident by his decision to sit Kevin Love during the championship series.
You could argue that, after LeBron, Kyrie Irving and maybe Love, Lue is the Cavs’ most valuable asset. He has arrived and has the championship hardware and paycheck to prove it.
Speaking of Love: Those trade rumors are officially kaput.
The raiding of the Cavs was felt elsewhere, when Dellavedova and Mozgov took advantage of the inflated free agent market and got paid. It was a wise move by both players; now they have a ring and riches. Dellavedova was demoted by Lue during the Finals but he’ll have a chance to get decent minutes in Milwaukee. Mozgov played well in the Finals two summers ago, suffered from nagging injuries last season and looks to bounce back with the Lakers, where he’s projected as the starter.
Cleveland went looking on the discount rack for help, getting Andersen for relative pennies and swinging a deal for Dunleavy, who can help with 3-point shooting.
Championship teams rarely if ever tinker with success and the Cavs are no different. Making even moderate changes can raise issues, especially if the team falls short in its quest to repeat. General managers usually take the safe road, therefore, and make minor tweaks. That’s why the Cavs decided to keep Love this summer despite a very inconsistent time in Cleveland and a somewhat sub-par performance in the Finals. They couldn’t get fair value for him anyway.
The Cavs’ core is really about one player. In some ways, Cleveland should be blessed that LeBron was born and raised down the street. Imagine if he was a native of Sacramento or Memphis or Indianapolis. He wouldn’t have felt the tug to “go home” to Cleveland from Miami and the sports mood of the city would be quite different.
And so the pivotal summer in Cleveland happened in 2014 when LeBron boomeranged back to Ohio and raised the anticipation level significantly. As long as he’s healthy and producing on a Hall of Fame level, the Cavs will have a chance.
Over the next few years, the goal will be to get LeBron as much help as possible under the salary cap, although owner Dan Gilbert has already demonstrated a willingness to pay steep luxury tax penalties if necessary. Will LeBron ever entice one of his All-Star pals to join him in Cleveland? Dwyane Wade didn’t hop aboard this summer, and Chris Paul is an unlikely candidate next summer when he becomes a free agent. As for getting Carmelo Anthony, there’s little to no chance that Mrs. Melo will leave Manhattan for Cleveland.
Winning another title will be up to LeBron. Which means, the Cavs are in good hands.
Coming Next: San Antonio Spurs
To check out the rest of the series schedule, click here.
Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him onTwitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.