The 20-33 Cleveland Cavaliers are in a weird spot. They shifted into win-now mode last offseason under now-departed general manager Chris Grant, and earlier this month interim boss David Griffin recently took over a team that appeared to be falling apart. Cleveland used its big trade chip, Andrew Bynum, to acquire Luol Deng back in January, but that doesn't mean there are no other options.
Now on a four-game winning streak, Griffin can either stand pat at the deadline or attempt to quickly make his mark on the future of the franchise. The direction of the team likely depends on what offers are out there.
Buyers or sellers?
When a team makes a change in its front office, there is often a tendency to tear down what the previous regime built. As soon as Grant was fired, questions were raised about numerous Cavaliers. Perhaps Griffin would elect to dump Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters just to shake things up. It appears, though, that Griffin is not about to have a fire sale, via Bob Finnan of the News-Herald:
"I don't see how you get better and win more games selling," Griffin said. "We're going to buy to the extent that it makes us better for the long haul. I don't think we're going to do anything that's an act of desperation. I think we're going to be willing to buy the right asset at the right price. We are dedicated 100 percent from top to bottom to getting better and that's what we're going to do."
Nothing about that should shut down trade rumors in Cleveland, as there are ways to explain moving a number of core pieces as a part of getting better long-term. A nice deal here could also help Griffin make an argument to lose his interim title.
"[Griffin] excels at the trade deadline, so he'll have an immediate opportunity to impress [Cavs owner Dan Gilbert]," an Eastern Conference GM said, via Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
The frontcourt logjam
The Cavaliers have taken a lot of heat for drafting Anthony Bennett first overall last June. As a rookie, Bennett has obviously fallen far short of expectations, coming into training camp overweight after shoulder surgery and averaging a meager 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, while collecting numerous DNP-CD's. While most of the criticism has been a result of his poor production, the fit is what really made the pick questionable. Regardless of the early returns, Bennett was a top prospect for a reason and has the talent to evolve into a solid NBA player. It just never made sense to pair him with Tristan Thompson.
Both Bennett and Thompson are power forwards and Cleveland should at least look into breaking the pair up. Thompson is averaging 12.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in his third season, but his 46.4 field goal percentage isn't optimal for his position. He'd likely be shooting better on a team that created easier looks for him, though, and it's worth exploring his trade value. It would also behoove Griffin to find buyers for center Anderson Varejao, who at 31 years old should be of more use to a contender than a group like the Cavs.
The backcourt logjam
When Cleveland signed Jarrett Jack last summer, it wasn't a bad move in a vacuum. Jack had been a big part of the Golden State Warriors' success and the $6.3 million per season price tag wasn't too extreme. The issue, again, was fit. Jack needs the ball in his hands, and the Cavaliers already had an issue in that department. Both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters play better on the ball than off it, and the goal this season should have been to give the two room to learn how to play together, while also staggering their minutes a bit. Jack, through no fault of his own, gets in the way of all of that.
Cleveland reportedly shopped Waiters before Grant's firing, and Jack could be headed to the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein. Irving, the 2014 All-Star Game MVP, is obviously the franchise player, so the No. 1 priority here should be making sure that the right complementary pieces surround him. The dream of luring LeBron James back with their 2014 cap room is all but dead, largely because a number of the Cavs' smaller moves went wrong. Now they need to build a team that makes sense, and a smart deadline deal would be a good place to start.