Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank will break down all thirty NBA teams over the next six weeks to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.
By: David Kay
Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
From beasts of the East to laughing stock of the league, this season the Cavs hit rock bottom harder than Charlie Sheen after a 48-hour bender with two Playboy bunnies and a porn star.
Cleveland suffered through a NBA all-time worst 26-game losing streak that was met with a fan reaction like the team had just won the NBA title. Add in LeBron’s Decision, Dan Gilbert’s open letter to the fans, and it has been an interesting past year for the Cavs’ franchise.
Cleveland already faced the daunting challenge of playing without LeBron this past season. It certainly did not help that cause that veteran starters Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison struggled with injuries while starting center Anderson Varejao missed the final 51 games of the season due to a torn tendon in his ankle.
The injuries thrust guys like Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris, Alonzo Gee, and Samardo Samuels into significant roles. Those players were lucky to even be on a NBA roster let alone see quality minutes. So it is no surprise that the Cavs finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference when they were trotting that type of talent onto the court on a nightly basis.
Sensing the need to build for the future, the Cavs pulled the trigger on a pretty big deal prior to the trade deadline; sending Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 first round pick. It was a very risky move for Cleveland to make considering Davis has two years worth $28.8 million left on his contract and started the season riding the pine in L.A. since he was out of shape. Still, the Cavs felt adding a lottery pick was worth the roll of the dice and Davis actually played pretty well in the fifteen games he suited up for Cleveland.
Outside of that, there was not much for the franchise to get excited about except for the continued development of power forward J.J. Hickson. The third year player showed flashes of his ability especially after the All-Star break when he averaged 16.8 points and 10.4 boards per game despite having to play a good portion of his minutes out of position at the center spot.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: J.J. Hickson/Anderson Varejao/#Ryan Hollins/Semih Erden
PF: Antawn Jamison/Samardo Samuels/Luke Harangody
SF: Christian Eyenga/Joey Graham
SG: Daniel Gibson/Manny Harris
PG: Baron Davis/Ramon Sessions
#C-Ryan Hollins (PO)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $55.6 million
1. A Face of the Franchise
It took the Bulls a decade to replace Michael Jordan in finding a new face of the franchise and the Cavs are dealing with that same challenge. Even though it is one of the weakest draft classes in quite some time, Cleveland needs to hit a home run with at least one of their lottery picks. None of the prospects will be an immediate savior for the team, but if the Cavs make the most of their two selections, they should be able to add two players who can be important building blocks for the future.
2. Don’t Forget About that Trade Exception
The Cavs have until July 11th to use the $14.5 million trade exception acquired from the LeBron trade. The exception can be used in addition with a player currently on the roster or individually for another player which gives Cleveland trade flexibility considering their over the salary cap and do not have a lot of trade chips currently on their roster. If they can find a team looking to dump a player’s salary and pretty much get him for nothing in return, it is a strategy the Cavs should definitely pursue as long as it does not further kill their salary cap situation. If not, Cleveland’s best plan of attack might be to sit on the exception rather than roll the dice on a deal that could set the team’s re-building project back even more.
3. Wing Help
When Alonzo Gee, Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris, Jamario Moon, and Joey Graham combine to start 83 games for your team, there is no wonder you finished with the second worst record in the league. Add in the fact that Anthony Parker is a free agent and Cavs need to find a serious up-grade on the wing.
4. True Center
Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson are both better suited playing the four which means Ryan Hollins (who has a player option on the final year of his contract) and Semih Erden are the only true centers on the roster. Cleveland does not have much flexibility in free agency, but should look to land an affordable big man who can be a defensive presence in the paint since the team was second to last in the NBA in blocked shots this past season.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks