Some things went right in the Cavs' final 33 games. Now comes the task of figuring it out, and embracing it.
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters (3) and the Cavaliers won 17 of their final 33 games.
David Richard / US PRESSWIRE
By Sam Amico
CLEVELAND -- What went right? That's the first thing Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert should determine when making his big decisions this summer.
Gilbert doesn't need to focus on the disappointment of missing the playoffs, on the Cavs' final record of 33-49 after Wednesday's 114-85 win over the Brooklyn Nets, on all the frustration of what could've (and probably should've) been.
And before you answer "nothing," consider the following:
The Cavs finished 17-16 after David Griffin took over as acting general manager. They started the season 16-33 under former GM Chris Grant.
The Cavs weren't the model of consistency under Griffin, by any stretch. But they were better.
So what changed? Not in the locker room -- on the floor? What was different? Or did the Cavs just get better, and play like the .500 team everyone thought they would be, by chance?
Maybe Griffin didn't make an impact on the floor. That's what they say about the guys in the front office, right? They only construct the roster via the draft and trades and free agency, right? They don't have much to do with what actually happens as far as passing and cutting and making the right play, right?
Well, right to all.
Or, maybe not necessarily right to any.
Throughout the first half of the season, coach Mike Brown talked about how the Cavs were a pick-and-roll team. You asked Brown about the offense, and that was his answer: Pick-and-roll. Period.
Then Griffin took over. He called the Cavs "a kick-and-drive" team. That's not pick-and-roll. That's kick-and-drive. There's a difference.
That's not to say Griffin demanded the Cavs play one way, Brown another. It's not to say Griffin didn't know the Cavs were a pick-and-roll team, or that Brown was unaware of Griffin's "kick-and-drive" decree. It's just to say that something worked for the Cavs, and something didn't.
So what worked, and how did it start, and why did it sometimes end?
That's really all the Gilbert needs to figure out when reshaping his team. He needs to figure out what went right -- and embrace it.
It sounds so simple, but it won't be easy. No one can really put their finger on what went wrong, after all. Some experts pointed to a lack of effort. Others pointed to a lack of chemistry. Others wrote it off to a poorly constructed roster.
Maybe it's all of those things. Maybe it's none. Whichever it was, it can be fixed.
The Cavs enter the offseason with some movable contracts, the potential for lots of salary-cap space and another lottery pick. Griffin is certainly in the running to become the new GM, and several sources said Wednesday they believe he's the frontrunner for the job. One thing's for sure: Whoever gets it has assets and tons of things to work with.
Whoever gets it gets a blank canvas on which to paint their own picture.
And whoever gets it needn't focus on 16-33. They should focus on 17-16. They should focus on the fact the Cavs concluded the season with two talented 22-year olds (Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters) as their starting backcourt. Their starting power forward (Tristan Thompson) just turned 23. Their starting center (Spencer Hawes) doesn't turn 26 until the end of the month.
Granted, Hawes is a free agent -- but said Wednesday he is very open to returning, calling his stay in Cleveland "a positive."
Now, this isn't to say the Cavs are in a great shape as is. Obviously, there were issues. Some of them are large. But that makes them no different than anyone who missed the playoffs.
Nor is it to indicate that this roster will look the same next year, or that all of those players will return. Guys will be shopped, regardless of the GM. Guys will sign elsewhere. And of course, Irving and the Cavs have that major decision on Irving's contract extension.
We don't know the answers to any of that stuff. We have no clue what will happen. Gilbert may have some ideas -- but by all accounts, he's decided on nothing. He will spend Thursday and Friday at the NBA Board of Governors meeting, then is expected to reflect on the season and reassess after that.
Then it will be decision time.
And a good place to start, even if it doesn't always seem like it, is looking at what went right.