Posted August 22, 2013

Offseason Grades: Cleveland Cavaliers

2013 Offseason Grades, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jarrett Jack, Mike Brown, Rob Mahoney
Cleveland made a calculated risk with the signing of Andrew Bynum. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cleveland made a calculated risk with the signing of Andrew Bynum. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.

Additions: Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett (No. 1 in the 2013 draft), Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev (No. 19), Carrick Felix (No. 33)

Losses: Wayne Ellington, Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson, Luke Walton, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Jones, Chris Quinn

Other moves: Hired Mike Brown as coach

What Went Right: The front office’s attempts to make this roster more immediately viable. Jack, Bennett* and Clark might each come with red flags, but Cleveland upgraded two huge points of weakness in its rotation — the small forward and backup point guard slots — in one fell swoop. On top of that, Bynum’s signing brings incredible potential at mitigated risk; the two years of his deal (worth a hypothetical $24.8 million in total) come with just $6 million guaranteed, giving the Cavs plenty of outs should the problems with his knees or work ethic persist.

All in all, that influx of talent could wind up putting Cleveland on the playoff bubble, if only because the Eastern Conference is so polarized. There are teams likely to be very good and teams likely to be awful, but only a handful of shaky contenders in a position to vie for the final few playoff berths. None among them (Detroit, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee) is stable enough to be trusted, leaving an opportunity for a team like Cleveland to capitalize should its gambles pan out as intended.

There’s good reason to think that at least a few of them will. Even with Bynum’s return draped in uncertainty and Bennett an NBA unknown, Jack and Clark are a bit easier to project and look to be quality rotation assets. Based on offense alone, Jack could be the third-best player on the roster behind Kyrie Irving and the returning Anderson Varejao — a ball handler beyond Irving who can save the offense from funneling through Dion Waiters out of desperation. Jack, like Waiters, might have his problems with tunnel-visioned driving, but he’s a more effective creator in most every regard and does plenty of good as both a scorer and passer.

Clark is a slightly weirder fit as a combo forward type, but at the least he is a considerable upgrade over every component of the Alonzo Gee/C.J. Miles/Luke Walton trio that he’ll be relieving. Clark can defend athletic, physical forwards pretty effectively, and he is a hugely superior rebounder and slightly better finisher (Clark made a solid 60 percent of his restricted area attempts last season) than the other options available.

Beyond that, whatever Cleveland gets from Bennett and fellow first-rounder Karasev is a bonus. Both figure to play but could well be brought along slowly given the jam for minutes at their respective positions. Either rookie could be ushered to the front of the line if they can pull off a pleasantly surprising season, but for the moment each is a relative unknown in terms of NBA efficacy.

*Brown has said that Bennett will be slotted as a power forward from the beginning, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t branch out to the wing, if only as a means of accommodating a crowded frontcourt.

What Went Wrong: I wasn’t crazy about the selection of Bennett with the top pick. I see Nerlens Noel as a difference-maker on defense and would still have prioritized at least a few other players over Bennett. But Cavs general manager Chris Grant and Brown both saw something they liked in Bennett and will see their preference put to the test over the next few seasons.

Otherwise, Cleveland has done some good work this offseason to improve both its present and future. Bynum is by far the biggest piece in play, and a perfect example of how teams under the cap can roll the dice to potentially acquire a considerable talent. Though far less reliable than the other gems of free agency, Bynum is well worth a gamble of this magnitude, and at worst might cost Cleveland a mid-level salary for a single season. That’s a smart bet to make considering the lack of long-term impact, as are the Cavs other moves. One could argue against the length of Jack’s deal (four years), but the dollar figure is reasonable enough ($25.2 million) that the Cavs should benefit from having him around.

Even the players let go were wholly expendable, leaving the Cavs with a better roster than they had a season ago and a chance at shaping the kind of supporting cast that Irving deserves. There’s still a lot of work to be done with roster construction and player development, but the Cavs didn’t really commit any missteps save for their questionable use of the top pick.

Grade: B. It’s been an eventful summer for the Cavs, and ultimately a very positive one. Much hinges on Bynum’s ability to get back on the court, but at this point we can still evaluate his acquisition as a wise gamble by a team in perfect position to make such a play.

19 comments
21GB
21GB

I love the regurgitated spin. The Pistons get a guaranteed good player and get killed for it because the spin is he doesn't fit, even though he will likely play almost all his minutes in a 3-headed bigs rotation where there are 35 mpg waiting for him at PF. (Do the math)

These writers keep reciting the Bynum signing  as a 'worthwhile gamble', it somehow gives them bonus points for both these types of evaluation pieces. Its ridiculous, Bynum is 90% likely to be a non-factor and wasn't as good as advertised even when healthy 2 yrs ago. Consitant 15 and 9 starting center. Unless everything works out perfectly for Cleveland, the Pistons are a noticeably better team. And the odds are remote to non-existent that things go perfect for a team with its entire core injury prone or not a good fit (waiters). 

DAJS6
DAJS6

The Cavs better have good medical staff. Building a team on Bynum and Irving? Irving has a lot of skills but he is fragile. Going back to his one year at Duke when did he have a healthy full year since? Same with Bynum, he has spent more time on the injured list than he actually played his entire career.

lakesguypaul
lakesguypaul

Everyone seems to forget Bynum was traded , anyone every think he didn't want to play for Philly? Cavs were on his list of teams he wanted to go to before that trade. He took the year off to get his knees healthy or as good as there gonna be. He went to the team he wanted to go to. and went with a incentive laden contract with little money Guaranteed. He is in Cleveland everyday now working, getting ready for the season. He will be the biggest piece the Cavs have picked up in years unless his health fails him.

ronaldmitchell717
ronaldmitchell717

The Cavaliers & Bynum are going to whip a lot of teams butts. Kyrie , Bynum,Trisan and cast are a monster team in the making.

spiderminion
spiderminion

Irving is a overrated. He's a deadly shooter, great finisher, and amazing ball-handler. I was wowed by his performance in All-Star weekend, especially as he helped immortalize Brandon Knight (along with that De Andre Jordan posterization);  but he's a negative defensively and there is no excuse for those poor assist totals. Lebron James who similarly had bad teammates never averaged less than 5 assists.

JeffreyHall1
JeffreyHall1

I think injuries will once again keep the Cav's from moving forward much. Bynum, Irving and Varajao- three of their most important players have trouble staying on the court. I don't see things changing much this season.

crumbles
crumbles

Mike Brown seeks redemption, he'll will them to the play-offs in the contentious East.

21GB
21GB

@DAJS6   Irving will likely eventually stay healthy, his injuries were more unfortunate than (broken hand) then signs of fragility. But I do think he is overrated. I think he's a top PG in the NBA, but his impact on winning and carrying a franchise is overrated.  He does not offer much on defense, every opposing PG seems to come close to equaling his numbers. Every team seems to have a good PG, so I just don't see the impact he makes.

21GB
21GB

@ronaldmitchell717 I swear, the Pistons could resign Darko from wherever the hell he is now and I think its a better addition than Bynum. My god Bynum has quitely become one of the most overrated acquisitions of all-time. Not only are both knees blown out, he couldnt play 3/4 a season even when he was healthy, and Bynum was never that good. He had a great 1/2 season and 1 great playoffs. But he played 4 yrs as a starter and was essentially a 14 and 9 player. He never was a superstar in the first place. Add that all up, the guy is basically worthless. I'd be shocked if Bynum made any kind of beneficial impact outside of a few spurts the rest of his (probably short) career. 

lakesguypaul
lakesguypaul

@ronaldmitchell717 Yep, and Bennett has to be the most under rated #1 pick ever. I look for him to be the # 2 scorer on this team when all is said and done.

micronot
micronot

@spiderminion With Mike Brown as the head coach, you can expect great improvement from Kyrie's defense and the entire teams defense. Lebron was a poor defender until Mike Brown became his coach.


As for as the assists go, Irving averaged 5.7 and 5.9 assists in his first 2 seasons, NEVER AVERAGED LESS THAN 5 ASSISTS. Once he has teammates that can actually make a shot, his assists should improve.

21GB
21GB

@spiderminion Knight tripped wearing some brand new sneakers. The play was so overrated. Nice swag dribble. BTW, you want posterizations, you should go look at Brandon Knights dunks last season. He's one explosive player himself, I think the PIstons gave up on him way too soon. I loved their offseason in general, but not sold on that trade at all. Knight is not the most creative player, but he's could be really good at everything, including D, which Irving is not. 

21GB
21GB

I get it, he's worth the limited risk. That doesn't make him a good pick up. It makes him just not a big deal on the books when they can cut him, and he could potentially give them something decent. So no harm. But please stop making him a potential star. Darko could be better still if he wanted to play ball. Bynum is that limited and unlikely. . 

21GB
21GB

@lakesguypaul @ronaldmitchell717 Why? Bennett seems like a PF who wants to moonlight on the job as a SF. I do not see SF in him at all, I see PF who likes to shoot. I love his natural ability in the paint, he has all the tools to be a very good offensive paint player. A Few problems here, he likes to shoot, he has 0 refined skill in the paint and he can't get away with that at 6'8 in the NBA, and he's injured. And they already had a PF, and I never see him as a particularly good defender. And I think defensive impact is huge for a big in the NBA, where they really make their impact felt. Perimeter players D doesn't have as much impact. I think he can be a good defender, but not an impact defender. 

spiderminion
spiderminion

@micronot @spiderminion Whoops, brain fart. Now that I've checked it online, yes, that's 5.7 and 5.9 -- still lower than Lebron's averages (who's more of a scorer), and a lot lower than Paul's. We'll see once he has better teammates. 

As for the D, we'll see how that pans out as well. But for now, it's still bad, and until then, he's overrated. 

spiderminion
spiderminion

@21GB @spiderminion New shoes or not, that was a highlight reel play. I was able to watch the whole game, and while that one hurt the most, there were a couple more instances where Irving lost Knight with some nice ball-handling. Knight was able to get back on Irving on a couple of plays as well, but Irving had the last laugh.

As for B-Knight, I admit he plays nice D and makes solid contributions in other areas as well, but he's more of a 2 guard. He's better as a off the ball cutter. But I do have to point out that his 40% FG% is inexcusable. Anyway, I do hope he pans out.

Maplesyrup
Maplesyrup

You said he's worth the limited risk and in the very next line denounce his acquisition. Nice one.