5 Biggest Mistakes Cleveland Cavaliers Made This Season
As the Cleveland Cavaliers 2013-14 season mercifully comes to an end, one can't help but wonder what went wrong.
The Cavs convinced many they were a playoff team thanks to some offseason free agent spending coupled with a growing batch of young talent.
Now sitting at just 31-47 with four games to go, the Cavs' season is all but over. What's worse is the fact Cleveland really was in the playoff race all season, mainly due to the saddened state of the Eastern Conference.
Had they prevented or corrected these five mistakes, we should have easily been playing postseason basketball in Cleveland.
There's always next....well, you know the rest.
-All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Hiring of Mike Brown, Again
Let's start with the obvious, shall we?
Mike Brown is not a good head coach, despite what his career record may say. Brown is well suited to be a defensive-oriented assistant coach, but somehow keeps landing head jobs. Why Dan Gilbert was so quick to hand over $20 million to a man he fired just three years before is still baffling.
When Brown was first hired to coach the Cavs back in 2005, it was clear he didn't know how to run an NBA offense.
Nearly 10 years later, nothing has changed. Brown's offense is ranked 22nd in the NBA in scoring and 23rd in offensive rating. Guys still spend too much time standing around, watching one player dribble the air out of the ball. Seriously, with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng, C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack and Spencer Hawes, an offense in the bottom third of the league is inexcusable.
The team has underperformed all season long, with drama and trade rumors poisoning the locker room. Too often fans were just begging for a decent effort from the team and didn't always get it.
Some will point to the Cavs' late-season resurgence as a reason Brown should be back next season. Others will argue they should keep Brown for the simple fact the team needs some stability at the head coaching position.
While stability is important, so is having a head coach who promotes player growth, demands respect and can facilitate an offense.
Cleveland needs to undo this mistake immediately following the season and start fresh with a new leader. May I suggest these five candidates?
Not Giving Sergey Karasev a Chance
The forgotten member of the rookie class, Sergey Karasev never really got a shot with the Cavs this season.
The 20-yeal-old guard/forward has appeared in just 21 games for the Cavaliers, averaging just 7.1 minutes per contest.
Even with injuries to wing players like C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters, the Cavs haven't shown any interest in giving Karasev a chance. Players signed to 10-day contracts like Seth Curry and Shane Edwards have gotten playing time over him.
Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal had this to say about the Russian rookie's lack of minutes:
The Cavs remain high on rookie Sergey Karasev and believe he can be a very good NBA player, but not this year. Although the postseason goal has slipped away, don’t expect to see Karasev at the end of the season in meaningless games. The Cavs believe he needs to get stronger physically before he can compete in the NBA. That’s what this summer will be about for Karasev — getting bigger and stronger.
So to get this straight, the Cavs would rather give minutes to D-League players with no future in Cleveland rather than a 2013 first-round pick because he's too skinny?
Using that logic, perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder should wait a few years for Kevin Durant to bulk up. Reggie Miller played his Hall-of-Fame career at 185 pounds (per basketball-reference.com), or 11 pounds less than what Karasev weighs. But yeah, let's not play him and just assume he can't compete.
In 18 games with the Canton Charge, Karasev performed quite well. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent from deep to lead the team.
Cleveland was in desperate need all season of players who could space the floor, yet the Cavs never gave any real, consistent playing time to a prospect who could have helped them in that very area.
Holding Players Accountable
A good coach makes all players accountable for their actions, regardless of their place on the team.
A perfect example of Brown failing at this was in his dealings with Cavs guard Dion Waiters.
Instead of benching Waiters or cutting his playing time, Brown still played his shooting guard 25 minutes. The Cavaliers got blown out of what was a prime time TNT game, losing to the Knicks, 117-86. According to Lloyd, this move "left at least a handful of players raising their eyebrows — particularly within an organization that has preached accountability since Brown’s arrival."
Brown had a chance to make a statement right then and there that whatever behavior Waiters was displaying in practice would not be tolerated. With so many young guys on the team, discipline needs to be present to help these prospects make the transition from college kid to professional athlete.
Accountability was indeed a major issue this year for the Cavaliers.
The Andrew Bynum Dilemma
Cleveland knew signing Andrew Bynum was a risk, but it was ultimately attitude and not injury that led to his dismissal from the team.
Bynum was suspended by the Cavaliers in December due to conduct detrimental to the team. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal tells us more:
Something happened during practice Friday, which one source referred to as the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but wouldn’t divulge what exactly happened because it was simply a continuation of a behavioral pattern that had been ongoing for weeks. Had it been an isolated incident, no one would’ve said or done anything.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that Bynum "stopped trying on the floor, and became a disruptive presence in practices. Before Bynum was thrown out of his final practice and suspended, he was shooting the ball every time he touched it in a practice scrimmage, sources said – from whatever remote part of the court he had caught the ball."
So according to the two reports, Bynum had been messing around in practice for weeks, and nothing was done about it?
Instead, the Cavs let a small situation build until it ultimately led to the dismissal of a player. Bynum should have been held accountable for his actions from the start, without it leading to a suspension and trade.
Anthony Bennett's Development
It's almost easy to forget about Bennett and the limited contributions he made this season.
The first overall pick in the 2013 draft hasn't played since March 8 since going down with a patellar strain in his left knee. In his 51 games, Bennett is averaging 4.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.3 assists on 35.2 percent shooting.
Clearly, it wasn't the type of year Bennett or the Cavaliers were hoping for.
The main problems for Bennett this season were his conditioning, shot selection and confidence. While Bennett dropped weight and worked himself back into playing shape, the Cavs did a poor job of helping him succeed in the other two areas.
The Cavaliers initially made Bennett a power forward, which was absolutely the right move. Starting the season at 6'8" and nearly 260 pounds, Bennett was nowhere near nimble enough to play out on the wing.
Even though he began to improve at power forward, head coach Mike Brown decided to move Bennett to small forward in December. This was a terrible idea, as it only gave the overwhelmed rookie a whole new playbook to study. Bennett never played the 3 in college. Or high school. Or middle school. Or, well, ever.
“There’s still a lot I have to learn,” Bennett told Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. “It’s the first time playing the ‘3’ in my life. It’s a huge adjustment for me.”
Not surprisingly, Bennett was awful while on the wing. 82games.com lists his PER as a small forward at .0, while defensively allowing a PER of 25.2 to his counterparts at the position. Bennett was moved back to power forward again after spending just a few weeks playing the wing.
Bennett often looked lost, confused and completely lacking confidence while on the court. Instead of sending him to the D-League where he could have improved his conditioning, game speed and confidence by playing against inferior competition, Brown opted to completely remove Bennett from the rotation.
From January 14-28, Bennett played a total of five minutes in seven games.
Bennett himself clearly has a lot of work to do, but the Cavaliers could have handled his development this season much better.