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August 10, 2010
On the Beat
After James' Departure, Cavaliers Chart a New Course

by John Perrotto

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have been careful not to use the word rebuilding this summer. After all, their fans have already been traumatized by franchise icon and Northeast Ohio native LeBron James bolting to the Heat as a free agent.

However, the Cavaliers are certainly operating like a team in rebuilding mode. They are acquiring younger players and avoiding high-priced players on long-term contracts.

"During this summer we've had opportunities to go long term with some contracts," general manager Chris Grant said. "We decided not to do that. It's important for us to be in a position where we can take advantage of whatever the next best opportunity is. That's what we'll continue to do."

The Cavaliers still have a couple of recognizable veterans in forward Antawn Jamison and point guard Mo Williams.

The Cavaliers would love to rid themselves of the 34-year-old Jamison, who has two years and $28 million left on his contract, but realize his value would likely be higher if they hold on to him until next February's trade deadline. Williams was used as trade bait for most of the summer, but the Cavaliers did not find a deal to their liking and he has now become a hero in Cleveland for saying he does not want to be dealt.

Grant has been hoarding draft picks after not having any in this year's draft. He has acquired two first-round selections and three second-round choices since the start of free agency.

The Cavaliers could add some veterans if they so desire as they hold a $14.5 million trade exception from the James sign-and-trade and can use the $5.8 million mid-level exception in free agency. However, all of the top free agents were already gone by the time James left and the Cavaliers have decided to bank the money for next summer.

Cleveland's only moves have to been to acquire guard Ramon Sessions and center Ryan Hollins from the Timberwolves in a trade and sign free-agent forward Joey Graham for two years at the league minimum.

"We want to be disciplined, non-emotional, strategic and flexible," Grant said.

Bucks Step Up Goals

The Bucks' rebuilding plan came to fruition a year earlier than expected last season. Thus, their summer has also been busier than expected.

The Bucks have had a busy summer as they re-signed shooting guard John Salmons, signed power forward Drew Gooden as a free agent and acquired small forward Corey Maggette in a trade. Each player was given or has a long-term contract.

That has come on the heels of a surprising 46-win season that enabled the Bucks to end a four-year playoff drought. They surprised many experts and even themselves by getting to the postseason.

"Originally, our offseason priority was to not take a step backward if possible," Hammond said. "We had an unexpected season last year. We won more games than most people thought we were going to do. So that's probably changed our direction and focus to an extent."

Changes in Denver Front Office

The Nuggets are playing it close to the vest as far as what their new front-office structure will look like. They are looking for new heads for the basketball operations after announcing they will not renew the contracts of vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien and vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman when they expire at the end of the month.

"We're discussing candidates and we've began the search," said Paul Andrews, executive vice president of Kroenke Sports, which owns the Nuggets. "We're evaluating the front-office structure. This process is to find the right mix of talent who will improve the executive team."

Warkentien was just barely removed from winning the Sporting News Executive of the Year award in 2008-09. The honor went to Warkentien primarily for acquiring Chauncey Billups from the Pistons in a trade for aging Allen Iverson. Billups led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals.

Yet the Nuggets decided to sweep out Warkentien and Chapman even though they have a three-year, $64.7 million contract extension offer on the table to star forward Carmelo Anthony.

"We just wanted to go in a different direction and bring in some new ideas," Andrews said.

Vice president of team development Josh Kroenke, son of owner Stan Kroenke, is handling the Nuggets' basketball decisions for now with help from coach George Karl and adviser Bret Bearup.

Nelson's Future Up in the Air

Joe Lacob will have a major decision on his hands as the leader of the Warriors' new ownership group, whose $450 million purchase of the team from Chris Cohan, is expected to be approved next month. Lacob will have to decide whether to retain Don Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history.

"The real question is when we begin the future and whether Nelson is the right guy to have as our coach in the meantime," Lacob said.

Most likely, Lacob will retain Nelson for one final season. Nelson's $6 million salary is guaranteed for next season and Lacob's group is not expected to assume control of the franchise until just before the start of training camp

There has been speculation that assistant coach Keith Smart will be promoted to head coach. He would then be given a one-year tryout to show whether he belongs in that role or if the Warriors would be better served to go out and search through what would be a deeper pool of candidates following the 2010-11 season.

Also look for the Warriors to begin shopping center Andris Biedrins as soon as Lacob's group is approved. Dumping Biedrins in exchange for expiring contracts would give the Warriors enough cap room to pursue Yao Ming as a free agent next summer.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Around the Rim (08/09)
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On the Beat (03/05)
Next Column >>
On the Beat (09/08)
Next Article >>
Transaction Analysis (08/12)

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