Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Cavs bring back the popular mid-season roster makeover

cavs making tradesAfter a four-year hiatus while LeBron James was off in Miami, the Cleveland Cavaliers welcomed a fan favorite back to the franchise this week.

We’re talking, of course, about the mid-season roster makeover.

Recalling the days of Flip Wilson, Ben Wallace and Wally Sczerbiak, general manager David Griffin spent a busy couple of days turning Dion Waiters, a couple of spare parts and a couple of first-round draft picks into Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.

“What I’m most proud of, and our front office staff is most excited about, is that we’ve put together a team that we believe can compete at the highest level,” Griffin said in reflecting on the moves. “And we feel like we’ve done it without completely mortgaging the future. People look at the number of picks we’ve given away and everybody thinks, ‘Oh, my goodness, they’ve given away the farm!’ Well, we had an unbelievable farm, so we were putting it to work and we’re really pleased with where we are now. We’re going to make a first-round pick this year and we feel good about the situation we’re in.”

From just about every account that we’ve read or heard, Griffin did a solid job of using the assets he had to get the most value he could.

At first, we thought that the Cavs could have received more for Waiters, the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, but it seems that Cavs fans (and Waiters himself) value Dion more than the NBA does.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland CavaliersIt would also be nice if Shumpert, who has already missed 65 games in his short NBA career, wasn’t coming to town with a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the lineup for at least another couple of weeks, but what are you going to do? At least his latest injury is “just” a dislocated shoulder and not another ACL tear, and once he does take the court his defense should be a welcome sight.

“I think (Shumpert’s) going to be good,” one NBA executive told The Beacon Journal of the deal. “I think the team got better — pretty significantly better. He’s injured forever going back to Georgia Tech, but that’s just the cost of doing business.”

“I would not have taken J.R. There’s no chance.” – NBA Executive

Mozgov should help out on the defensive end, plus his familiarity with head coach David Blatt from their time together on the Russian national team can only be an asset.

“With Andy (Varajeo) going down, obviously we really needed a big center to give us size and to give us presence around the basket,” Blatt said on the team’s website. “We needed another excellent pick-and-cut player, which Timofey is. He’s also an athletic, very big center. His size does not take away from his speed and his ability to run the court which will serve us extremely well.”

The only real negative we can find is that that Cavs let themselves be talked into taking Smith, a player with a history of off-court troubles that make Johnny Manziel look like a Boy Scout.

“Ultimately it’s a decent trade for Cleveland unless J.R. is that bad. I would not have taken J.R. There’s no chance,” the same executive told The Beacon Journal. “Shumpert is not good enough for us to take J.R. Not even close. But I get it from Cleveland’s perspective. If I was in Cleveland’s shoes, I might have done the same thing. But if Blatt can’t control LeBron and Dion, he certainly can’t control J.R. Smith.”

Just a few months ago, another NBA executive had this to say about Smith in an article by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor:

J.R. Smith“J.R. has had a lot of issues but he can be a big-time scorer when he’s doing the right things. There’s always a team out there willing to take a chance on somebody if they feel he can put them over the top, and there’s no doubt J.R. can play. People are going to be concerned about chemistry issues in the locker room, so it would have to be a strong leadership and coaching staff that take him in.”

Smith’s past problems include a five-game drug suspension, a social media feud with Rihanna, and a game where he refused to shoot after being criticized by head coach Mike Woodson.

But that is all small stuff compared to the night he decided a stop sign was optional and crashed his car while driving almost twice the posted speed limit, an accident that killed his friend, who was a passenger in the car.

Maybe we’re old fashioned, but that’s the kind of person we generally don’t like on our team.

Blatt, the man who will have to make this all work, sounds more optimistic about the situation.

“For me, he’s a new and welcomed player on our team,” Blatt said of Smith. “I have no preconceived or pre-existing opinion, and I have no doubts about his ability to help us as a basketball player. I had a discussion with him. I can tell you that it was a good and open discussion – short and to the point.”

“People are going to be concerned about chemistry issues in the locker room, so it would have to be a strong leadership and coaching staff that take (Smith) in.” – NBA Executive

The bottom line in all this is the Cavs had to do something. The team is heading out on a five-game West Coast trip having lost seven of their past nine games, a streak that includes the first loss by a visiting team in Philadelphia and four consecutive double-digit home losses.

When the season stated we knew it was going to take some time for the Cavs to figure things out; they had a new coach and too many new players to expect them to have everything working from the opening night of the season.

But we never thought it would be this hard and that the Cavs would be nearing the midway point of the season just two games over .500, especially playing in the Eastern Conference.

“We didn’t have players that were personified by grit and toughness, and we needed more of that,” Griffin said in summing up the deals. “And I think we’ve added some of that.”

The Cavs are back in familiar territory with these mid-season deals. As we know far too well, the previous deals didn’t work out as expected.

Time will tell if Blatt and Co. can change all that.

(Timofey Mozgov photo courtesy of USA Today. J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters photos courtesy of

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