The Cleveland Cavaliers are in danger of falling out of the top four in the Eastern Conference after their most recent loss at home to the Golden State Warriors. The loss drops the Cavs to 26-17 on the season, just one game ahead of the fourth-place Heat and 1.5 games up on the fifth-place Wizards.
Cleveland had lost four in a row and eight of its last 10 games to slide well behind Boston and Toronto at the top of the East, and this has led to some building frustration in the locker room. We’ve heard recent reports of growing discontent from LeBron James’ teammates about how the star has slowed ball movement to a near halt, and James himself has let his frustrations out in the form of sniping back at a reporter who asked a pretty standard question about Cleveland’s poor defensive effort recently.
After the 118-108 loss to the Warriors, Cleveland fell to 1-6 on the season against the top five teams in the league, with the lone win being on opening night over the Celtics. There is concern that this is far more than just the typical midseason slump we’ve grown accustomed to from the Cavs since LeBron’s return, and players are apparently not pleased with the way the front office is apparently trying to hold onto their prized Brooklyn Nets first round pick for 2018.
The Nets pick was acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade and, privately, is considered the prize asset from that deal by many in Cleveland’s front office. That pick could potentially be used to acquire another star, but to this point the Cavs have not been willing to include it in talks which has frustrated some of the Cavs’ players.
A few “prominent” Cavs players spoke anonymously to a trio of Cavs reporters, including ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, to say they don’t feel like this team will be able to pull themselves out of this funk and be a true contender with the roster as currently constructed.
Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, multiple players acknowledged growing discontent and a strong sense of concern that unlike past seasons, the team does not have the capability to fix its problems and get back on a championship track.
Several prominent players, speaking on condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.
McMenamin once again notes that team sources have told him the Cavs still prefer holding onto the Brooklyn pick at the deadline rather than try to trade it for a star in order to keep it as insurance if LeBron leaves this summer. It’s easy to understand why both sides feel the way they do.
LeBron’s impending free agency and refusal to give Cleveland any assurances he’ll be back means the Cavs have to have a backup plan for if he leaves. The Brooklyn pick might not be as high as it once was expected to be, but a top 10 pick would still be the best asset in Cleveland should James leave.
That also means it’s the best asset they have to trade, and for players that can see the writing on the wall regarding this roster and the defensive issues they have, they want to see them make a move to maximize their chances of contending. DeAndre Jordan can apparently be had by Cleveland if they will include the Brooklyn pick, but being that he can also leave this summer if he wants to, the Cavs aren’t too keen on making that move just yet.
As the Cavs near the trade deadline, it will be very interesting to see if anything changes regarding their stance on the Brooklyn pick being dealt. A recent report from Marc Stein indicates the Cavs are “definitely” going to make a trade before the deadline, but if it doesn’t involve the Nets pick then it’s not going to be of much consequence.