Top Needs for the Cavaliers to Sort Before the 2021 NBA Season Gets Underway
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a wild couple of seasons. They went from winning the franchise’s first NBA title, to trying to repeat, to watching LeBron James leave (again).
Then some people (myself included) couldn’t believe they handed Kevin Love a massive contract extension. That was a move that made it seem like the Cavs would still fight to contend, or at least make the NBA playoffs.
Neither happened, as not having James around to carry the load proved disastrous. Cleveland has been among the league’s worst teams since King James left Ohio, and last year the team won just 19 games.
It probably can’t get a whole lot worse than that, but there are still key needs to address for this franchise.
For a quick breakdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ biggest needs for the 2021 NBA season, and how they can improve, read on.
Get a Superstar
LeBron James leaves quite the hole to fill.
Cleveland has had to replace him twice, and the first time they didn’t do a bad job when they drafted Kyrie Irving. The year James came back to the Cavs, they thought they were doing it again when they took Andrew Wiggins with the top pick.
All of those guys are gone now, of course. All that remains is a slowly fading Love, who has always been a great rebounder and quality scorer, but isn’t a true superstar that can carry his team to the playoffs.
As long as Love is in town, it’s likely the Cavs will struggle to be competitive, unless they also add another star player to the mix.
That isn’t happening in free agency, as nobody wants to play in Cleveland right now, and the Cavs have all of their cash tied up in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond.
The best place to improve will be the 2020 NBA Draft, where the Cavaliers own the 5th overall pick.
James Wiseman would be a terrific long-term center option, Obi Toppin could be a point forward to replace Love for the future, or the team can start over at the point with someone like LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes.
Are any of these players locks to develop into legit NBA superstars? No, but Cleveland has to take a crack at one.
Add Some Size
If the Cavs draft James Wiseman, then this can be packed into the first Cavaliers team need. They need a guy who can possibly be their franchise cornerstone, but they also need some size to bang down low.
Kevin Love and Andre Drummond are both there right now, but it’s anyone’s guess how long they’ll be part of the team’s plans. Love is aging and pricey enough to move in a trade at any time, while it’s unclear if the Cavs are even thrilled about Drummond likely opting into his player option.
Whatever the case, it’s quite possible that Cleveland will have a whole lot of nothing down low by this time next year. Adding in some depth to roam the paint is not a bad idea, especially when you consider Cleveland gave up the second most points inside the paint last year.
If Cleveland doesn’t take a big man in the lottery, they could eye some help in free agency. Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumlee, and Alex Len could be some useful veterans that wouldn’t break the bank.
Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic are gone, so at the very worst, snatching up some depth is probably something the Cavaliers need to do this offseason.
Land a Playmaker
It’s arguable the biggest Cleveland Cavaliers need is an elite playmaker. It’s tough to even assess the guys they have, as Collin Sexton is such a heavy isolation scorer.
Sexton’s scoring works (20.7 points per game), but he hasn’t proven to be a dynamic enough playmaker. The other guard working with him is Darius Garland, and neither of these guys cleared four assists per game last season.
Are they the future for this franchise? For the moment, it seems like it, but Cleveland could benefit greatly from the team just opting to ship one off in a trade, or bring in a more proven point guard to run the offense.
One wild idea could be to package Kevin Love and this year’s draft pick and send them to Portland for either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. It’s not like they haven’t talked about dealing him, nor are they quiet about the high price it’d cost to get him.
For the Cavs, this would be a “win now” move, which would suddenly pair Andre Drummond with an elite point guard.
The Blazers would then either keep Dame at the one, or slide McCollum there and elevate Gary Trent Jr. or Anfernee Simons to the starting five.
It’s just one example of how the Cavs can think outside of the box, feel their biggest needs, and perhaps even expedite their path toward being competitive again.
Cleveland is going nowhere at the moment. They have no use for Kevin Love if they’re going to just waste away, so shipping him out of town – either to acquire assets or to land an elite playmaker – could be the move they need to make.
The Cavaliers have a potential stud center in place in Andre Drummond. In theory, if that lottery pick is going to be spent on a center, they really could just buy into Drum, extend him, and flip that pick for one of their other weak spots.
Cleveland needs someone to create offense for the rest of the team.
Garland is unproven, and Sexton really only does it for himself. Depending on what they do this offseason and going forward, the Cavs also need to make sure their post depth chart (previously their main strength) doesn’t erode into nothing.
The Cavs won’t be making the playoffs barring something wild, so don’t go overboard targeting them if you’re betting on sports online. That said, it will be very interesting to see how they try to build this team out.