With the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 3-0 hole to the Golden State Warriors, things seem grim for the Cavs. Unless by some miracle, the Wine and Golders will finish in second place to the Warriors for yet another season. While the Cavs will go down swinging, the 2017-18 campaign will likely soon come to a close.
Despite winning the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive year, the Cavs are simply not talented enough to compete with the Dubs. The four-headed monster of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green are too much for LeBron James, Kevin Love, and the Cavs’ role players to compete with.
It really just is not fair, since the greatest player of all time just cannot get past the vaunted Warriors. But, at this point, maybe the Cavs just cannot keep up with the Dubs anymore.
On top of all of this, after four seasons, King James’ second chapter in The Land may be coming to an end. If he does decide to leave the shores of Lake Erie, the most likely teams he could join are the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, or Philadelphia 76ers. Out of all the before-mentioned teams, the easiest and probably most logical path to winning a championship would be joining forces with Chris Paul, James Harden, and the Rockets.
The only way for that to happen though is through a sign and trade. For that to happen, James would have to opt into the final year of his contract and waive his no-trade clause. Here is the most likely trade to happen between the Cavs and the Rockets:
- Houston Rockets receive: LeBron James, Kyle Korver
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, 2019 first-round draft pick, 2021 first-round draft pick
It would be an end of an era for Cleveland sports, as the city loses its most beloved sports icon. LeBron James will leave this time with no ill will from fans, as he delivered on his promise when he first returned to bring a championship to the city. Plus, it will be nice to see Kyle Korver continue to play for championships instead of collecting dust on a rebuilding Cavs team.
Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie became famous for decimating Philly’s roster in what is now known as The Process. Through The Process, the team eventually obtained Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and plenty of others. Through five long seasons Hinkie’s vision came to fruition and now the Sixers have one of the best young cores in the Association.
If James going to Houston went down, it would be only the beginning for the Cavs. General manager Koby Altman infamously took dynamite to the roster at this year’s trade deadline and if James leaves this summer, he will take a nuke to the entire team. Altman will need to embark on a roster tear down so severe that it would likely make Hinkie blush. Instead of The Process, Altman’s quest will be known as Cleveland’s Crusade.
To give Cavs fans an idea of what will happen post-LeBron, NBA 2K18 is a great tool to help visualize the future. To make this simulation 100% realistic, no human interaction took place. The upcoming NBA offseason was handled between artificial intelligence with some pretty wild results. Robo-Altman gives a good idea of what may happen during Cleveland’s Crusade.
Other than their pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Cavs biggest trade asset is Kevin Love, the best power forward in the Eastern Conference. Love has been sensational in the 2018 NBA Finals and it likely will help boost his draft stock. Here is the trade that Robo-Altman came to when trading Love:
- Portland Trailblazers receive: Kevin Love
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: CJ McCollum, Caleb Swanigan
Of all possible trades for Love, this may be the best one imaginable. Love gets a semi-homecoming by returning to his home state of Oregon to play alongside Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers. The Blazers are in dire need of help at power forward and are likely looking to break up the backcourt tandem of Lillard and CJ McCollum. It puts an already talented Blazers team over the edge and helps them keep pace in an uber-talented Western Conference.
Speaking of homecomings, the Cavs get to welcome home one of Northeast Ohio’s own. Canton native CJ McCollum will instantly become the shining star of the post-LeBron Cavs and will also help generate fan interest. When Larry Nance Jr. came to town, he was an instant hit with fans because of his dad. With McCollum now in tow, it gives another homebody to generate buzz amongst fans.
Other than hype, McCollum also is one of the better shooting guards in the Association. After drumming up the hype with fans, he will keep him coming if he is able to showcase even a fraction of his skills from last season:
Other than McCollum, Swanigan is also a solid addition for the Cavs. He barely saw time with the Blazers during his rookie season, but did spend some time with the Canton Charge. In 14 games for the Charge Swanigan averaged 14.2 points and 12 rebounds. The bonus for the Cavs is Swanigan is already familiar with the team’s system and with the team now rebuilding, they can take a good look at the former Boilermaker.
After trading away Love, things start to get a bit murky for the Cavs tradeable pieces. The primary objective for the Cavs is getting rid of as many bloated contracts as possible and in NBA 2K18, Robo-Altman did just that. First up, Mr. Tunnelvision himself was shipped off to Cream City:
- Milwaukee Bucks receive: Jordan Clarkson
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Matthew Dellavedova, Pick #17 in the 2018 NBA Draft
Unlike Love, Cavs fans will not be sad to see Jordan Clarkson go. During his limited time with the Wine and Golders, Clarkson has been largely a disappointment. He can find his niche in Milwaukee, who need a go-to scoring option off the bench. But the Cavs would be the biggest winners if this trade were to go down.
Much like getting McCollum, bringing back Matthew Dellavedova to The Land would generate tons of hype amongst fans. Dellavedova was the unsung hero of the Cavs’ championship battles with the Warriors due to his lockdown defense on Steph Curry.
After the Cavs won the title Delly left the team for the Bucks and every time he returns to the Q he still gets a standing ovation. Robo-Altman did the right thing in bringing Delavedova back to The Land.
To wrap up the haul for the Cavs, they also get Milwaukee’s first-round pick in this year’s draft. More on that later.
After moving on from Clarkson, Robo-Altman continues to tear down the roster with the following small moves:
- George Hill to the Philadelphia 76ers for Furkan Korkmaz, Jerryd Bayless
- JR Smith to the Denver Nuggets for 2020 first round pick (top three protected)
- Tristan Thompson to the San Antonio Spurs for Pick #18 in 2018 NBA Draft, 2021 second round pick
In the end, for a rebuilding team that is a pretty good haul for the majority of the Cavs’ bad contracts. Korkmaz has potential as a possible bench option and Bayless provides an insurance policy for the Cavs’ point guard rotation. The future first-round pick from Denver is also a nice addition as well, as it gives the Cavs ammunition in a pretty depleted selection of draft picks. Another surprising get for the simulation Cleveland Crusade is the Spurs’ first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
With the Spurs pick, along with the Bucks and the Cavs own, the Cavs have a few options to kickstart the rebuild with some young stars. At eighth overall, Robo-Altman decided to draft Alabama point guard Collin Sexton. Sexton is already a player who the Cavs should consider at eighth overall, and fits the bill as the Cavs’ franchise point guard of the future.
After drafting Sexton, Robo-Altman and the Cavs had back-t0-back first rounders thanks to the Bucks and the Spurs. With the Bucks selection, the Cavs end up picking up Texas A&M shooting guard Zhaire Smith. According to The Stepien, Smith could be one of the biggest steals of this year’s draft:
By some advanced metrics, he was one of the 20 or 30 most valuable players in the NCAA, with his tenacious defense and ability to do the little things on offense a key part of Texas Tech’s surprisingly successful season. He faces real questions about his ability to add value on offense without a reliable jump shot or particularly advanced handle, but Smith brings a high floor with his athleticism, feel, and defensive versatility.
Smith oozes with tons of potential and as one of the more raw prospects in this year’s draft class. With McCollum locked in as the Cavs’ starting shooting guard, Smith can properly develop into the Cavs two guard of the future. With a floor of Andre Roberson and a ceiling of prime JR Smith, the sky’s the limit for the nineteen-year-old guard.
After drafting Smith, the Cavs and Robo-Altman select Kentucky Wildcats forward Kevin Knox with the Spurs pick. Knox would be an amazing pickup for the Cavs at eighteenth overall. Knox was a scoring phenom for Big Blue Nation in college with an unguardable floater and a knack for three-point shooting. He does have questions about his motor, but his offensive intangibles make him a tantalizing pickup at 18. With three great rookie additions in Sexton, Smith, and Knox, the Cavs have a solid core for the future.
Finally, with every major trade and the NBA Draft behind him, Robo-Altman’s last major quest was free agency. With most of the roster and salary cap filled out, the team did not make any mind-blowing additions. The Cavs brought back Rodney Hood, and also brought in former Phoenix Suns center Alex Len.
Hood would join a crowded two guard grouping, but could see plenty of minutes as the team’s backup small forward as well. With Len, the Cavs get a young center who never properly found his footing with the Suns. He will be able to get plenty of minutes with the Cavs as his only major competition would be Ante Zizic. Both Hood and Len would be able to prove their worth in the NBA on a rebuilding Cavs roster.
After all the trades, drafting, and free agency moves, here is the roster that Robo-Altman was able to assemble for the 2018-19 Cavaliers:
- PG: Collin Sexton, Matthew Dellavedova, Jerryd Bayless
- SG: CJ McCollum, Eric Gordon, Rodney Hood, Zhaire Smith
- SF: Kevin Knox, Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz
- PF: Larry Nance Jr., Ryan Anderson, Caleb Swanigan
- C: Alex Len, Ante Zizic
Even though this article was 100% a simulation, this summer is entirely plausible as well. It is a stark comparison to what the Cavs have had the last few seasons, there is plenty of hope with this roster. They have a young core of Sexton, McCollum, Smith, Osman, Nance, Swanigan, and Zizic.
The biggest thing the Cavs also have is Eric Gordon, who is a proven commodity in the NBA who can be easily flipped for even more future picks.
All in all, the future would be bright for the Cavs if they walked away looking like this post-LeBron. GM Koby Altman has a tall task ahead of him but blowing up the roster for future pieces is key. Stay tuned for what the future holds for the Cavs.