Before the season began, the Cavaliers were among the favorites to win the NBA title. But after a much slower than expected start, the belief within the locker room that the team could truly contend began to disappear.
Under the condition of anonymity, members of the Cavaliers’ roster admitted that they had lost faith due to the lack of depth and structure of the roster. A handful of players said they came to the realization that the roster, as it was constructed prior to the trades, wasn’t equipped to go any further than the second round, if that.
One player claimed the frustration of an “unbalanced roster probably contributed” to the team’s poor body language and effort level they were putting out. Another player vehemently said “it was never Coach [David] Blatt’s fault.”
A couple of recent trades may have changed that perception. Cleveland added some much-needed depth by trading for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and added an interior defensive presence in Timofey Mozgov to replace the injured Anderson Varejao.
The Cavaliers may not be done dealing, either.
The team was expected to hang onto the odd contract of Brendan Haywood to dangle in trade this summer, because while he’s only on the books for $2.2 million this season, he has one more non-guaranteed year at $10.5 million that could help bring a superstar back in trade by making the salaries match.
But now, it appears as though they may try to use it to further bolster the depth on the roster this season.
From Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com:
The Cavs are still trying to upgrade their backup point guard spot, but that probably won’t happen until closer to the trade deadline. If they can’t find one in trade, they may have to wait until one they like is bought out or until late March when the Chinese League season ends.
There have been whispers throughout the season the Cavs may trade Brendan Haywood’s unique contract before this summer, when it reaches its maximum value. Those whispers are growing louder. In fact, if the Cavs are to upgrade their backup point guard position through trade, they will inevitably have to include Haywood just to make the money match. And from all indications, they’ll have no problem moving Haywood’s contract if the right point guard becomes available. But they won’t know that until closer to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
Cleveland has finally gotten rolling a little bit, and after a 39-point victory over the Hornets on Friday, the team has now won five straight. That more than anything will restore the faith in the locker room that the Cavaliers may indeed be capable of doing something special.