Just when Cleveland Cavaliers season looked as if things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the franchise has made a decision that could potentially set it back even further than initially thought.
When LeBron James declined his player option last summer, it wasn’t hard to guess what was coming next. The Cavaliers have spiraled from Eastern Conference kings to the worst team in the NBA – exactly what happened last time he jumped ship and joined the Miami Heat back in 2010.
With James having jumped overboard, Cleveland was set to enter new waters. Captain Ty Lue and his newly-promoted Commander Kevin Love, along with their fresh first mate – eighth overall draft pick Collin Sexton – the organization remained confident, or at least Lieutenant Commander Tristan Thompson was.
That confidence (if it really did exist in the first place) did not last long. In fact, it lasted just six winless games before Lue was put to the sword by Admira Dan Gilbert and Commodore Koby Altman. Role of steadying the ship was passed over to Acting Master Larry Drew – a man who is well respected in the league but has had it all to do with Love out since October due to a toe injury, and JR Smith is refusing to even show up.
It could be about to get a whole lot worse
As if that wasn’t enough, the latest installment of the saga is very bizarre and potentially most damaging of all. On December 28, Cleveland reportedly reaches a deal with former Golden State Warrior Patrick McCaw. (as per Shams Charania of The Athletic):
All seemed fine with the deal and the Warriors were not interested in matching the offer sheet. The Cavaliers had a new back-up point guard with two NBA championship rings while Pat McCaw was going to get paid. Everybody was happy.
After just three games, Cleveland announced it was waiving McCaw, one day before his contract become fully guaranteed, meaning once clearing waivers he would then become an unrestricted free agent.
Two days after the team’s announcement, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted: “Golden State has requested that league officials, investigate the signing and near-immediate release of McCaw by Cleveland.”
Clearly, the reigning NBA champions are upset. They most likely feel the Cavaliers had helped McCaw become an unrestricted free agent. McCaw was locked in a contract deadlock all summer with Golden State, and clearly wanted a move that potentially would see his minutes significantly increased.
The Warriors’ claim is that they would have retained his rights, and re-signed the 23-year old point guard, even if he’s already shown he wanted out of the bay area. So if Cleveland did do wrong by taking advantage of restricted free agency rules, by signing the player with all intentions of releasing him, it could lead to action being taken by league officials, and it won’t be good.
What punishment Cleveland face?
The Cavaliers could face a number of punishments. If they are found to have done wrong, the league office could ask them to give up its 2019 first round draft pick. That would easily be the worst possible outcome, due to the fact of how bad they are this year, Cleveland is looking at the potential of a lottery pick with the league-worst record of 8-35.
The 2019 draft is due to be headlined by Zion Williamson, a player who this year has dominated college basketball with Duke. Should he carry over that dominance into the NBA, he could be a future All-Star caliber player that the team is desperately in need of. His fellow Blue Devils’ RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish are also tipped for great things, so losing a draft pick would be a devastating blow.
Another option is that Dan Gilbert could pay a fine, which considering the seriousness of maybe losing a draft pick would be the best possible situation.
What happens next?
It’s going to potentially be a long-winded investigation with no current word of how long it could take. But if the Cavaliers are guilty of intentionally doing wrong, it may just blow their best chance at drafting their next superstar. One certainty is that the league is taking the situation very seriously, and the cloud over Quicken Loans Arena continues to get darker with each day that passes.
Considering that this was a team who have been the ones to beat in the east the past four seasons, this could be the last final big blow that sees Cleveland sink to the foot of the league for a long time.
Featured photo – via Tim Fuller / Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration