In a season where there has been a lot of wrong, the Cavs still have a chance to make some rights.
With a lack of consistent effort being the biggest constant of the year, coach Scott needs to use these final 14 games to get his young players as much playing time as possible and figuring out who fits into this teams long term plans. Ending a historically bad season with the team not totally giving up is a huge challenge, but this team needs its young players to get used to playing hard every night because bad habits are tough to shake – just ask the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves. Veterans (or young players for that matter) who don’t show 100% effort need to be shown the bench and be held on a short leash the rest of the season. If they don’t like it, then they don’t need to be here next season.
Ramon Sessions is probably going to be watched more closely than any other Cavalier, and if he wants to play in Cleveland next year he has to show he is willing to come of the bench. If the Cavs are fortunate enough to secure the #1 overall pick this summer, Duke PG Kyrie Irving will be the pick if he comes out – and to steal from Gary Parrish, he will come out unless he loves school and hates money. If this is the case, Sessions will be relegated to the bench, and thats not taking into account Baron Davis’ role next year. Since the trade for Davis, Sessions numbers have diminished and his mood has been sour. As a player who has ridden the bench for much of his career, he should know better than to assume playing time will always be there and needs to buck up. He has been Cleveland’s most consistent player on offense all year and his talent suggests that he would be a great off the bench PG.
The undrafted duo of Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels will also be under scrutiny. Both have had moments of good productivity throughout the season, but also have major warts in their game that might not be fixable. Samuels is listed at 6’9, but that seems generous. Either way, he plays like a C, but is way undersized to effectively defend the position and it has showed this season. His effort has been consistently high but that was not always the case when he was at Louisville and was a primary reason that he went undrafted. Maybe he has changed, or maybe it is just a mirage.
Manny Harris played better earlier in the year, but for a variety of reasons has seen his minutes go down lately. His jump-shooting really is something that needs to be improved in the offseason if he wants to have a long career in the NBA – he shoots 39% from 3 but that is probably a fluke because he was never a great 3 pt shooter in college and he has not shot many 3 pt shots this season. His mid range game is atrocious and he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to get to the rim on a regular basis. Defense might always be a concern for him, since lateral quickness is not a strong suit for him. There have been moments where he has produced and a lot of Cavs fans are high on him, but the Cavs can probably find better long term options next season at SG.
How veterans react to the season coming to a close will be telling of how much coach Scott has control of his team. 99% of NBA teams in this situation tank the last month of the season while they plan their summer vacation, but that doesn’t have to be the Cavs. Scott can send a serious message to this team by keeping every player on a short leash. If he detects less than full effort, he can’t be afraid to send guys to the bench. How those players react will tell coach Scott and Chris Grant whether or not they should be here next season. Baron Davis is obviously one guy to watch since he has clashed with Byron before, but keep an eye on Boobie Gibson and JJ Hickson. People assume that these two are here for the long term, but how they play down the stretch will show everyone what type of character they have. If coach Scott doesn’t like what he sees, why should they stay on the court? The Cavs best chance to win is to play guys who go all out every night, not by playing coddled, overpaid veterans.
Most fans are concerned with getting the worst record in the league so the Cavs have the best chance of getting the top pick in the draft – I’m sorry to tell you but the odds are against the Cavs getting the first pick no matter what they do. Sure it helps to have the most ping pong balls, but the team with the worst record almost never gets the top pick. All of the stuff in the draft will take care of itself, and it isn’t like there is a Blake Griffin or John Wall waiting to be picked. The focus should be on building winning habits and finding out which guys are committing to winning. Byron has talked all year about his players not always putting forth enough effort, and its time for him to take control and hold them accountable.
This article originally appeared on LandLoyalty.com