Moving on: LeBron to Lakers means Cavs need to go into rebuild mode

Rebuilding on the fly might not be the smart approach

Daryl Ruiter
July 02, 2018 - 10:26 am
Cleveland Cavaliers center Kevin Love (0) and forward LeBron James (23) talk during the second quarter of game five against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – It was a fun ride while it lasted.

Now that LeBron James has officially taken his talents to the city of Angels, it’s time for the Cavaliers, and Cleveland, to move on.

Unlike 2010, the franchise was prepared for bad news, which is why they demanded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in the Kyrie Irving trade and focused on young players like Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood at the trade deadline.

It’s why after drafting Collin Sexton with that pick, general manager Koby Altman said the team was ready to return to “the player development business.”

James’ decision to leave again returns the Cavaliers from the dominant force of the Eastern Conference to irrelevance. Gone are the late national television tip offs, premiere games on holidays and of course deep playoff runs.

Now comes the hard part: rebuilding.

The first time James left, Dan Gilbert’s rebuild did not go so well.

It resulted in the worst 4-year record in the NBA – 97-215, including a record 26-game losing streak during the 2010-11 season.

Sure, it netted Kyrie Irving thanks to a savvy trade with the Clippers, Tristan Thompson and then Andrew Wiggins, who was used to acquire Kevin Love, but even after finishing 33-49 in 2013-14, they had a long way to go before James salvaged the wreck and turned them into title contenders overnight.

Instability has long been a problem under Gilbert’s ownership.

He doesn’t reward general managers for doing a good job by keeping them around. Head coaches come and go nearly as often as Browns head coaches do. He’ll even re-hire guys he already fired once – see Mike Brown – and he is known for poking his nose in basketball personnel instead of just cutting the checks and leaving it to the professionals.

Hopefully Gilbert has learned from his mistakes this time around.

The letter he released late Sunday night thanking James seemed to show that maybe he has.

If Gilbert is smart, he’ll allow Altman to gut the roster and start from scratch.

Trade Love. He might be the only asset of any value remaining.

Pray you can find someone, anyone, to take Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, George Hill and Kyle Korver off your hands.

Drop a wrecking ball on the roster, gather as many draft picks and assets as possible, clear cap space, and start over.

The Atlanta Hawks own the Cavs' 2019 first-round pick as a result of the Korver trade, but it is top-10 protected, meaning the Cavs could still keep it should they tank, I mean rebuild, next season. 

The good news is the Eastern Conference is a wasteland, devoid of stars, now that James has abdicated his throne. Boston and Philadelphia are left to duke it out to replace him in The Finals but returning to playoff contention shouldn’t take long or be difficult if managed properly.

Sure, they’ll need some more of that Nick Gilbert lottery luck too.

Much like with the renovation to Quicken Loans Arena that is underway, with James now a Laker the Cavs will simply have to ask fans to “pardon our dust.”