Friday, June 28, 2013

Draft just the first step in Cavs' return to relevance

Let's get to work.
For three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been trying to placate their fanbase with talk of cap flexibility and stockpiled draft assets. The wins weren't coming, but the future was bright, according to the brass. 

Now that the 2013 NBA Draft has ended with another unorthodox selection by GM Chris Grant, it's safe to assume that fans no longer want to hear vague boardroom-speak about what could be. Nor does anyone want to see, cute as it was, another private plane full of ironic bowtie-wearing Cleveland icons jetting  to New York City for the draft lottery. Those days are done, and to their credit, the franchise's decision-makers seem to understand that playtime is over. 

The weeks leading up to the draft were filled with stories about the Cavs trying to cash in their much-discussed assets for some tangible results on the court. Impressive names like Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge were bandied about as game-changing chips Cleveland could get for the No. 1 selection. Grant was unable to pull a move off, but the sense of urgency from the franchise should at least be appreciated, even if Grant was overvaluing a pick that not even he seemed to want.

It's 24 hours after the draft, and Cleveland is still stocked with unproven youth, Kyrie Irving aside. The team currently has six players—Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller. Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev —who were picked in the top 19 in the last three years. Like it or not, these are the horses the team is running with, but that doesn't mean it can't add to the stable.

And the Cavs must find a way to add veteran talent to the mix. Building through the draft is a smart route to take in a market that's not going to draw glamour free agents (including the purple sky unicorn pipe dream FA that some quarters erroneously believe is a possibility), so if the Cavs are right on Bennett, Karasev and their past first-rounders, that talent will be buffered by free agents and savvy trades. (Mind, this scenario takes place in a perfect world where the Cleveland Fan glass is always half-full with really good whiskey and Mesa didn't shake off Sandy Alomar.)

However, to use a Mark Shapiro BS business-speak term, there's "volatility" in counting on 19-year-olds to develop into a core that will take you deep into the playoffs. Superstar-laden teams have dominated the championship ranks, a situation that the new CBA may somewhat cull. The Cavs have a budding star in Irving, but the franchise has a task ahead that seems almost insurmountable. It's not only going to need three of its six draft picks of the last few seasons to develop at an exponential pace, it must also find a way to grab a solid veteran or two to perfectly compliment the youngins. And I'm not talking about CJ Miles.

In other words, Grant and friends need to be that potent combination of very good and very lucky. There's doubt on the first score and luck is something not exactly associated with Cleveland sports. Still, a playoff push must begin in 2013, even if that means an 8th-seed spanking by Team Collusion. Cavs fans have had enough talk - it is time for action, or Grant could be peddling his talk of assets and flexibility somewhere else next summer.