The summer of champions in Cleveland is almost over. The championship summer-as-a-fan grade is a resounding A+, but there's slightly more to the offseason than that.
Oh, baby. What an off-season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers off-season started at about 11:00 p.m. eastern time on June 19. It started with the euphoria of Cleveland's first championship in way too long and has led us to a team that's the consensus favorite to repeat as Eastern Conference champs. This post will aim to give an accurate grade of the Cavaliers' off-season without just giving out an A+ for everything because they're champs. No room for that here, especially because that's what I did for the Draft.
So without further ado, let's grade the Cavs' off-season in a variety of subjects.
Subject 1: Celebration
Explanation: The Cavs had a celebration the likes of which Cleveland had never seen before. It started with 100,000 people wandering the streets of downtown Cleveland after the final whistle of game 7. We hugged. We high-fived. We took photos of the LeBron billboard which lit up with the word "Champion" above his head. The next day we — 10-15,000 of us — waited at the airport for the team plane to arrive. Thousands of people standing on hot asphalt for a few hours to watch grown men get off a plane and walk to their cars to go home. It was worth it.
The celebration continued with the most poorly organized parade in Cleveland history. It took almost four hours for the players to reach the rally at the end of the parade. By that time, hundreds of thousands of people had already gone home to get out of the afternoon heat. Even so, there were still hundreds of thousands of people down there. The popular estimate (which was more than likely made up by local radio host Anthony Lima) is that 1.3 million people made it downtown for the parade. That's almost three times the number of residents in the city of Cleveland. Not bad for a Wednesday.
So yes, the celebration was a success. The trophy spent time with each player, which meant that it reached Canada (Tristan) and Australia (Delly) plus any other vacation spots that the players might've visited. It was a good summer. The story everyone will remember from the celebration, however, was that JR hadn't put on a shirt for about a week.
Bonus points go out to LeBron's impromptu speech where he called out every player and what made them special, violating FCC regulations by cursing on live TV several times in a row.
Subject 2: Backcourt Roster Moves
Explanation: This one is a little tricky because JR Smith still hasn't signed. He will, and all will be right in the world, but until then I can't give this a full grade. He was so instrumental to Cleveland's playoff success last year that there's no way an A can be reached if he doesn't sign. However, the Cavaliers still did OK this off-season.
First, Delly signed with the Bucks in free agency for just under $10m per year. The Cavs weren't going to match that and they seem OK with someone like Jordan McRae getting backup point guard minutes, or at least that's how it seems. Not re-signing Delly was probably the right move.
Second, Cleveland drafted Kay Felder. He turned heads in the summer league and seems very likely to make the final roster. He'll also likely see minutes in blowouts or if Irving/McRae have any bumps and bruises in the early going. There are murmurs that he'll crack the rotation relatively quickly this year, even if he is behind McRae early. The team is reportedly high on Jordan McRae because he plays a similar style to Kyrie but is taller, longer and a decent defender.
Third, Iman Shumpert got caught with pot, which isn't great. Shump was hard to watch in the Finals. I like to think he's going to right the ship and hit the occasional open shot this year because that's really all that's asked of him. By coming off the bench he's able to go all-out for most of his minutes. He's basically Cleveland's version of Iguodala except Iggy made his shots in each of the last two years of NBA Finals.
Fourth, Mo Williams retired. This isn't too big of a deal, but he played meaningful minutes during Kyrie's injury last year and had that buttery-smooth floater in game 6 of the Finals.
He will be missed.
Subject 3: Frontcourt Roster Moves
Explanation: I've debated over this grade quite a bit, but there are a few pieces that make it clear that the Cavaliers' frontcourt roster moves should be applauded.
Part 1: Mozgov signed with the Lakers for $16m per year. I mean...what? I like Mozzy. He seems like a great guy and he had some fun times with the Cavs and he even seemed just as invested toward the end despite playing next to never. But $16m? Yowza. Great choice to let him walk.
Part 2: 'Birdman' Andersen as a backup. Birdman looks like a crazy person. I like that. He probably won't see the floor too much for the Cavaliers, but that's OK — he's going to eat up minutes against the few big-time centers in the league and he's going to annoy the hell out of them. This move was/is also possibly symbolic of Cleveland committing to playing smaller, which I like. Ben wrote about that a bit here.
Part 3: Mike Dunleavy, Jr. is on the team now. That's cool, I guess. I have no strong feelings on Dunleavy but I know he's not a very good defender. He'll maybe take some of Richard Jefferson's playing time but it may serve to keep everyone fresher. MDJ provides another skilled shooter on a roster full of skilled shooters. You can't have too many of those guys.
Subject 4: Coaching Moves
Grade: A, I guess
Explanation: This one's weird. There was a time late in the summer when the Cavs hadn't re-signed their coaching staff and all of these valuable guys were just like "hey... are we still employed?" It was really strange and the general vibe sounded like an episode of The Real World when there was a house meeting and then everyone goes to the confessional room to say how pissed off they really are while pretending that everything's fine to everyone else.
On the bright side, and I'm reluctant to admit this, the Ty Lue extension seems like a great idea. He won a title. What more can you ask for? I thought he was overrated for most of the season and I still feel like LeBron as a player/coach would be almost as successful, but that's not happening. The players love Lue so if anyone's gonna be the coach it might as well be him.
Lastly, there are now rumors that coach Lue has contacted Kevin Garnett about possibly joining up as an assistant coach. I get it, but man I hope this doesn't happen. I'm not ready to un-hate KG yet. He never played on any of my teams so I'm 100 percent allowed to hate him. Don't fight me on this.
Subject 5: Personality
Explanation: Have you seen these guys? They're awesome. You have JR being JR, you have Kyrie cracking jokes on dudes at team USA practice (must've been extra fun for KI to be around Klay Thompson and to ask Harrison Barnes what it's like to never make a single shot in your entire life but still get a $90 million contract), you have Channing Frye finding out on Twitter that the Browns had a quarterback named Frye who also wore #9. There's a lot to love here: Richard Jefferson is still a Snapchat king, Kevin Love took his championship belt just about everywhere for two months, and of course, you have LeBron. That dude was either posting Instagram videos every 90 seconds from wineries in California or looking at insane paintings of himself on walls in China.
The only downside to the personality reared its head when the "Tristan Thompson has been hanging out with Khloe Kardashian" thing started happening. Hard not to be concerned.
Overall, though, pretty good summer. These guys are fun.