The View From Pluto: Inside "The Laboratory" of the Cavs' Rebuild

Oct 2, 2019

The Cavs begin training camp this week with a new head coach and some new faces. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto said this Cavs season is much more low-key than in the recent past, and that’s because they’re essentially starting from scratch.

This is year two of the post-LeBron James era in Cleveland. The 2018-19 season was one of the worst in franchise history. They finished 19-63. It was a season marked by the firing of head coach Tyronn Lue six games in and the trading of a number of veteran players. 

Pluto said the real work begins now.

"When you build a team around LeBron, you should surround him with a lot of good shooters, veteran guys and a veteran coach. So when LeBron leaves you're stuck with older players who don't fit on a rebuild. So this year, it's the start of what they're going to be the next couple of years."

'It's almost [like] they're having a laboratory about how to build teams a little differently'

New coach
In May, the Cavs hired University of Michigan coach John Beilein. "A college coach at the age of 66 and has never coached a day in the NBA. This guy's a teacher and a basketball fundamentalist. You're going to surround him with younger players."

There are two veteran holdovers, Kevin Love and Larry Nance, Jr. "They both signed contract extensions after LeBron left and are expected to work with the coach and younger players."

Pluto said he was skeptical about Beilein at first. "I knew some of the other guys that they interviewed and they were No. 2 assistants. They were guys that had not been head coaches. And I thought John Beilein has probably drawn up more plays at Michigan in the last year than these guys drew up in their life."

"The Cavs are doing all these things with analytics and it's almost [like] they're having a laboratory about how to build teams a little differently. Because if you don't have Steph Curry or LeBron James, you're trying to find every single edge you can to at least have a respectable team if not this year, then next year."

The Cavs also hired University of California, Berkley, women's basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb as an assistant. 

'This is not a mix that's going to immediately contend for a playoff spot. But it is sometimes what you have to do in basketball, is to build'

Younger roster
The Cavs drafted Darius Garland of Vanderbilt with the No. 4 pick in this year's draft. "He's being paired in the back court with Collin Sexton, their first-round pick from last year. One's 19, the other is 20. They have some veterans that they probably will trade during the season for more draft picks."

Low-key
Meanwhile, the build-up to the season has been relatively low-key in the shadow of the Browns and the Indians.

"I was talking to one executive with the Cavaliers and he said, 'Well, it's not so bad because it was rough last year and it could be kind of rough again this year. But we don't need a whole bunch of media attention on us right now in what we're doing.'"

"The intense LeBron-like spotlight and national scrutiny, you don't need that when you're going to lose a bunch of games with a 66-year-old college coach and a bunch of kids and a few veterans," Pluto said. "This is not a mix that's going to immediately contend for a playoff spot. But it is sometimes what you have to do in basketball, is to build."