On this fine NBA Draft morning, your jokes may all be directed toward the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jabari Parker predicted he'd go No. 2 after squelching reports he tanked his workout in Cleveland. Dante Exum apparently denied a last-minute workout and/or meeting with the Cavaliers. Cleveland is reported to be seeing what players it could get with Orlando's Nos. 4 and 12 picks, which means it's considering trading No. 1 for players and picks that would be used for more players. Kevin Love has already turned them down.
From all of that, it's reasonable to ascertain that Cleveland is in a bad way.
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For a franchise with the drama that the Cavs have had, that's unavoidable. The cold war between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters last season was brutal. The team has been the league's worst since 2010-11, and is on its third head coach since then. There was the brief, goofy Andrew Bynum fiasco. And to some extent, Dan Gilbert has brought dishonor upon his house through that horrid letter after The Decision and his complaints to the league about the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers.
I mean, why wouldn't we laugh at the Cavaliers at this point? What have they done to command deference?
That said, I'm not sure that any of this week's happenings actually mean anything.
Parker latching on to the Bucks is interesting, but it probably says more about Jabari's interest in being a team centerpiece, instead of a co-star. The Bucks don't have Kyrie Irving, after all. Parker in Milwaukee is an instant Rookie of the Year favorite, and his agent and father have certainly worked out the easy logic that a productive three years with the Bucks is the clearest path to the real big money on a second deal. (That the Cavs have been floating that they won't offer Irving the max doesn't help Cleveland's case on that angle.) In addition, despite Milwaukee's horrific season and the ongoing Larry Sanders saga, the Bucks seem somehow to be a more pleasant franchise. That counts for something.
The Exum stuff is pretty easy to explain: there's pretty much no way Cleveland is going to take the Aussie point guard No. 1. They have Kyrie Irving! Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are on the board! Exum is in play if the Cavaliers trade down and trade Kyrie, but the odds of all that seem relatively low. Exum has barely worked out for anyone, and not competitively. He's already in New York, already prepared for the biggest night of his young life. A last-minute job interview seems like a bad idea. I'd decline it, too.
But it doesn't hurt the Cavaliers to try if they are seriously considering moving down or moving Kyrie. Again, Exum has barely worked out for anyone. There's very little record on him. If there's a remote chance he could be picked, you might as well try to get a last-minute look.
As for shopping the Nos. 4 and 12 picks for players? That's not surprising, really: if the Cavaliers hadn't won the lottery and were instead picking No. 8-10 as they should have been, it'd be a foregone conclusion that Cleveland would be shopping the pick for developed players. This franchise is trying to be done with the lottery. Even Wiggins or Parker will need to develop a year or two. Given the team's mandate to win, swapping out for vets at this point makes some sense (though most GMs and owners would just count their blessings and take one of the two top prospects).
The Love thing is a nothingburger. Of course Kevin Love doesn't want to commit to Cleveland. That team has been awful for four years. Why would he leave a .500 team for a .400 team with just as little legacy of success? Love looks like he'll be picky about where he lands. There's no shame in that for him, and none for Cleveland in falling short of that standard.
There's one other glaring factor that looms in everything Cavs right now: how much of this action is meant to appease an increasingly overbearing owner? Dan Gilbert is reportedly disagreeing with his front office over who to take No. 1. There's reason to believe that he's pushing his new GM, David Griffin, one way or the other.
In such a case, the easiest thing to do in order to maintain some autonomy is to act as if you are actually doing your boss' bidding while in fact setting it up so that you can make the decision you want to make. "Let's explore trading down." "Okay, boss. I'll make some calls." And those calls are to Chad Ford, or whoever. Everyone knows how to get their overbearing boss off of their back. It's one of the first things you learn when you grow up and get a job.
The collateral damage is all of this smoke. And even that smoke has its benefits, because it allows Griffin to look like a total wild card. No one knows what the Hades the Cavaliers will do. How is that a bad thing for the Cavaliers?