In his infamous letter published shortly after LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote:
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
Of course, Gilbert was wrong. LeBron led the Heat to titles in 2012 and 2013. The Cavs won in 2016 – only after LeBron returned.
Dan Gilbert believes that he can build a championship team without LeBron, and I think he is looking forward to trying. I don’t think he necessarily wants it to be next year, but I think Dan Gilbert would like to make a run of it.
This isn’t surprising. Billionaires tend to hold extreme self-confidence, even when succeeding in only one field.
Gilbert is a tremendous businessman. Does that mean he can assemble a championship basketball team without LeBron? Probably not.
In the 12 full seasons since he bought the Cavaliers, they’ve succeeded with LeBron and failed miserably without him:
Gilbert’s desire to have the last laugh is evident in Cleveland keeping the Nets pick instead of flipping it for a player who could help them compete this season – which might have convinced LeBron to stay. The Cavs chose to hedge and be better prepared for a post-LeBron world.
They won’t necessarily dive into competing immediately if LeBron leaves. Kevin Love isn’t good enough to lead a championship team, and the Cavaliers are too capped out to add help. They’d probably trim payroll and escape the luxury tax for a bit.
And maybe they get lucky and win the lottery nearly every year.
But even if that happens – again! – I still wouldn’t trust Gilbert to build a title team.