Wine and Gold fans are still smiling to themselves because, for the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have landed the top overall pick in the NBA Draft. The pick, their third top-5 pick in three years, is going to net the Cavaliers a key piece in their quest to become a contender again in the near future.
But that’s over now and the actual draft is still over a month away. In that time, besides making wild trades and smiling to yourself that the Cavaliers aren’t going to be drafting Alex Len, you are going to need something basketball related to keep yourself busy. And because you have playoffs available, you have real options. For my money, you should invest your time in the Spurs-Grizzlies series before it ends. And it’s because of two players: Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Spurs wing Danny Green.
Here’s why: neither of these players may be elite players, but both are the quintessential role players that every contending teams need. Allen, while not a great offensive threat, is a lockdown defender that is respected league wide for his skillset. Even if he acted like a soccer player when fouled by Manu Ginolbi in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, his name was still brought up in a positive light. As for Green, he’s made a career for himself as an on-the-ball defender and shooter on a Spurs team that could conceivably win the title this season. For a guy that was a second pick and was cut by the Cavaliers, he’s made a real career for himself.
These guys are why you should watch this series because they are the type of players that are currently missing from the Cavaliers roster. To win a title, you need these types of players. As much as you need the franchise defining talent to win, you need the role guys to lock down an opposing scorer or spot up for a three on the wing.
I bring up Allen and Green because they are the type of role players should look to acquire in the near future. Allen left the Boston Celtics in free agency when the Grizzlies offered more money and a chance to start. Along with Marc Gasol, Allen immediately helped set a defensive tone on that team. That tone is what the Grizzlies are known for now and Allen is a big part of that. A player like Allen (who is a free agent this offseason, FYI) is the kind of player Chris Grant needs to sign. With Mike Brown now head coach, a player focused on the defensive end is the perfect kind of player to come in and contribute to this team. Even if they have to pay a little more than market value, there is real upside to making this type of signing.
Green, as I mentioned before, was a Cavalier at the start of his NBA career. In his lone season on the shores of Lake Erie, he averaged 2.0 points per game and .3 assists in 20 games. Waived in October of 2010, he joined the Spurs and has developed into a key role payer on that team. He spent time in the D-League and overseas during the lockout and came back to have a breakout season in the lockout-shortened season. He eventually became a starter and earned a three-year deal with the Spurs last offseason.
Looking back, it’s easy to say that the Cavaliers gave up too early on Green, but it’s true. 20 games isn’t enough to judge a player, especially one who was as solid as Green in college. Moving forward, it’s going to be important for the front office and coaching staff to give young talent a chance. They’ve done that with Alonzo Gee, but he can’t be the only example of that. Young talent like Kevin Jones could develop into a key piece for a contending team – they just need time to grow.
So, if you’re in need of something to do later on this week, flip on the Spurs – Grizzlies game and focus in on Green and Allen. Use them to remind yourself that a team needs role players, and they can come from anywhere. And before the game’s over, remember this: if the Cavaliers are serious about contending soon, these are