The One Move The Cavs Absolutely Need To Do This Offseason
As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right? The assumption being that tinkering with a successful model puts you at risk of ruining the stuff that caused your success in the first place. Makes sense. So, by that logic, the Cleveland Cavaliers should continue to wheel out the same lineup they've used over the last two seasons because, hey, they just won the NBA Finals.
Do you really believe that's their best plan of action? Of course not. You know just as well as I do that the Cavs have been like a Bugatti Veyron driving with one wheel that's a different size than all the others. Sure, it's still a $20,000 racing tire, but it's not the right fit for the car.
Don't kid yourself -- Kevin Love is that tire.
With four years remaining on his massive contract, you'd assume that his 14 points per game average and 8.8 RPG these playoffs could be had for less. You'd also assume that his three-point shooting and relative lack of speed could be replaced with someone tall enough to play power forward but quick enough to defend multiple positions. You'd be right. In fact, you might even be Cavaliers' GM David Griffin, who knew that his roster wasn't properly built to take down the Golden State Warriors heading into these Finals .
[ESPN] “This team did not fit particularly well for playing Golden State, and that’s my fault,” Griffin said. “But against the East, we were historically good. Now that we’ve experienced this, I’m very confident this group has its best basketball in front of it. They know what they have now.”
Obviously, we know what ended up happening in the series, so it's hard to say that the Cavaliers absolutely have to make a major change this offseason, but it stands to reason that this team could be better prepared for the Warriors next time around by replacing their highest paid underperformer (Love averaged eight points and six rebounds per game in the Finals). Lord knows GSW will be busy upgrading their roster this offseason -- why wouldn't the Cavs, and what would that look like?
It'd look like Nicolas Batum.
At 27 years old, the 6'9" French swingman is the prototypical lanky small forward -- and he's an unrestricted free agent this summer. His three-point shooting numbers are similar to Kevin Love's (they both are exactly .360 from behind the arc on their careers), but his 7'4" wingspan and ability to run the floor, score off the dribble (and slash into open space for pass happy LeBron) give him vastly more value on this team than Love -- who's proven to be a B+ spot-up shooter and a cumbersome one-on-one post-up scorer against speedy defenses like Golden State's. Trading Love for the cap space to sign Batum -- or, more likely, a sign and trade with Charlotte -- would invariably save the Cavs money while bringing their roster into the NBA's long, athletic, versatile next chapter.
What's more, Charlotte would be crazy not to take such a deal, as their current power forward -- free agent to be Al Jefferson -- has seen his numbers steadily decline since signing a three-year, $40 million deal in 2013. The franchise that has struggled to land a top tier free agent would finally get one (albeit through a trade) and Cleveland would look more like the Oklahoma City Thunder team that took Golden State to school in the early part of the Western Conference Finals.
On the other hand, the Cavs could spend the offseason celebrating their unlikely victory and pretend like everything has always been perfect in The Land. It's hard to argue with success right?
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