Sunday 25 February 2018 / 06:22 PM

Hey Cavs, let me upgrade ya!

Recent coaching changes and statements made by Cleveland Cavaliers executives indicate that while the team understands that it is talented enough to make it out of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, it still stands no real chance of competing for a championship against teams like the San Antonio Spurs or the Golden State Warriors.

Blatt’s tenure as Head Coach in Cleveland proved that his players neither respected nor liked him, so kudos to the organization for having the gumption to end a bad relationship sooner rather than later. But does getting rid of the often dumbfounded David Blatt for rookie Head Coach Tyron Lue, who is already known for being stepped over by NBA stars, the true answer to the Cavs’ woes? Probably not. What this team needs to do is upgrade its roster by making some major trades.

Trade Possibilities

First, Cavaliers GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert need to think about making trades for players whose styles will complement Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. Second, a future trade should help the Cavs mimic the style of play that has become popular amongst elite teams like the Spurs and Warriors.

Both of the Spurs and Warriors have put a heavy emphasis on playing big guards with versatile skill sets. The Spurs have players like Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobli, Danny Green and even Boris Diaw. All of these players pass extremely well, shoot well and are capable of guarding multiple positions.

A better example of this trend can be seen in the guard depth of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ guard lineup includes players such as Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodola, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush and defensive anchor Draymond Green – all of whom are fast, tall, shoot well enough, and can collectively guard positions 1 through 4.

So what big trade could Cleveland make in order to get closer to the guard depth of the Warriors and Spurs? The team should trade Kevin Love for small forward Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. The money could work because Love and Hayward are both making around $5 million per year, albeit on different contract lengths.

Why for Utah?

Love may be harder to sell to Utah given his recent struggles with Cleveland but a lot of that comes from him not fitting in well with the Cavs’ current roster. A little over two years ago when he was still with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love was considered a top-5 player in the league. He was averaging 26 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Many of his points came from getting easy buckets in the post and then moving outwards to the 3-point line.   

However, since he’s gotten to Cleveland he’s been used as a spot up shooter who spends very little time in the post or around the elbow; although these are the spots on the court where he feels most comfortable, he has had to stay away from them in order to create driving lanes for James and Irving. This has taken him completely out of what he does best, which is getting easy put backs off of offensive rebounds and scoring from around the 15-foot range before beginning to take his 3-point shots.

The Cavs have tried to make use of Love’s playing style as much as possible but James and Irving need the ball in their hands too much. This creates fewer opportunities for Love to find his rhythm. He is now playing only 33 minutes a game as opposed to the 37 minutes a game he was playing in Minnesota. While his shooting percentages have remained around 45% from inside and 37% percent from the 3-point arch, his point average has dropped from 26 points per game during his last year with the Timberwolves to now only 16 points per game with Cleveland. This is most likely due to having fewer quality touches and less playing time.

His rebounding averages have also dropped from nearly 13 rebounds per game in Minnesota to just under 10 rebounds per game in Cleveland. This drop in rebounding can be attributed to the lack of time that Cleveland has him spending in the post. The Cavs need him to spot up and score quickly the way efficient small forwards do. But he’s a power forward who needs time to work around the rim before his longer shots start falling.

If he was in Utah then he would have the time and space to get back to the playing style we saw from him in Minnesota. This addition doesn’t make Utah a contender but it does give them a much bigger star than they currently have, and Love could potentially lead Utah deep into the playoffs if surrounded with the right supporting cast.

Why for Cleveland?

Hayward to the Cavs is an obvious upgrade for Cleveland. He is currently averaging 20 points per game to go along with 3.5 assists and 5 rebounds. He shoots nearly 50% from inside and also nearly 50% from beyond the 3-point arch. More importantly though, unlike Love he is a natural wing who can score effectively without having the ball in his hands for long periods of time.

Many might say that Hayward’s skill-set it too similar to LeBron’s, but what’s the problem with that? LeBron is the exact type of guard a team should want. He is long and athletic, plays great on-ball defense, passes exceptionally and scores as well as anyone in the league. Hayward obviously isn’t on the same level as LeBron, nor will he ever be, but he is capable of doing some of the same things on offense and more impressively on defense. 

I wouldn’t blame Utah for wanting to keep Hayward; his stock is rising by the day. If the Cavs can’t land him then they should be looking at players like Will Barton of Denver, Markief Morris and Devin Booker of Phoenix, C.J. McCollum of Portland or even Trevor Ariza of Houston. If the Cavs are unable to make such moves then do not expect them to be contending for a title anytime soon. They’ll leave behind a legacy of being tumultuous, overpaid and built to win in an older and much slower era.

[YouTube – Dakota Schmidt]

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Eric L. Brown

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