Impact of Looming NBA Lockout on Cleveland Cavaliers

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The optimist may choose to believe that the owners and players will avoid a lockout and come to some sort of agreement before the July 1st deadline.

But that person would be wasting their time. A lockout is coming.

Mondays court decision to lift the NFL lockout was not only a win for NFL players, but also for the NBPA. The Executive Director of the NBPA, Billy Hunter, already has secured enough signatures to decertify the union if it comes to that, and the owners are fully aware that they face an uphill battle in court. However, the owners are confident that if they can successfully lock out the players, the NBPA will eventually fall to its knees and meet many of the owners demands.

Now there will be a draft on June 23 no matter what, and unlike the NFL teams will actually be able to trade their players on draft day. So at first glance, the lockout doesn’t have to affect the Cavs all that much. But how teams approach trades on draft day will be a complete unknown.

Using the trade exception remains the primary objective for Chris Grant – not using it would be a complete failure. It should remain appealing to teams who are looking to cut salary and are willing to part with prospects or draft picks. However, one of the issues the owners will be pushing for in negotiations with the players will be salary rollbacks. It is entirely possible, however unlikely, that some owners will be willing to take the risk of hoping for rollbacks and not trading away prohibitive contracts. This probably won’t be the case, but in a time of such uncertainty owners might be more willing to just stand pat and wait to see what happens in negotiations.

Additionally, if the team had any inclination to trade big contracts like Antawn Jamison’s and Baron Davis’, the lockout will stand as an obstacle. Finding a team willing to add big contracts at a time of such uncertainty will be a challenge. Baron Davis was likely to stay anyways, seeing how the team played significantly better with him on the court, but Jamison was reportedly almost traded to Golden State at the deadline. While it is possible that such a deal is revisited, Golden State is transitioning to a new ownership group that might want to hold off on such a move. Cutting these big contracts and creating playing time for younger players and potential draft picks is a big priority for this team, but if Davis or Jamison can’t be dealt, the Cavs are one step further away from totally rebuilding.

What happens when any lockout ends is also something that can seriously affect the Cavs and their future, because there might be new rules under which the league functions. One of the major things owners are reportedly trying to get in negotiations is an increase of the minimum draft age to 20, or two  years after a players high school class graduates. This would prevent the incredibly talented incoming freshman class that includes studs Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and Michael Gilchrist from declaring until after their sophomore season, and would make next years draft even worse than this years. There would still be Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Perry Jones, but after that it would be incredibly weak. The Cavs simply cannot afford a high pick in another weak draft – they need to draft the next big NBA superstar in the next 2 years. After that, they will have too many solid players to contend for a high enough draft pick to get that guy.

In his most recent column on, Bill Simmons said that for smaller markets to be successful, they need to be smart and lucky, and having a great arena doesn’t hurt. The Cavs certainly have a great arena – its huge, modern, and has plenty of luxury suites and accommodations for high rollers. As for being smart, the jury is still out on Gilbert and Grant, but it is understandable for Cavs fans to be optimistic. Dan Gilbert certainly has the money and passion that many NBA owners lack. But right now, it looks like luck isn’t going in the Cavs way. This draft isn’t anything to write home about, and if the NBA changes its current rules next years draft could be just as bad. And if the team was looking to shed their bad contracts, the lockout situation will make other owners leery of adding to their payroll during a time of such insecurity. But one could hope that after all the bad luck Cavs fans – and Cleveland fans – have had to endure, some good fortune is on the way.

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