Dante Exum will miss an “extended period of time” with a left ankle sprain, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff provided the medical update in a session with reporters before tonight’s game.
Exum suffered the injury in Monday’s contest against the Hawks. He limped off the court under his own power, but was unable to return. Exum was walking with a crutch this morning, Bickerstaff added.
It’s a familiar story for the 24-year-old guard, who has been limited to 91 games over the past three years due to a variety of injuries, including a knee issue earlier this season.
Exum has established himself as a rotation player since being acquired from the Jazz in late December. In 24 games with the Cavs, he is averaging 16.8 minutes and 5.6 points per night.
The Eastern Conference playoff picture hasn’t been entirely set yet, but at this point, it seems unlikely that a team outside of the top eight will crash the party. The 25-32 Magic, who currently hold the No. 8 seed, are far from untouchable, but they still hold a 4.5-game lead on any of the conference’s also-rans.
That means the Wizards, Bulls, Hornets, Pistons, Knicks, Hawks, and Cavaliers will likely finish the year in the lottery. Our Community Shootaround discussion today centers on which of these clubs is best positioned going forward.
Of those teams, only the Pistons weren’t also in the lottery a year ago. But much has changed since then. Longtime cornerstones Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond are gone, and Detroit only has a 2023 second-round pick to show for it. Blake Griffin, who had one of the best years of his career in 2018/19, has barely played this season due to health issues. The Pistons are headed for a full-fledged rebuild, and while there are some promising young players in the mix, including Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, it will likely be a long process.
The Wizards, like the Pistons, still have an injured veteran star (John Wall) occupying a major chunk of their cap. Unlike Detroit though, Washington is potentially in position to get back into the playoff mix when that star returns next season. Bradley Beal has taken his game to another level in recent years, and the Wizards have unearthed some productive role players like Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner to go along with prospects such as Rui Hachimura and Troy Brown. The team also wants to re-sign Davis Bertans this summer.
The Bulls and Hawks entered the season as popular sleeper picks to challenge for the postseason in the East. That hasn’t happened though. While Zach LaVine has looked better than ever in Chicago, the Bulls haven’t gotten the production they expected out of recent lottery picks like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., who has once again dealt with injuries.
Atlanta, meanwhile, saw its season derailed early by John Collins‘ 25-game PED suspension. Trae Young has become one of the league’s best offensive players, but the young supporting cast still isn’t ready to contend. Both the Bulls and Hawks have some cap flexibility going forward, but they’ll need more from their young building blocks in order to take a real step forward.
The Knicks and Hornets have been plagued by cap mismanagement in recent years and have lacked a true superstar. Both teams should have some flexibility this summer and beyond, and young players like Devonte’ Graham, PJ Washington, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson have promise. But it would definitely be premature to pencil in any of those players as perennial All-Stars — the management groups in New York and Charlotte will need to keep looking for potential high-end talent.
As for the Cavaliers, you could make the case that their 2019/20 season has been the worst of any of these teams. Newly-hired head coach John Beilein lasted just 54 games, veteran players like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have been disgruntled, and neither Collin Sexton nor Darius Garland looks like a lock for stardom. Kevin Porter Jr. has exceeded expectations and the Cavs will have some contracts coming off the books this offseason, but Love’s massive deal and the decision to acquire Drummond complicates their cap outlook going forward.
What do you think? Which combination of core players, front office personnel, and future cap flexibility would give you the most confidence if you had to pick one of these seven Eastern Conference teams? Which one do you think has the brightest outlook beyond this season?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!
The Cavaliers have had a rough season, with a coaching change and struggles in their young frontcourt among the issues. However, they may have stumbled onto something special in their 2019 No. 30 overall pick.
“There’s no one on the [Cavaliers] with real All-Star potential,” a former scout told Hoops Rumors. “If you told me one player will take his game to that level, I’d bet on Kevin Porter Jr.”
Porter was expected to go much higher in the 2019 draft but the Cavaliers happily scooped him up with the last of their three selections in the first round. KPJ has appeared in 45 games for Cleveland this season, assuming a scorer/facilitator role off the bench.
The Cavaliers’ new coach J.B. Bickerstaff has impressed since taking over the role and he has the organization’s full support, as many believe in his ability to develop the young talent on the roster, which includes Porter.
Here’s more from Cleveland:
The Cavs had interest in coach Avery Johnson prior to inking John Beilein to a contract this past offseason, as I relayed on Heavy.com. Johnson previously played in the NBA in addition to coaching for the Nets and Mavs.
GM Koby Altman is traveling overseas to scout draft prospect Deni Avdija, Fedor relays in a separate piece. Avdija, who is a 6’9″ wing playing in Israel, could be one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft.
February 24th, 2020 at 5:07pm CST by Dana Gauruder
The Cavaliers were interested in former NBA coach Avery Johnson prior to hiring John Beilein last spring, Chris Crouse of Heavy.com reports. Johnson, the former head coach of the Mavericks and Nets, most recently coached the University of Alabama. Cleveland’s interest in Johnson dated back to the 2018 offseason but the Cavs are now committed to J.B. Bickerstaff, who replaced Beilein after the All-Star break.
Whiteside is making $27.1MM this season. Bazemore is making $19.3MM while Love is taking home $28.9MM. The outlined of the deal suggests that Portland would have received other players as part of the trade in order to meet the league’s salary-matching rules.
It’s not clear when exactly the proposal took place — the Blazers ended up trading Bazemore to the Kings in earlier January, so presumably, it was before that deal. Portland netted Trevor Ariza as part of the five-player trade.
The Cavaliers had Brandon Knight and John Henson on substantial expiring pacts prior to the team trading them to Detroit for Andre Drummond. Perhaps one of those two were in the proposed deal. Tristan Thompson, who is making $18.5M in the final year of his contract, could also have been a possibility, though that is simply speculation.
The Cavs couldn’t find common ground with potential trade partners when it came to Love’s trade value. Cleveland reportedly wanted a first-round pick in exchange for the big man, while it was rumored that some teams wanted a first-rounder just to take Love. The former All-Star has approximately $91MM left on his deal after this season.
February 20th, 2020 at 10:50pm CST by Chris Crouse
The Cavaliers underwent a major change this week, moving on from coach John Beilein. Yet, more needs to be done if the team is going to turn the franchise around, as I recently wrote on Heavy.com.
If Andre Drummond opts in this offseason, then making trades will be key to unlocking Cleveland’s fortunes. Kevin Love and Collin Sexton are among the players who could bring the franchise long-term value in deals.
Here’s more from Cleveland:
Assistant Lindsay Gottlieb will rotation with J.J. Outlaw to the front of the bench under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic tweets. It will depend on which coach as the scouting report for a given game. Russo adds that Antonio Lang is the new lead assistant, for now.
Bickerstaff plans to experiment with the lineups, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com passes along. “Are there things that we can do to be creative? Like you talk about K.P., can he play the point? Can we put the ball in his hand and let him initiate some stuff? Those types of things,” Bickerstaff said.
Bickerstaff didn’t see Beilein’s exit coming over the All-Star break, as he was in the Caribbean vacationing, Fedor writes in the same piece. However, the team and Bickerstaff had previously spoken about the associate head coach taking over after Beilein was done, though no one expected it this soon.
On the day that he officially stepped down as the Cavaliers‘ head coach, John Beilein met with players for one last time in the team’s film room and explained his decision to them, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who says that Beilein showed “honesty, dignity, authenticity, and vulnerability” in his farewell on Wednesday.
Beilein insisted the club isn’t as far away as its dismal 14-40 record suggests, but told players that in his current state, he didn’t feel as if he could make a “positive impact” on them anymore as their coach, per Fedor.
“It took a real man to do that today,” Kevin Love said of Beilein’s comments. “Seeing him being vulnerable and treating us with respect and empathy, I thought it was super powerful. He came in and we all, I think the players, the coaches, himself, we all talked about some of the successes and failures that we had and talked about how it’s really, really hard to lose in this league.”
As Fedor details, Love suggested there was plenty of blame to go around for how the situation in Cleveland played out. Although Beilein struggled to adjust to the NBA, Love said the team’s performance this season isn’t just on “one man,” adding that losing so many games was hard on everyone.
“I think losing definitely drove … you saw me, I went a little crazy myself,” Love said. “After winning for so long and having such an elite program and you’re winning so many games, it’s a shock. So many things are different at this level, but even wins and losses, sometimes you try too hard not to become numb to it, but when they’re stacking up so fast and in the fashion that you lose and it’s the middle of January, you’ve played so many games, it’s not like you get that much happiness out of (the occasional win).”
Here’s more out of Cleveland:
Within that same story and in a tweet, Fedor clarifies that the Cavaliers don’t intend to conduct a head coaching search this spring, noting that J.B. Bickerstaff‘s ascension to the head coaching role was essentially built into his contract. That agreement was a “big reason” why Bickerstaff chose to come to Cleveland — his promotion just wasn’t expected to happen this soon.
In a separate Cleveland.com story, Fedor takes a deep dive behind the scenes on how things went south for Beilein and the Cavs. The piece covers much of the same ground that The Athletic’s report on Wednesday did, but includes several new details and quotes. One player said Beilein treated Cavs players like “college kids” instead of “grown men.” Fedor also hears that many players were “shocked” by the timing of Beilein’s departure, thinking it would happen at season’s end.
In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton explores the next steps in the Cavaliers’ rebuilding process. As Pelton observes, even among Cleveland’s most obvious long-term building blocks – such as Darius Garland and Collin Sexton – there’s no clear future All-Star, which puts added pressure on GM Koby Altman as he continues searching for top-tier talent.
In John Beilein’s case, the doubters turned out to be right.
After four decades in the college game, the 67-year-old coach wasn’t able to handle the adjustment to the NBA. The lifestyle, the personalities and the expectations of his players were all foreign to Beilein, who built his reputation guiding athletes between the ages of 18 and 22.
While he had his share of those with the rebuilding project in Cleveland, the atmosphere is different in the NBA. The coaches have all the power in college, but in the pro ranks the balance shifts to the players, who weren’t receptive to long practices and intense film sessions in the midst of an already-grueling 82-game schedule. Beilein seemed out of place both on and off the court as he tried to adapt to the game strategies and player management techniques of a league that was totally new to him.
Beilein resigned today in a move that everyone knew was coming. His 14-40 record and a growing litany of player complaints made the parting inevitable.
He becomes the latest successful NCAA coach to crash and burn in the NBA, joining a large group that includes John Calipari (72-112 with the Nets), Rick Pitino (192-220 with the Knicks and Celtics), Tim Floyd (90-231 with the Bulls and Hornets) and Jerry Tarkanian (9-11 in a brief 20-game stay with the Spurs).
But regardless of the results, some NBA teams believe the solution to their problems can be found on a college campus. The Knicks, for example, reportedly expressed interest in both Calipari and Villanova’s Jay Wright to take over the team next year.
The Celtics’ Brad Stevens, one of the few to successfully transition from college to the NBA, met with Beilein in the summer of 2018 while he was considering an opportunity with the Pistons. Stevens, who reached the NCAA title game twice at Butler, talked to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com in October about how to he was able to make the transition work.
“I think one of the great things about being here (in Boston) is that we have unbelievable leadership in our front office and ownership and they don’t ride the highs and lows — a game, a week, a month, they just kind of stay the course,” Stevens said. “I really appreciate that. You feel empowered to work in that environment. … If you’re looking at it coming from a college situation where you have a lot of job security I think the question you want to know is, ‘there will be ups and downs and is it going to be something they recognize they can’t overreact to one bad week or bad month?’”
We want to get your opinion. Is it a mistake for NBA teams to look to the college ranks for head coaches? Or are there a lot more potential success stories out there like Stevens just waiting for an opportunity? Please leave your responses in the space below.
After days of rumors that he was on the way out, John Beilein has officially resigned as coach of the Cavaliers, the team announced in a press release. Beilein will remain with the team and will be assigned to a different role.
“Over these last nine months, I have given my all to this organization, but after much reflection, I have decided that it is best that I step back and resign from my position as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and assist the organization in a different capacity,” Beilein said. “I am very grateful to (owner) Dan Gilbert, (general manager) Koby Altman and the entire Cavaliers organization for the opportunity they have provided me.”
Beilein, 67, had a rocky road throughout his first NBA season after four decades of success in the college ranks. He posted a 14-40 record, but the losing was expected with a rebuilding team. It was Beilein’s coaching style that reportedly alienated many of his players, and he often seemed out of touch with the NBA game.
Beilein was second-guessing his decision to leave Michigan as far back as the preseason, according to a report from The Athletic this morning. He found that his players didn’t respond well to lengthy practices and film sessions, and he wasn’t used to the idea of load management to help veterans get through an 82-game season.
“This was a very difficult decision for me,” Beilein added in the press release, “but I want to be clear – this was my decision to step down and I truly appreciate the understanding and support of the front office during this time. I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected. I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family’s well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff.”
Beilein’s new role and how long he will remain there haven’t been determined, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Sources expect Beilein to be heavily involved with the draft because of his connections to the college game.
Beilein spent 12 years at Michigan, leading the team to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Fours. He compiled 829 total college wins with 20 postseason appearances. Those credentials convinced the Cavaliers to gamble on him despite a lack of NBA experience, giving him a five-year contract in May.
“John Beilein is one of the more accomplished basketball coaches in the history of our game and while it’s unexpected, we understand and respect his decision to step down as head coach of the Cavaliers,” Altman said. “I was excited about the development of our young players, who have all shown growth and maturity under Coach Beilein. We are thankful for the time he spent as head coach with the Cavaliers and are looking forward to his continued contribution. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking on important long-term decisions to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. I would like to thank the incredible fans of the Cavaliers for their support in both good and challenging times. Building a strong culture will continue to be the top priority here at the Cavaliers.”
As expected, assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be promoted to replace Beilein. He has previous experience as a head coach with the Rockets and Grizzlies, compiling an 85-131 record. Every assistant coach is likely to be promoted, according to Fedor, which meansLindsay Gottlieb figures to move to the front of the bench (Twitter link).
The Athletic’s trio suggests that players began to tune out Beilein during training camp, and there were already signals at that point that the new head coach was unhappy in Cleveland. After a pair of preseason blowout losses to the Celtics, league sources were saying that Beilein was second-guessing his decision to leave college for the pros, per The Athletic.
Beilein’s tone toward players was said to be an issue throughout the season, as he allegedly nitpicked fundamentals and displayed an inability to adapt to the NBA’s offensive and defensive structures, according to Charania, Lloyd, and Vardon.
“He was a dictator — not a coach suited for today’s NBA,” one source told The Athletic.
While players were immediately turned off by Beilein’s style, the longtime college coach was “stunned” by the culture in the NBA, according to The Athletic. He was surprised by players’ “revulsion” to long film sessions and practices, and wasn’t accustomed to things like load management – such as Kevin Love sitting out half of back-to-back sets – or trades, which he didn’t have to deal with in college. The Athletic’s report indicates Beilein had a hard time adjusting on offense after the Cavs sent Jordan Clarkson to Utah in December.
The Athletic’s report paints a picture of a marriage between team and coach that was doomed from the start. Here are a few more of the most notable details from the story:
Recently-acquired center Andre Drummond didn’t take to Beilein at all upon joining the Cavs earlier this month. One source told The Athletic that Drummond said the situation in Cleveland was worse than the one he’d come from in Detroit. The veteran center reportedly indicated he’d walk in free agency if Beilein was still the Cavs’ coach, Lloyd said in a radio appearance (Twitter link via Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan).
After Beilein said in a January film session that his team had been playing like “thugs,” he apologized, claiming that he had meant to say “slugs.” But several players never really bought that explanation, per The Athletic. “There was no coming back from that,” said one player, who suggested the excuse was an insult to the players’ intelligence. After that incident, a handful of players began blasting songs that prominently featured the word “thug” when Beilein was within earshot, sources told Charania, Lloyd, and Vardon.
The Athletic trio suggests that team owner Dan Gilbert may have had a hand in steering the head coaching search toward Beilein, despite his denials that it was his decision. One source told The Athletic that GM Koby Altman and his front office were at least more on board with Beilein than the previous group – led by David Griffin – was with the David Blatt hire in 2014.