I don’t trust Dan Gilbert

Kirk over at Stepien Rules has a post on Dan Gilbert which I thoroughly enjoyed. He says that the Cavs’ recent moves point to Gilbert not wanting to go through a long rebuilding process and how it may not be that bad:

Let me start by saying I do not necessarily think this is the best way to build the team. In a “perfect” world, the Cavaliers would finish in the bottom two or three of the league this year and the next two years. In that time, they would avoid taking on major salary except in the case where it yields them further draft picks. Then, when the time is right and the draft picks are ready, free agent signings and taking on salary for the sake of talent can take place. That’s the ideal rebuild for the small-market Cavaliers.

But, humans are impatient, Cleveland fans are impatient, and son of a gun, I am too! That’s why Dan Gilbert gave the green light to Chris Grant for a win-win trade for the Cavaliers with Baron Davis and the unprotected Clipper first round pick. For those looking to acquire assets, how often are you able to get an unprotected first round lottery pick? I can hear the shouts now of a weak draft class, and I laugh at that notion. Last year’s draft was considered weak too with Wall and Turner at the top. Is it perhaps just a trend of less NBA-ready college stars? Plus, how many All-Stars and NBA starters were a) late first-round picks or b) second-round picks? The Spurs are a perfect example (outside of Duncan, of course).  For those looking to compete as soon as possible, despite his injury issues and attitude problems, Baron Davis is still a Top 10 or 12 point guard in the league when he wants to be. I repeat, WHEN HE WANTS TO BE. It remains to be seen if Byron Scott and Baron Davis are truly on the same page now.

Rumors swirled around this team like a welcomed rainstorm during a drought about veterans Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker departing, as well as Rip Hamilton becoming a Cavalier in a deal similar to the Baron trade. Gilbert also admitted in last night’s FSN Ohio telecast that the team was close to acquiring a third unprotected lottery pick and will revisit that avenue in the offseason leading up to the draft. That leads me to the main point of this article: as this team is or will likely be constructed next year, it has the potential to win 35-40 games and at least heavily compete, if not make, the playoffs. Here’s my reasoning.

Say the Cavaliers pull off a similar deal with the Traded Player Exception with the Pistons. They get a first round pick and Richard Hamilton. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a 2012 pick and the team wins the lottery this year and the Clipper pick stays at 7-8. The team selects Kyrie Irving and Terrence Jones (or, Harrison Barnes or Derrick Williams).

I don’t disagree with any of this.  The Cavs could very well be a playoff team next year.  But…. so what? Winning 35-40 games and getting bounced in first round does not a contender make. Is the goal to be a playoff team? Or a team with a legit shot at a NBA championship?

I was at a friend’s place the other night, was watching the Cavs lose to the Spurs, when Gilbert joined Austin Carr and Fred McLeod in the booth for the third quarter. I hate when he does this. I’d rather AC and Fred use their time to explain what we’re seeing on the court (or just let Austin ramble), rather than listen to them kiss their boss’s ass for 30 minutes. But Dan’s the owner and he can do what he wants. (Obviously).

However, Gilbert’s foray into the booth prompted my friend to remark how much he likes Dan’s ‘win now’ attitude which, in turn, prompted a 30 minute rant from yours truly on why even though I like Dan Gilbert, I don’t trust Dan Gilbert.

This is that rant. More or less.

Dan Gilbert wants to win. I respect that. I love that. He’s done a lot of good things in pursuit of winning, like upgrading the arena and practice facility as well as opening his pocket book (and paying the luxury tax) to enable the basketball moves the team needs.  That’s good. However, until last July, that pursuit of winning also meant keeping LeBron James happy, and by most accounts, that meant letting LeBron and his buddies do whatever they pleased.

And that’s fine, to a degree. Gilbert felt like he had to bend over backwards and look the other way to keep LeBron happy (and in a Cavalier uniform). I get that. But it didn’t work and his “letting LeBron do whatever he wants and praying he’ll stay” plan wasn’t his only questionable decision in my opinion.

First, there was the whole Tom Izzo debacle. Gilbert wanted Tom Izzo to coach the Cavs, come hell or high water (and again, that’s his prerogative). By most accounts, Danny Ferry wasn’t aboard the Izzo train and thus Ferry parted ways with the Cavs. Also, one of LeBron’s problems with Mike Brown was that Coach Mike never played in the NBA. So Gilbert’s big play to keep LeBron was…. another coach who never played in the NBA. Awesome.

So Gilbert’s star player and free-agent-to-be didn’t return the calls of the guy he wanted to coach the team and yet somehow the Cavs were caught by surprise when LeBron took his talents to South Beach.  Let me repeat: LeBron James didnt’t answer Tom Izzo’s phone calls and Dan Gilbert still thought James was staying.

I know it’s easy to say that the Cavs had no Plan B after LeBron but they really didn’t have a Plan B. And not even a Plan B as in “should we rebuild or stay the course?” but Plan B as in, ‘”what should we, The Cleveland Cavaliers organziation, say on July 8th if LeBron doesn’t choose us.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel Danny Ferry would’ve had a meeting at somepoint where they discussed the different scenarios, like, “OK, we all think LeBron is resigning but what if that fucker says no? What do we do? Should we have Press Release A or Press Release B? Instead, all we got was Gilbert’s off the cuff, passionate, and somewhat pathetic open letter and his promise that they’d win a ring before LeBron.


Then the dust settled, the offseason moved on and the Cavs were rumored to be pursuing… Matt Barnes and Brad Miller.

What. The. Fuck.

Instead of rebuilding and starting over, Gilbert wanted to pour more money into this team by signing (mediocre) veterans.  I respect his passion and willingness to spend, but Brad Miller? Matt Barnes? He didn’t really think the Cavs were going to compete with these guys… did he?

Well, looks like he did. Hell, less than two months ago the Cavs said they weren’t in rebuilding mode (sure as fuck fooled me!).  Then we hear rumors about how Cleveland doesn’t want to trade Anthony Parker, even for a first round pick, that they had a deal for Rip Hamilton and that they were involved in talks for Gerald Wallace. YAY! More so-so veterans!

Again, Dan Gilbert willing to spend and doing what it takes to win: I’m on board. Dan Gilbert going about winning by signing guys like Brad Miller, not trading Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker and hiring a college coach: Notsomuch.

I understand how the idea of Baron Davis + healthy Varejao + JJ + Jamison + two lottery picks + trade exception has some appeal. That team is certainly better than what we’re watching now. But what’s the ceiling for that squad? Sure, they could make the playoffs next year (though even that is assuming a lot) but what then? After Jamison and Baron are gone, how are you improving the team? Free agency? Drafting 9th-17th every year?

I remember the aftermath of Price-Daugherty-Nance teams: a Cavs squad filled with vets like Hot Rod Williams, Tyrone Hill and Michael Cage rounded out with decent-but-not-great young guys like Terrell Brandon, Bobby Phills and Chris Mills. That’s a team that wasn’t good enough to win a playoff series but wasn’t bad enough to draft guy who could win them said playoff series.  After a few years of treading water, eventually fans lost interest and the team bottomed out anyways.

If Gilbert’s goal is for people to attend Cavs games and spend money at his casino afterwards, I understand wanting to field a playoff team. But if a small market team wants to be really good for a long time, they’re going to have to draft high (and not just once). Sure, you could get Tim Duncan, but you could also get Andrew Bogut (good, not great) or Michael Olowokandi- it all depends on the year (and reports are, this year sucks).

Plus, if there’s ever a time to suck to get great later (and that is the goal, right? To be a great team?), wouldn’t you want that sucking to occur while the casino is being built rather than in three years when it’s up and running?

I hope Gilbert’s plan works. I really do. I like watching the Cavs and watching the Cavs is much more fun when they don’t suck. But I really, really, really hope that someone in the organization is taking the long view.

Because Dan Gilbert isn’t.

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7 Responses to I don’t trust Dan Gilbert

  1. DocZeus says:

    If that’s really the plan, he better friggin’ land Durant and Westbrook in this draft.

  2. Matthew says:

    But don’t Gilbert’s recent actions suggest that he does get it? I don’t understand guys like Kelly Dwyer raking Gilbert over the coals for allegedly not rebuilding, when all he’s done is stockpile draft picks and young talent by taking on short-term costs. That’s what the Baron Davis deal was all about and that’s what the Rip Hamilton deal would have been about, too.

    I think the reports about Parker were just posturing. You can’t come out and say how happy you’d be to trade the guy for a 1st round pick, so you talk about how reluctant you are to do it. At the end of the day, I don’t think a 1st round pick was on the table. So the Cavs didn’t deal, and I agree with that. Parker, right now, is worth more to this team in maturity and leadership than a 2nd round pick. A 1st rounder? Sure.

    You’re completely right about the risk of getting too mediocre, too fast. I just don’t know what the Cavs could have done differently so far. With Andy coming back next season and assuming that Davis and Jamison stay healthy, JJ and two draft picks, the Cavs could compete for a playoff spot. I sure hope they don’t. I think the tests will be (1) does Gilbert commit long term money to any veterans in the next couple of years? (Hopefully not) and (2) do they move Jamison (or the trade exception, or Davis, or even Andy) for more picks/young developing talent? (Hopefully yes). Those will be the tells of whether or not the organization gets it.

  3. Ben says:

    @ Matt – Your first paragraph and your last paragraph make my point. I THINK these moves COULD show that Gilbert gets it but there’s also a chance that the Cavs could compete next year. So basically, I need to see more- I simply don’t trust Gilbert at this point.

    and I feel the Cavs missing out on 2 months of AP’s leadership is worth a 2nd round pick. Not trading him isn’t a huge deal, but I am sick of watching him (probably my least favorite guy on this team, for reasons that probably aren’t entirely rational).

  4. Matthew says:

    Well then I guess we agree! I think I’m just a bit more optimistic than you are that the Cavs will get this right. Of course, you’re correct that Gilbert’s impatience could lead to some hasty moves and ruin it all. But so far, so good, IMO.

    Nice blog. I’ll keep reading.

  5. Erik says:

    After LeBron left, there really was no Plan B besides acuqiring draft picks and hitting on them, year after year. How can you really have another fallback plan besides that?You try to get incrementally better each year over the next 2-3 years, and hopefully by the time the 2013-14 season rolls around, you’re where the Chicago Bulls are now.

    35-40 wins next year isn’t a crime if it’s a stepping stone. The Cavs didn’t crack 50 wins until LBJ’s third year, either.

    FTR, I credit Chris Grant for being the voice of reason in Dan Gilbert’s ear. Gilbert, being the hot-blooded type that he is, probably wanted to make radical changes last summer. But Grant, being a draftnik, was probably the guy in Gilbert’s ear, preaching patience and a draft-oriented rebuilding philosophy. Everyone is skeptical of Grant, but I think he’s going to prove himself to be a damn good GM over the long haul.

  6. Pingback: Things Smart Owners Don’t Do | Ben Blog

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