Playoffs a wise push for Cavaliers
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- People who say the Cavaliers shouldn’t make the playoffs apparently think Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, over even Alonzo Gee, will never get any better.
They think the lottery is the ticket to greatness -- and in some cases, they might be right. But they might be wrong, too.
Ever hear of Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, DeSagana Diop, Hasheem Thabeet or Jay Williams?
Granted, those are a select few, and your odds of finding immediate help increase the higher you pick. At least, again, that’s supposed to be the theory.
But people who don’t want the Cavs to make the playoffs also need to be aware of another reality. Namely, that this year’s Cavs are likely to draft near the bottom of the lottery if they qualify.
Let’s say the Cavs’ record stays about the same, they miss the playoffs and don’t move up in the lottery. Today, they would be drafting in the 8-12 range. That could garner them a good player, for sure.
It could also mean the next Dajuan Wagner, Luke Jackson, Trajan Langdon or Diop -- all players the Cavs selected in the lottery. None panned out.
Again, those are handpicked examples to make a point. Plenty of players selected in that range have become stars. But the bottom line is it’s called the lottery for the reason. You’re putting your hope in ping-pong balls and unproven college kids.
“Fans who root for failure deserve what they get,” says a Western Conference GM. “Building through the draft doesn’t mean tanking a season. It means making the most of the picks you have, regardless of where they fall. Why is that so frowned on in today’s society?”
On the other hand, making the playoffs usually helps in areas of building confidence in young players and developing a winning culture.
“I think it’s very important (to make the playoffs),” said Cavs forward Antawn Jamison, and he should know.
“To go through the type of season we went through last year and the losing streak, then to be able to turn things around, how rewarding would it be to do it so quickly?” he asked. “People didn’t expect us to do that. … It’s definitely something everybody on this team wants to accomplish.”
The Cavs entered Monday night just one game behind New York for the eighth playoff seed. That truth has Jamison keeping a close eye on the standings.
“I watch games every night, especially involving the teams we’re trying to catch,” he said. “Pretty much every time an Eastern Conference team plays a Western Conference team, I find myself pulling for the Western Conference to win. That’s the fun of it.”
So does this mean teams with horrible records, such as Charlotte and Washington, should set their sights on the playoffs?
“Well, of course not," the GM said. "It makes sense for some teams to shoot for another high draft pick. The Cavs aren’t one of those teams to me. They don’t stink and don‘t need to stink. You can get into the lottery by methods other than just missing the playoffs.”
He added: “The Cavs know that, aren’t worried about it, and coach (Byron) Scott and the players have a responsibility to win and earn their paychecks. That’s what they’re trying to do. The idea is to win every game. That’s not possible. But it doesn’t suddenly mean you lose every game. That concept is ridiculous and has no place in sports.”
No winning in losing
But what about the philosophy that teams that barely qualify for the playoffs are destined for a lifetime of mediocrity -- not bad enough to get a good player with a high draft pick, but not good enough to win a championship, either?
“Look, the Cavs already have an All-Star-caliber point guard in Kyrie, and he’s only 19,” said an Eastern Conference GM. “You don’t need an All-Star shooting guard, too. Honest, you don’t. What you need is a good shooting guard, a good center and a solid bench, which they already have. You can get all those things in trades, or later in the draft.”
The GM used New Jersey rookie MarShon Brooks and Golden State rookie swingman Klay Thompson as examples.
“Brooks was drafted 25th (by Boston, then traded to the Nets); Thompson was drafted 11th,” the GM pointed out. “Thompson is a solid player off the bench, and I think he’ll be good in this league for a long time. But Brooks is a starting shooting guard with All-Star potential. Tell me, which player would you take first if the draft were today?”
In other words, if you can land a player like Brooks, you may as well make the playoffs.
“Cavs fans should have faith in (GM Chris Grant),” the Western Conference GM said. “All they can do is base it on what he did in his first draft. And in that one draft he found two very important pieces. My guess is he doesn’t need to draft eighth to make it happen again."
That's not all.
"Making the playoffs doesn’t mean being stuck in the seventh or eighth seed forever," the GM said. "It just means taking the first step in the right direction, instead of another step back."
The GM concluded with a laugh.
"Of course, we are talking about Cleveland here," he said. "You can't help but think that, with some of their sports teams, maybe the fans know more than management. But I'd say that's definitely not the case with the Cavs. They know what they're doing, and if they want to make the playoffs, I say they go for it and their fans should appreciate it."
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO