2019-20 Previews: Cleveland Cavaliers

Losses: When you are sinking to the bottom of the sea, can any weight cast off really be considered a loss? I sorta liked David Nwaba though.

Additions: John Beilein (coach), Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr. 

Likely Starters
Guard: Darius Garland, Collin Sexton
Wing: Cedi Osman
Big: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

Predicted Record: 19-63 | 29th in NBA | 14th in East

It isn’t so long ago, is it? One almost feels the sense of being back in those times: a breeze coming in off the lake on a bright, clear evening, a good basketball team providing some modicum of meaning to whatever the hell is happening here. LeBron James played his final game for the Cavaliers (this time around, anyway) on June 8th, 2018. If I understand time correctly, that was barely more than a year ago. 

As suddenly as he had appeared, LeBron was gone again, leaving in his wake, yet again, the rotting carcass of a bloated roster built to appease him. The Cavs gathered up the pieces, maxing out Kevin Love to preserve the asset (unclear at this point whether that was a good idea) and taking fliers on flotsam like Marquese Chriss and Sauce Castillo. Somehow, though they finished the 2018-19 season with just 19 wins, they were capped out. Somehow they still are.

The Sauce Castillo in Cleveland Era: 2/5/19 – 4/9/19

Recently, I visited the Ball Mountain Dam in Vermont. As I walked alone along the spillway, peering off down the length of the reservoir, the slopes of Stratton Mountain off in the distance to the west, I noticed that the ground beneath me seemed parched and cracked, and yet gorgeous, tiny weeds and shoots of grass dotted the world, finding purchase where they could. It was more beautiful than an actually beautiful place could be. There was a kind of pathetic, pleading hope in it. 

Ball Mountain Dam, West River Trail

This is the situation the Cavaliers now find themselves in, at the start of the second year of their second post-LeBron reconstruction. There are hints of promise. John Beilein is definitely a good basketball coach (though we’ll have to see how he translates his message from college to NBA audiences). Collin Sexton (the prize of the Kyrie Irving trade) shot 40% on 3s as a rookie. Larry Nance is kinda good at rebounding. Dylan Windler has looked, like, actually awesome in summer league. There exist wonderful dreams of Kevin Love trades both bountiful and enriching. On the other hand, is this whole experiment with Sexton and new rookie Darius Garland in the same backcourt doomed to fail? What purpose, exactly, does Jordan Clarkson serve in this context? Can something be done with the expiring contracts of former legends like Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova? How in holy hell is Brandon Knight still getting paid?

Crest of the Ball Mountain Dam

The question you—sitting on your couch trying to write about the 2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers—have to ask yourself is this: what did it all mean? Do you ever get the feeling that the experiences of your life don’t really belong to you anymore? The Cavaliers are recent winners of an NBA championship. Certainly, that should linger in our minds a little, right? Certainly, that should color our perception of the franchise. The sad truth is that it doesn’t. LeBron passed through Cleveland twice, both times due to uncontrollable forces of personal history and sheer luck. He never belonged to them. It’s devastating to admit, but the present and the future are all that matters now. The weeds are here. The dam can’t hold forever. Eventually, all evidence of our infrastructure will have vanished. The river will be the river again. 

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