RDE staff writer Mike Schreiner & I e-mailed over the past few days talking about the Cavaliers youth and how long the fan base can (and should be patient) with this team. Check out our thoughts below and let us know what you have to say on the matter.
Chris Manning: Mike, I have a question for you. In a few texts we exchanged (as well as in some of your posts) you seem to have a preference for acquiring veteran talent to win now over sticking with the young talent currently on the roster. Why is that? From my perspective, I want to see Chris Grant, Mike Brown and the entire organization stick with their youth and avoid dealing them for veterans who may be an upgrade now, but not a year or two from now. Veteran talent – unless you have superstars like the Heat or Knicks – will help you make the playoffs, but not win a championship. You might get there with the young talent anyway and their upside is higher.
Mike Schreiner: Well Chris, I don’t know if it’s so much win now as I think having some veterans who are leaders with playoff experience are essential for this team taking the next step, either this year or in the future. I’m actually a pretty big supporter of Chris Grant. Contrary to popular belief, I think he has done a great job in the draft. Despite the narratives, there is no evidence that Jonas Valanciunas is definitely better than Tristan Thompson, nor is there any proof that Harrison Barnes is better than Dion Waiters. If fact, I would say that Waiters, Barnes, Bradley Beal, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all on roughly the same level. My concern is that the Cavaliers have too many young players. Only C.J. Miles, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee, and Anderson Varejao have more than three years experience. That leaves nine others who are 23 or younger and have less than three years experience, by far the most in the NBA. This is also way more than the Thunder had even in the Durant and Westbrook’s early days. The fact of the matter is that kids don’t win in the NBA. Last year only one of the ten youngest teams in the league made the playoffs. This is because veterans have gotten over themselves and have generally become more selfless in finding their roles in the league. With so many young players trying to establish themselves in the NBA, many either playing the same positions or being poor fits basketball-wise with their teammates. It may make some sense to trade some of the Cavaliers young players for some established (but not over the hill) veterans who have established themselves in the league to help bring some focus and balance to the rest of the roster. But by no means should they make a panic trade such as Dion Waiters (who may have found his true calling off the bench) and a first round pick for the likes of Evan Turner, another ball-dominant wing who doesn’t have nearly the upside of Waiters and is about to get (over)paid.
CM: But here’s my overall take on this matter: those veterans make you better – sure – but I am hesitant to make a move for one if they don’t compliment the Cavaliers who are part of the future (i.e. Irving, Bynum, Thompson and Waiters). Anyone really available at the moment doesn’t strike me as a logical fit and there’s already enough minutes to spilt up as is. Thus, I’m okay with the Cavaliers sticking with their young core and letting themselves learn by playing. I’m comfortable with guys like Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Jarrett Jack being the guys guiding this team and helping guys like Waiters and Irving mature. All three of those players have had to overcome hardships, but also have had seasons of winning. I don’t know if the front office agrees, but I tend to think there are veterans in place on this roster that can guide the young guys in the right direction.
MS: You may be right, but I have my doubts. While Varejao definitely leads by example, it’s pretty well established that he is not a vocal leader. Bynum has shown tremendous work ethic since signing with the Cavaliers, but I’m extremely hesitant to call him a leader. Let’s not forget that this is the same guy Mike Brown had to bench for taking a random three-pointer two seasons ago. He’s also the guy who nearly took J.J. Barea’s head off out of frustration as the Mavericks swept the Lakers out of the playoffs in 2011. That wasn’t competitive frustration, it was just a cheap shot. I think Jack is probably a pretty good leader at practice and in the locker room, but on the court? He’s playing poor defense and showing a sketchy shot selection. Despite his great year for Golden State, both of those issues have been there throughout his career. How can the Cavaliers expect Irving and Waiters to stop playing hero ball when there mentor is doing the same thing? If the front office decides to let this team grow organically that’s fine with me, but they’re also sending mixed messages. Dan Gilbert has definitely insinuated playoffs or bust this season. When the owner talks like that, it’s hard for fans not to have the same expectations. I guess my worry is that the Cavaliers might become a better character version of the Sacramento Kings teams of the last few years. A bunch of individually talented parts who don’t fit together. If the Cavaliers are going to give this team more time to grow together, how many more seasons do you think they should be patient before making a move to add more chemistry to the roster?
CM: Not to give a complete non-answer, but the Cavaliers have played 17 games thus far. Even if nothing looks good right now, there is still time to figure out it all out. And I think there are some players (Irving, to start with) that are on the right path. So, again, I say stick with the ship and see how everyone grows. But to then answer your question, this season may be the last chance before moves are made. I think Mike Brown is safe barring a completely horrendous decisions, but we could see moves on guys like Waiters, Bennett and Thompson if the right deal comes up. And after December 15th, I’d even be okay with dealing Jack, which would give the roster one-less ball dominant guard. But again, let’s be patient for now. Next summer is when things could get shaken up.
MS: I am fine with one more season of figuring things out. You’ve drafted your young talent, now it’s time for them to show you who they are. That being said, I would definitely be fine with dealing Jack. Not because I’ve soured on him, but because I think you might be able to take advantage of a desperate team. As much as people have talked about Dion Waiters for Iman Shumpert, that trade wouldn’t match the salary rules as Waiters makes too much. That being said, could I see the Cavaliers trading Jack and one of Tyler Zeller/Henry Sims for Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert? Absolutely, as the Knicks would get an upgrade at point guard and a needed center while the Cavs could have a cheaper, but still solid, back to Irving, and a new starting shooting guard, possibly allowing C.J. Miles to start at small forward (he had solid defensive numbers there last year), giving the Cavaliers solid spacing in both the starting lineup and bench units. That’s the sort of trade that I look at when I think about improving the team’s balance. But either way, I’m with you in that this isn’t necessarily a make or break season for the Cavaliers, but it’s definitely a season for them to figure out what they have.