So I guess the Cavaliers had a meeting last week. Players-only, and after the meeting guys are missing games for mysterious reasons and there’s a code of silence surrounding what was said and who said it. Then they came out and played possibly their most impressive game of the year, beating Washington on the road despite missing two starters, only a couple of nights after letting Minnesota bitch-slap them with impunity. So are there any conclusions we can draw from this set of events?
Well, there’s this: Winning is hard. Getting to, say, the sixth seed in the East may not be that difficult, but getting to the point where a championship is a realistic possibility in a given year is hard. Real hard. It’s a two-step process: First you accumulate as much talent as you possibly can, then you make it fit into a team. Making it into a team, as it happens, is the hard part. We probably got spoiled the first time Mike Brown was here, because you could throw any four warm bodies on the court with LeBron, play an offensive scheme slightly more advanced than the average sixth grade team, and get to the second round of the playoffs on a regular basis. This time, turning all of this raw talent into something greater than the sum of the parts is going to take some work.
Regardless of how you feel about each individual pick, the overall talent on this team is pretty impressive. In the last three years, the Cavs have drafted six guys who have the potential to be core or rotation players on a good team. They have signed three free agents this year that can help and still left themselves with a ton of future draft picks and enough cap flexibility to make significant moves in the future. At some point over the next two years the Cavs should be in a position to add an elite player to pair with Kyrie without disrupting their core. That is exactly what you would hope for.
Step two, though, is where so many teams slip up. There’s a reason for that. Teams are rarely wrong about a player’s raw talent; a year of college and all the workouts and other competition these guys go through is enough to reveal who has the most talent. What is more difficult to determine is whether a young player is willing to dive for a loose ball, able to understand where the other nine guys on the floor will be in two seconds so he can get to the spot he needs to be in, and able to gratify his ego (make no mistake, they all have egos) by the accomplishment of team goals rather than individual numbers.
When a team completely overhauls its roster this quickly, it is inevitable that not all the new guys will buy in and do what they need to do for the Cavs to win a title. So there are two goals for this year: Making the playoffs while also deciding which players have the right stuff to be building blocks on a championship team. Because they have done such a good job of upgrading the talent level, they have the potential to achieve both objectives. But make no mistake, the latter goal is most important.
That is why Mike Brown is probably not all that upset about the adversity this team has faced over the first few weeks of the season. That is true even though things may get worse before they get better. The schedule hasn’t been all that demanding over the first eleven games; with games upcoming against San Antonio and Miami in the next week, their weaknesses may get exposed even more. But the players who can win a championship will come through this adversity and be stronger when it’s over. The other guys will be exposed by this, so the Cavs can make the moves they need to make to get to the next level.