Dribbles: Changes Likely On Way If Cavs Strides Not Evident

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers as they get set to open the season …

1. I don’t expect big things from the Cavs in the win-loss department. That could spell trouble for the front office and coaching staff. I’m not saying it will — but it could.Collin Sexton Darius Garland

2. This is the NBA, and fair or not, you generally don’t get more than three years with your plan. This is Year 4 for general manager Koby Altman in the non-LeBron James era. The Cavs won 19 games in the first two. They won 22 last season. They probably won’t hit 30 wins this year.

3. I think Altman has done a decent job, all things considered. I’d give his post-LeBron reign a B-minus grade. Altman has made the most of the picks landed in the lottery. He has committed no fireable offenses. But again, this is the NBA. I don’t make the rules. I’ve just been around long enough to see how things almost always play out.

4. This isn’t any inside information. This is just a gut feeling from having covered the NBA for 15 years. The Cavs may not need to win 30 games for Altman and coach J.B. Bickerstaff to return. But they can’t look terrible in games, get blown out, and seem all disconnected and disorganized. They have to compete on most nights.

5. In short, they can’t stink and then say, “We really like the direction of things.” They can’t use the excuse that they’re barely older than most college teams. They can’t point to injuries as to why the wheels may be coming off. This has to be a season of obvious progress.

6. That said, there are indeed some things to like about this team. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen form a young, athletic core with speed.

7. Yes, Isaac Okoro is in there, too. I’ve heard talk Lauri Markkanen may start at forward instead. That would definitely make the Cavs even bigger, with Markkanen standing at 7-foot-0 and Okoro closer to 6-5. 

8. It shouldn’t really matter, though. Just start the better fit next to the other four, and don’t base it on some sort of long-term “plan.” 

9. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing the Cavs spread the message they will be good in four years. Literally anyone who is bad can say that. Don’t tell me. Show me.

10. Some fans hate hearing this, but trading Sexton remains a possibility. The Cavs explored it in the offseason, though it appears nothing ever got serious and they were extremely hesitant to actually pull the trigger. 

11. Sexton and the Cavs failing to reach a contract extension isn’t a big deal. There were an NBA-record 11 extensions signed this offseason. So that means it’s actually the norm for players and teams to not reach agreements ahead of the deadline. 

12. Still, a sign-and-trade (a la Lonzo Ball) could await following the season, as Sexton will be a restricted free agent. The Cavs know this, and may make a move before then.

13. Much of it likely will be based on what happens between now and the trading deadline in February. If Sexton and Garland show out and seem like they’re truly a long-term fit, then the decision has been made. You pay Sexton at the end of the year.

14. If not, then you look to move on. This isn’t about Sexton the player or Sexton the person. The Cavs love the guy, as they should. But you can’t force it. At some point, you may need to try a more “traditional” shooting guard next to Garland, with Sexton either coming off the bench or being traded.

15. Ideally, this will be a fun season, things will start to click and Mobley will show tons of promise. I really do think Garland and Mobley are your starting points when it comes to the team’s future. Sexton is way up there, but I think the question remains whether he is the leading scorer on a winning team, or just a volume scorer on a bad team.

16. And frankly, I don’t know which it is. I’m fairly certain the Cavs don’t know, either.

17. One thing I will say is that the Cavs’ bench should be improved with the likes of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and either Markkanen or Okoro as the main players.

18. Love wants traded and the Cavs want to trade him. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon. So everyone is expected to play nice until it does. But trust me, no 33-year old wants to be coming off the bench for a rebuilding team. That is where Love is today.

19. As someone who has been covering the NBA out of Cleveland for a long time, I find this Cavs team more intriguing than the 2014 version with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and yes, rookie Anthony Bennett.

20. That team finished 33-49 under Mike Brown. I think Bickerstaff is a better coach than Brown. I think the talent here is more promising (though the Cavs have no Irving). But there can be no more talk of things being wonderful. Show us on the court. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of hot air.

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