The Cleveland Cavaliers are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer. They still have the best player in the world ... but virtually everything that could have gone poorly for the Cavaliers in the past two months has.
Just when the NBA was finally winding down for the offseason, Kyrie Irving single-handedly pumped amphetamines into our 3 p.m. coffees. On Friday, it was reported that Irving had met earlier with the Cavaliers and requested a trade, citing a desire to be the “focal point” of a team away from LeBron James’ shadow.
Irving has a list of teams that he’s interested in, although he has no real leverage to make the Cavaliers trade him to any of them. But we can worry about that later. Right now, it’s time to wallow with Cleveland, who might be in the midst of an all-time terrible summer — some of it by their own doing, of course.
1. The Cavaliers were walloped in the NBA Finals
We all witnessed it, and it was nothing like that Nike ad. James was typically incredible while Irving mostly played great, but Cleveland lost in five games and the series wasn’t ever really in doubt. That’s bad.
David Griffin’s contract was due to expire on July 1, and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert appeared to make no real attempt to retain him. On June 20, he resigned early, leaving Cleveland led by their assistant general manager Koby Altman and without someone on top only three days before the NBA Draft.
3. The Cavaliers didn’t draft anyone, of course
They had no draft picks after making so many trades for role players in the past few seasons.
4. Cleveland missed out on both Paul George and Jimmy Butler
George to the Cavaliers seemed like an inevitable move, but Cleveland quickly learned that there was no good way to make it work. As it turned out, Kevin Love’s trade value was basically nil, especially for a rebuilding team like Indiana. Instead, George ended up in a deal to Oklahoma City, departing the Eastern Conference to team up with Russell Westbrook.
Butler and the Cavaliers were never serious rumors, but the team also missed out on him when he was dealt to Minnesota on the night of the draft.
5. The Cavaliers dive into salary cap hell to re-sign their top players
Kyle Korver re-signs on a three-year, $22 million deal. Cedi Osman inks a three-year, $8.5 million one. The team also re-signed Richard Jefferson while grabbing Jose Calderon and Jeff Green, all at the minimum. Cleveland didn’t really have a choice but to bring everyone back, but their team salary for next year has now spiked over $140 million, while the salary cap is only $99 million this year. That’s an absurd amount of money, and the luxury tax will make sure Cleveland is paying plenty extra.
6. LeBron James might not be coming back
In June, and in various reports since it was first reported, James’ future with Cleveland has been called into question. The best player in the world has a player option in 2018, and the odds seem to be piling up that he’s exercising it to scoot off to Los Angeles (either team) next summer. James may be committed to another season with the Cavaliers, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way.
7. Cleveland realized it can’t find a general manager
After Griffin departed, the Cavaliers offered the spot to Chauncey Billups ... who took like two weeks to decide before ultimately turning them down. For the duration of free agency, the team was ran by their assistant general manager, lacking a true top guy. (As it turns out, the assistant Altman may end up taking over full-time, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.)
8. Irving demands a trade
Now we’ve arrived back at the start. To recap: the Cavaliers were thwacked in the Finals by the Warriors, failed to improve their roster despite options that were out there, let their general manager go and couldn’t find a replacement, and are possibly witnessing their top two stars both leaving the team within the year. That’s not how the offseason was supposed to go.
Not in the slightest.