“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF TITLED “KING” WINS ONE.” These were the words of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Since the release of this statement on July 8, 2010, certain events unfolded in ways Gilbert may not have liked. LeBron James has become a 2-time NBA champion before the Cavs have even sniffed the playoffs since his departure. Gilbert adjusted his philosophy since the statement by creating a three-year plan that will come to an end this year. The point of the plan is to outline a rebuilding period for the franchise that would set the Cavaliers up for the 2014 playoffs.
Flashback to 2011 where the city of Cleveland regained a sense of hope. The night of May 17, 2011 when the Cavs won the NBA draft lottery and also received the fourth pick. The draft did the organization wonders in drafting future All-Star point-guard Kyrie Irving with the 1st Pick (a pick once owned by the Clippers) and power-forward Tristan Thompson selected 4th Overall. This draft marked the start of rebuilding. Kyrie put up 18 PPG, 5 APG, and 3 RPG in his rookie season, while Tristan put up 8 PPG and 8 RPG. Both players played in the 2012 Rising Stars game; Irving dominated with 34 points, including perfection from behind the arc going 8-8 on threes and dropping 9 dimes, resulting in MVP honors. Kyrie took home one more award that season winning Rookie of the Year, allowing Cavs fans to smile again.
One year later, year two of the plan brought more excitement to the city after it began to fall apart after the All-Star break in 2012. In the 2012 draft, the Cavs remained in the lottery, selecting Syracuse shooting-guard Dion Waiters. On draft night, more noise was made when they traded for UNC big man Tyler Zeller. During the 2013 All-Star Weekend, the Cavs showed they were coming up with the selection of 4 players in the Rising Stars Game. Kyrie lit up the stage yet again, scoring 32 points – picking up right where he left off prior year. Irving also managed to win the 3-point contest. Cleveland proved they are willing to do whatever it takes to become playoff contenders by signing C.J. Miles and Shawn Livingston and trading for the Grizzlies’ Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights mid-season. Another acquisition was Luke Walton from the Lakers, where he produced enough for the team to be nicknamed “The Half Triple-Double.” Unfortunately, with these additions, the Cavaliers finished towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference and were unsuccessful.
This upcoming season is the final year of rebuilding mode. The Cavs had not made so much progress through free agency since LeBron left. Former Laker Earl Clark was the first to sign, desperately wanting to get out of LA. Next, point-guard Jarrett Jack, a well-known veteran, was second to sign. Cleveland participated in the Andrew Bynum sweepstakes and came out on top, signing him for 2-years worth $24 million – with only $6 million guaranteed. Not to mention the clause that allows the Cavs to release him without losing a cent. Cleveland received the 1st Pick again for the second time in three years. UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, a versatile forward that can play the 3 or the 4, was eventually selected. Mike Brown was brought back to coach the team; Brown previously coached them from 2005-2010. One of the keys to the season is remaining healthy. Over the past 2 years, the franchise has been be stifled by injuries and lost its chances to sneak into the playoffs as a possible 8th seed.
The time is now and Cavs fans are looking to win. In the final year of rebuilding, all eyes are focused on the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is known for being quite weak, which sets them up perfectly for the post-season. With an All-Star point-guard, a beastly center when healthy, and a group of young role players, this team could potentially be a 6th seed. Dan Gilbert’s plan has been in full effect and things are looking hot in Cleveland.