Golden State Will Be Back, But What’s Next For Cleveland?
The Warriors beat the Cavs and won their third title in four seasons. No shocker there. As soon as Golden State beat Houston in game seven, most counted out the Cavaliers and checked out of this NBA season.
Admittedly, after LeBron and the Cavs had a historic night in TD Garden and beat Boston in game seven, I too was checked out. Okay, maybe that’s a lie. Up until JR Smith had his ridiculous blunder in game one, I had false hope that Cleveland stood a chance to compete against the Warriors.
But there’s two frightening things with their title:
- Golden State didn’t play their best this series and completely wiped Cleveland out; and
- They will be back next year.
Golden State Moving Forward
This Warriors team is a once in a generation dynasty that will continue to remain supreme. They still have all their role players on lock (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green), while Finals MVP Kevin Durant said he is certain that he will re-sign with Golden State. So where does this team go from here?
Head coach Steve Kerr has a grandiose task of keeping the juggernaut that is Golden State intact. Just about every GM is obsessed with beating the Warriors and this offseason will be predicated on building a team to dethrone them.
With that being said, I would not be surprised to see Golden State making some roster moves this offseason to keep up with other teams and stay fresh. For example, even though he’s a prime defender and a key element to their team, especially defensively, I would not be surprised if the Warriors shopped Draymond Green this offseason. He didn’t have too good of a regular season and multiple reports indicate that Green causes headaches in the locker room and with staff members. However, Warriors owner Joe Lacob has expressed interest in extending Green and Thompson’s contract, which will be interesting to see how the two respond.
Let’s say Green and Golden State decide to part ways. It’s not farfetched to think that Green gets dealt to, let's say the Lakers, for a tradeoff like Brandon Ingram. Or, a Green for Hassan Whiteside trade with Miami, which would give the Warriors the true center they’ve always wanted.
Beyond outlandish Green trade rumors, how about dealing some of the older load? Andre Iguodala proved to be a defensive game-changer against LeBron, but they could get a nice return for the former 2015 Finals MVP. Trade the daunting salaries of Iggy and someone like Shaun Livingston to a team like Charlotte, Philly or Toronto.
Golden State picks late in the first round of the draft at No. 28, which could mean an opportunity for them to pick a spot-up shooter or a stretch wing. If guards like Grayson Allen or Aaron Holliday are available, they should be a no-brainer choice. They could also take a gamble by picking Elie Okobo out of France and mold him into a strong backup guard.
Aside from KD, their 2018 free agents include Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw. Golden State should let Swaggy P, West and McCaw walk, while signing Looney and McGee for less. My thinking says McGee will be approached by another team, sign elsewhere and be highly overpaid.
Also, the Warriors could end up doing nothing this offseason and still be the favorites to win another one next year—even two more after that.
Cleveland: Keeping LeBron
When my own mother comes in and tells me, “Mijo, LeBron is going to leave,” it’s just a testament to how evident it seems that James is unhappy where he is. The relationship between James and owner Dan Gilbert looks nonexistent. Ty Lue is a sub-par coach and everyone not named Larry Nance Jr. or Tristan Thompson doesn't fit in with the Cavaliers and LeBron.
But what if he stays? Let's say that Gilbert and LBJ have a meeting and he convinces him to stay in Cleveland. Paul George, who Cleveland pursued last year, can very easily come into the mix and the Cavs could sign him. Kevin Love can be a part of a trade to Portland for the likes of CJ McCollum or to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan. Then the Cavs deal away George Hill or Jordan Clarkson for younger talent. If the Cavs draft Alabama’s Collin Sexton or Oklahoma’s Trae Young, they could find their missing piece at the 1. Why not?
That sounds all fine and dandy, but what if LeBron says “to hell with this team, I’m out.”
Life Without Bron
If Brian Windhorst’s report was correct and Gilbert has been talking about life without LeBron on the Cavs, Gilbert must be lying to himself if he’s expressing any positive words about that. Let’s say LeBron leaves; where does that put Cleveland?
No, Kevin Love isn’t the answer as a franchise player, and it was evident throughout the season—maybe the past four years with him. If James walks out of the door, Gilbert has to get on the phone and try to deal away Love quickly. A trade with Portland sounds understandable, but who’s to say the Trailblazers stay intact, despite being bounced out early in the playoffs. Maybe the Cavs try to deal Love to the Clippers for a true emerging star, like Lou Williams or Patrick Beverly. Maybe they do some house-cleaning with the Mavericks, get another draft pick and get some younger guys.
Life without LeBron means George Hill and Jordan Clarkson MUST leave. There has to be a way Gilbert trades the two out and starts fresh with younger guys. A vet-hungry team like the Mavs or Grizzlies might be willing to trade for them.
It would be interesting to see how a LeBron-less Cavs team operates. I would assume they give a bigger role to Nance Jr., who shows a lot of promise with the team. Guys like Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood (if they resign him) and Ante Zizic (yes, I know, he looks awful at times) a chance to score without Bron looking over their shoulder.
But whatever the future holds, LeBron holds the key to Cleveland's future. So now, we sit back and wait for the King to name his next destination.