So Saturday night, while most of America was fixated on the Final Four — and most Ohioans on the Buckeyes’ in said Final Four — the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Jason Lloyd dropped a bombshell: head coach Byron Scott’s job may not be as secure as most assumed. His story, which you better read if you have yet to, directly cites concerns from at least two players and another member of the organization, all anonymous, about Scott’s rotations, reluctance to use timeouts and the team’s overall poor defense.
As a fan, many of these concerns are ones the Cavs’ Twitterverse has spent the last three years lamenting. I would agree that Scott’s received a bit of a pass, from the Northeast Ohio media and even many fans, given the tough hand he’s been dealt: LeBron James’ departure, inconsistent lineups due to injuries to the team’s top talent, etc. The offense has improved, but the defense is a shed of what it was during the Mike Brown era, going from proverbial first to worst; the Cavs are surrendering a woeful 110 points per 100 possessions, according to 82games.com.
But, in Scott’s defense, the team’s best defensive player — Anderson Varejao — has suffered season-ending injuries each of the past three seasons, playing in a combined 81 games. Cleveland’s franchise talent, Kyrie Irving, himself a putrid defender, missed 15 games last year and 22 (and counting) this year. And No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters, another core piece, has missed 14 games.
In a game this week against Boston, Scott fielded a backcourt of Chris Quinn and Daniel Gibson. Before a few weeks ago, Quinn had not played NBA ball since the 2010-11 season in San Antonio, and Gibson’s logged more than two dozen DNP, Coach’s Decision’s this season.
I do not want to sound like a Scott apologist, but the potential cons of firing Scott far outweigh the pros. Lloyd would know much better than I, but Scott seems to have a good relationship with Kyrie — look no further than their friendly trash talk prior to this year’s 3-point contest — like he did with CP3, and I fear dumping Scott tosses two years of development out the window. I mean, look what Scott’s done with Tristan Thompson — last year, Cavs fans were openly questioning whether the team made him a mistake in drafting him No. 4 overall, and now he’s a candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year.
Regardless of whether the Cavs land LeBron in the summer of 2014, the 2014-15 campaign, I believe, is the season everyone has circled. Kyrie will have three years under his belt and will face restricted free agency the following summer, if the team’s yet to lock him up long-term by then. Same with Thompson. And Varejao, assuming he’s still around and the team picks up his $9.8 million team option, will be trying to prove he can stay healthy before hitting the market for probably his last contract.
Add at least two more lottery picks and at least one regular contributor via free agency to a core of Irving, Varejao, Thompson, Waiters and maybe Zeller — the jury’s still out — and, with the right hand, that’s at least a playoff team capable of winning a first-round series. Miami’s ‘Big 3’ presumably will have dissolved, and with a shuffling of talent, who knows which teams will be players and which will not.
This is a long ways down the road, sure, and maybe I’m just grasping at straws. But I do think the Cavs, a very young, developing team, could benefit from consistency. Is there a coach out there, one better than B. Scott, that’s worth risking so much over? I just don’t see it.
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