What's Next for the Cavs After a 22-50 Season?
The Cleveland Cavaliers have some tough decisions ahead after their third straight losing season. They lost 16 of their last 18 games to finish tied for the NBA’s fourth-worst record. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto said it was a challenging season with a young roster plagued by injuries.
"The last two weeks I stopped watching, it was so difficult," Pluto said.
Missing a star and betting on young players
The Cavs are 60-159 in their third year of the post-LeBron James era. And Pluto says the main problem is, they no longer have a star like James.
"The difficult thing in the NBA is, you either have the eight or 10 players that change franchises around or you don't. And you can be bad for a long time," Pluto said.
As for the starting roster, the Cavs have some young talent.
"I happen to like Collin Sexton. He's averaging 24 points, and he's improved a lot in three years. Darius Garland, who was dismal as a rookie two years ago, had a pretty solid second season. And they drafted a guy named Isaac Okoro, who played O.K. as a rookie," Pluto said.
The problem with Love
Pluto said one of the big problems with the team is its highest-paid player, veteran center Kevin Love. He’s 32 with two years and $60 million guaranteed left on a four-year contract. Love struggled with a calf injury all season and threw an on-court tantrum during a recent game.
"It's time for Kevin Love to go, and it's almost impossible to trade him. You buy him out."
"It's time for Kevin Love to go, and it's almost impossible to trade him. You buy him out. The Cavs could surround the younger core with some better-type veterans. They hoped Kevin Love would be that guy, but Love kept getting hurt and frankly, Love's emotions were all over the place the last few years," Pluto said.
The future of Allen, Sexton and the salary cap
Love's huge contract also puts the team in a tough spot in considering contract extensions for several key young players.
Jarrett Allen, the 7-foot center, will be a restricted free agent. Pluto believes Allen's talks will start at around $100 million for five years, going up $25 million a year.
Sexton will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022. Pluto believes he will aim for a maximum contract.
Pluto said the team will have to determine whether to invest big dollars in the young players because of the NBA's salary cap.
"If this were baseball, you'd just write Love a check and send him away. But if you commit that much money to [Allen and Sexton], you better be fairly good because you're not going to have a lot of money to give to other people," Pluto said.
Fire the GM?
Pluto said owner Dan Gilbert, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2019, is still in close contact with the front office and making decisions. He believes it's possible Gilbert fires general manager Koby Altman, who's been at the helm since 2017.
Pluto said the team needs to keep in place coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who is the team's fourth coach in less than three years. In March 2020, the team gave Bickerstaff a contract extension that will take him through the 2023-24 season. "He was just thrown in the middle of this mess," Pluto said.
The Cavs and Oklahoma City Thunder were tired for the fourth-worst record in the league. A random drawing between Cleveland and Oklahoma City will determine whether the Cavs stand fourth or fifth in the draft lottery order. If they get the fourth pick, they'll go into the lottery.