Off-Season Grade: F
I will tread lightly here. LeBron abandoned Cleveland to take his talents to Miami. Clearly, it is an astronomical-sized loss. What made it even worse was owner Dan Gilbert's open letter in which he wrote "I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."
While I understand the emotion that Gilbert was feeling after LeBron's announcement on public television which pretty much drove a stake into the hearts of everyone associated with the Cavs, c'mon Dan... you cannot be serious. Not only will your team be one of the worst in the NBA this season; you did nothing to counteract LeBron's departure.
Cleveland had little offseason flexibility and their moves included signing former first-round pick Christian Eyenga, journeyman wing Joey Graham and undrafted free agent Samardo Samuels. The Cavs also dealt Delonte West and his MILF-like habits to Minnesota for reserves Ryan Hollins and Ramon Sessions. YAWN!
If Gilbert weren't so stubborn, he would have realized that blowing up the Cavs' roster and starting over would give the team the best chance to start the re-building process post-LeBron. Now the Cavs face a year of trying to figure themselves out with a several veteran players who certainly will not be a part of this franchise's long-term plan.
LeBron is being replaced in the starting lineup by... drum roll please... Jamario Moon. If that doesn't say it all, I don't what does. Cleveland has a very realistic chance of going from the best team in the East to the worst.
Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison will now be relied on to take over the star roles on this team. Only thing is neither player has proven to be able to carry a franchise during their careers and it will only become more prevalent this season. Anderson Varejao will provide his usual effort and athleticism in the post, but will now be counted on to permanently move to center, a position that he has never really thrived at, with Shaq and Big Z no longer on the roster.
After those three players, their roster is a massive question mark. Third-year player J.J. Hickson has showed some promise but where are his minutes going to come from since he is stuck playing behind Jamison and the two cannot play in the same frontcourt at the same time? It would make the Cavs far too undersized. The wing play consists of a group of guys who should be nothing more than role players in the NBA. Don't be surprised to see a lot of Williams and Sessions playing in the same backcourt for extended minutes.
If the season plays out as I expect and the Cavs are one of the bottom feeders in the NBA, management will have to start looking towards the future. Williams has a player option after this season and could receive a lot of interest from other teams. Jamison is scheduled to make more than $15 million in 2011-12 so do not be surprised if the Cavs try to dump his contract for an expiring deal and draft picks.
Sorry to add to the dismay of the past several months, but it will not get any easier once the season starts.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
Since the Cavs delayed the inevitable this summer as I previously mentioned, and refused to start the re-building process, I fully expect that transition to happen next offseason. Depending on what happens with Williams' contract situation and a few other players who have options on the final year of their deals, the Cavs should have a large chunk of cap space to work with next offseason. If they are smart and deal Williams and/or Jamison, they should also have an extra first-round pick or two to speed up that process.
However, I see a Michael Jordan-like situation playing out in Cleveland. When Jordan retired from the Bulls, no star player wanted to come to Chicago and try to replace the legend. What superstar will be willing to come to the Cavs and live in the massive shadow left behind by LeBron? Cleveland will run into that exact obstacle every time they try to lure a big name free agent. This franchise has A LOT of questions and concerns about their long-term future. Damn you, LeBron!