The Cavs don't need to win to make the final 21 games count

The Cavs' loss to Portland is the blueprint for the rest of the season

James Rapien
February 26, 2019 - 9:33 am
Feb 25, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman (16) reacts to a call during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – We have a blueprint for how the Cavaliers can be successful in the final 21 games of the season. No, it doesn't involve intentionally losing. It also doesn't mean they have to hurt their chances of getting the top pick in June’s NBA Draft. Portland beat them 123-110 on Monday night. The Trail Blazers were hot early and did just enough to secure the win. It would be a success if the remainder of the season ended the same way.

The Cavaliers are two-games behind (or ahead) Chicago for the third-worst record in the league. If they stay in that spot, then they’ll have a 14 percent chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery on May 14.

There are plenty of fans that want them to tank. They aren’t going to and Monday’s loss was an example of that.

The Cavaliers cut a 23-point halftime deficit to just two early in the fourth quarter. Second-year forward Cedi Osman stepped up and scored 19 points over a 16-minute stretch, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

There’s been a lot of talk about building a winning culture over the next few weeks. Kevin Love is back, the team is playing better and the Cavaliers are watchable. Will young players like Collin Sexton, Ante Zizic and Osman get a lot out of finishing 21-61 versus 16-66? Does the culture of a team actually change based on a few wins that won’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things?

The Cavaliers will likely have a new head coach, along with a different coaching staff, multiple young draft picks and other new faces on next years’ team. The idea that they need to win to help build a ‘winning culture’ for the future is absurd.

This organization needs premium talent and they can acquire it by getting the best draft pick possible. They have to lose for the future, but that doesn’t mean they have to tank. The Cavaliers aren’t stacked with talent. They don’t have to try to lose.

Monday night is exactly how you lose, while also boosting the confidence of your young players. The three-overtime loss to Brooklyn before the All-Star break is another example. Sure, Osman would’ve liked to get the win, but his confidence is sky-high after Monday night.

Nothing is guaranteed in the draft lottery. They could miss out on Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. They may be forced to ‘settle’ for Ja Morant or Cam Reddish. All four of those players are worth losing an extra game for, especially when you look at who could be drafted after the fourth pick. This organization can have its’ cake and eat it too. The Cavaliers can lose and also build for the future in the process. Love can get minutes, show he’s healthy and they can still feel good about themselves going into the offseason.

There are plenty of fans that are rooting for the Cavaliers to lose. Others want the organization to start building a ‘winning culture.’ Monday was an example of both. There is a path where Cleveland can get the best of both worlds. It will take a little luck, but hopefully the majority of the season plays out the way it did against Portland.  

Daryl Ruiter and I discussed the Cavs’ final 21 games on the latest Cleveland Sports Beat podcast. You can listen to it below or subscribe here.