CLEVELAND, Ohio – This is the season where you can guess almost anything about the Cavs.
Do they have the wrong coach? Can they win with two big men – Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley – when neither can make 3-point shots? Was the Donovan Mitchell trade a bad trade?
Listening to some of the moaning is enough to make you think the Cavs were 31-51 instead of 51-31 this past season.
Let’s do a quick ABC overview:
ONE. JB Bickerstaff needs to work on how he uses the bench and some other aspects of his coaching, but the man has done a very good job of building a team culture based on defense. The Cavs are also relatively drama-free, especially in the spoiled era of the current NBA. Denver coach Michael Malone missed the playoffs in his first three seasons with the Nuggets. That took him eight years to win a title. Bickerstaff has been the Cavs coach for 3 1/2 seasons.
B. Way too early to even think about breaking up the Allen/Mobley duo. Mobley turned 22 on Sunday. Allen is 25. They have time to improve. Allen needs to be challenged to be more aggressive, especially on offense when he gets the ball close to the rim. Mobley should be entering his senior year at USC. Yes, patience is required.
C. The Donovan Mitchell trade that most fans loved until the playoffs. Mitchell earned second-team All-NBA honors for his regular season performance. He turns 27 on September 7.
THE BRADLEY BEAL AGREEMENT
In professional sports, it’s tempting to be seduced by the name, not the player.
For example, Bradley Beal.
Washington traded the shooting guard to Phoenix for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and several second-round picks.
Some fans will ask, “Is that all?”
They’ll compare it to the Mitchell deal, in which the Cavs sent Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji and three first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029) to Utah for the All-Star guard.
The Cavs gave up far more for Mitchell than Phoenix did for Beal. To some fans, Beal seems like the better player – or at least the bigger name.
Maybe the Cavs should have waited one more year and then be the team to trade for Beal instead of Phoenix.
That assumes things like being able to see a year into the future and knowing that Beal would be on the market. This trade was made a year after he signed his new 5-year, $251 million deal (complete with a no-trade clause) with Washington. Hard to imagine that happening last summer?
HOW GOOD IS BRADLEY BEAL?
Beal has three All-Star appearances and is a career scorer of 22.1. He is a career .372 shooter from 3-point range. No doubt, he is an excellent player…when he plays.
Let’s break this down:
1. Beal turns 30 on June 28. It doesn’t appear to be very old, except that there are some warning signs. He has played in just 90 of 164 games over the past two seasons. This means he has missed 74 games with wrist and other injuries.
2. His contract has four years and $200 million remaining, fully guaranteed. He also has the NBA’s only no-trade clause, meaning he can veto any deal. The contract was a fantastic deal for the player, negotiated by veteran agent Mark Bartelstein.
3. With each passing season, it becomes more difficult for Phoenix to deal with Beal – assuming their attempt to build a Big Four with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Beal fails.
4. Durant turns 35 on September 29. The Suns traded Mikal BridgesCam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four future unprotected first-round picks to Brooklyn for Durant.
5. In the last two seasons, Durant has missed 59 games. In that same span, Beal missed 74. The age and injury history of Beal and Durant makes you wonder if this will work for the Suns. The Phoenix move to Beal oozes panic. The Suns know Durant is injury prone. They are in a win-now mindset.
WHAT ABOUT MITCHELL?
It’s true that Utah loves the Mitchell trade. Markkanen has emerged as an All-Star. Sexton is a viable scorer coming off the bench. Agbaji has a chance to be a solid shooting guard/small forward. And the Jazz have the three first-timers.
This is exactly the type of trade you want to make when rebuilding a team.
Washington couldn’t come close to that because of Beal’s age, his injury history, his large contract and the no-trade clause. Their goal was primarily to dump Beal’s contract, which ends when he’s 35.
The 6-foot-3 Mitchell was average 28.3 points, .484 shooting from the field and .386 on 3-pointers. All of these were career highs.
I believe Mitchell has a chance to become the second best player in Cavs history behind LeBron James. I am old enough to have seen all the best Cleveland players from the franchise born in 1970.
The Cavs need at least one more year with Mitchell and Darius Garland playing together in the backcourt. Yes, both had issues in the playoffs. It was disappointing that the Cavs lost in five games to the Knicks.
They need more shooting. They need a small forward. They are also in a position where their key players are likely to improve.
But the young core group of players means they don’t need to make moves out of sheer desperation – and that’s a good place to be.
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