Koby Altman

Cavaliers Notes: LeVert, Roster Depth, Altman

Every game is meaningful for Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert since his recovery from kidney cancer surgery in 2021, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LeVert’s condition was discovered during a physical after he was sent from Brooklyn to Indiana in a four-team trade. An MRI on his lower back revealed a small mass on his left kidney, and after undergoing an operation to treat a renal cell carcinoma, he was able to return before the end of the season.

“Obviously, I’m grateful to still be playing basketball, to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “It was something that was super unexpected. It just gave me perspective as to how lucky I am to be doing this for a living.”

LeVert has been able to continue his career since the cancer scare, but he says hydration is more important than ever. He’s playing a valuable role for Cleveland, where he’s a candidate for Sixth Man honors, averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 63 games.

“He’s been extremely important to us because of his versatility, his willingness to sacrifice and come off the bench because he’s an NBA starter,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It changes the dynamic of what we’re able to do with our second unit. His minutes versus second-unit guys typically gives us an advantage. He’s bought into being our best one-on-one defensive player. So, he helps us finish games because we can put him in and he can play both defensive and offensive lineups.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers have a much deeper roster this season, which is why they were able to post a 17-1 stretch despite injuries to Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, notes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Additions such as Max Strus and Georges Niang provide more options than the team had when it got bounced in the first round last year. “You can never have too much talent, but I will say this: I think it’s a testament to our depth,” general manager Koby Altman said. “We knew last summer we would have to make ourselves deeper, making ourselves more explosive, diversifying our offense.”
  • The Cavs may reexamine everything if they lose in the first round again, but otherwise there’s no reason to believe Altman’s job is in jeopardy, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com states in a mailbag column (subscription required). Fedor argues that the team has overachieved this season considering that virtually every key player has missed time with injuries. He cites the additions of Strus and Niang, the finding of undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. and the recent signing of veteran forward Marcus Morris as positive moves by Altman.
  • Cleveland has to be ready for opponents blitzing Garland and Donovan Mitchell to force the ball out of their hands, Fedor adds in a separate story. That means other players have to be ready to exploit the advantages created by double teaming the ball-handler. “We try to take the play that is there,” Bickerstaff said. “We have enough talent on this team that if we just make the simple play then defenses are going to have to make tough choices. They came out and they were ‘hotting’ us or ‘trapping’ us in the pick and roll, so the play was to get it to the big and let the big do his thing. Our bigs are elite when they catch the ball in the pocket and are capable of making all the plays.”

Cavs Rumors: Mitchell, Rubio, Allen, Bickerstaff

The injuries that will sideline Darius Garland and Evan Mobley well into the new year aren’t expected to significantly impact the Cavaliers‘ plans for this season, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who says the franchise remains committed to its core of Garland, Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, and Jarrett Allen.

As Fischer writes, there has been “incessant chatter” among rival executives about the possibility of Mitchell leaving Cleveland in 2025, when he can opt out of his current contract, with speculation about his next destination focusing on the New York teams (the Knicks and Nets). However, those whispers haven’t affected the Cavaliers’ resolve to this point, Fischer explains.

In the event that the Cavs begin to struggle and slide down the standings without Garland and Mobley available, it’s possible the front office will have to reconsider its approach to the trade deadline. But Koby Altman and his group seem to have the “sturdy backing” of ownership, per Fischer, so the odds appear slim that a substantial change in direction will occur in the coming weeks.

Here’s more from Fischer on the Cavaliers:

  • One move Cleveland might make on or before the February 8 deadline would involve Ricky Rubio, according to Fischer, who suggests the team would like to turn Rubio’s salary slot into a player who could contribute this season. The veteran point guard announced in August that he’d be pausing his career to focus on his mental health, and there has been no indication that the “pause” will end anytime soon, so he’d be a buyout candidate if he’s traded to a new team, Fischer adds.
  • While the Cavs have no plans to trade him, Allen would receive “plenty” of interest from playoff contenders if he were ever made available. League sources tell Fischer that the Pelicans are one team that has long had its eye on Allen and would be interested if Cleveland is willing to listen to offers down the road.
  • There was some noise early in the season about whether J.B. Bickerstaff‘s hold on his head coaching job might be slipping, but Fischer hears from sources that the Cavs don’t seem to be in any rush to make a change on the sidelines. Injuries to Garland and Mobley may actually reduce the pressure on Bickerstaff, Fischer points out, since expectations for the club will be tempered without those two young stars in the lineup.

Cavaliers Notes: Rubio, Altman, Strus, Mobley

Cavaliers point guard Ricky Rubio, who announced in August that he has decided to pause his basketball career to focus on his mental health, received an excused absence from the team’s media day on Monday, reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

It remains unclear when Rubio might report to the team, but president of basketball operations Koby Altman told reporters, including Fedor (Twitter link), that the subject of retirement hasn’t come up at all during his discussions with the veteran guard. Altman and the Cavs are hopeful that Rubio will be with the club for the 2023/24 season, Fedor adds.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • After being arrested and charged in September for driving under the influence, Altman told reporters on Monday that he has spoken to team owner Dan Gilbert about the situation, though he declined to say whether he expects to face discipline from the organization, per Tom Withers of The Associated Press. “I feel awful about the distraction that this incident has caused our organization and team,” Altman said. “I’ve had several conversations across the building with players, coaches and ownership on down and have expressed that same sentiment to them as well.”
  • Having joined the Cavaliers on a four-year, $62MM deal in July, Max Strus expects to be the team’s starting small forward, he said on Monday (Twitter link via Fedor). Cleveland’s starting backcourt (Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland) and frontcourt (Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen) is set, but the club rotated through several options at the three last season, so Strus certainly looks like the obvious choice to fill that spot.
  • Mobley said on Monday that he had a home gym installed and hired a personal chef this offseason, which helped him put on seven pounds of muscle. The big man added that he’s ready to “take off” this season and has made it a goal to make the All-Star team and to win Defensive Player of the Year (Twitter links via Fedor).

Central Notes: Altman, B. Brown, Pacers, Cunningham

The attorney for Koby Altman submitted a plea of not guilty on his behalf on Tuesday after the Cavaliers president of basketball operations was charged with committing a marked lanes violation and operating a vehicle while impaired, per TMZ Sports.

Police video obtained by TMZ and News 5 Cleveland (YouTube link) showed Altman appearing to struggle to complete a series of field sobriety tests after being pulled over in Cleveland on Friday night. The Cavaliers executive told officers that he was “exhausted” after returning from a trip overseas and was driving home after a long dinner.

The Cavaliers, who initially issued a brief statement announcing that they were gathering information on the incident, have put out a follow-up statement, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter links).

“We hold our team members to a high standard of conduct and expect leaders at every level of our organization to represent the Cavaliers with integrity, professionalism and accountability,” the Cavs said. We will continue to closely monitor the facts and circumstances of this matter and await resolution of the legal process.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a discussion about the best offseason move made by a Central Division team, Josh Robbins and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic both pick the Pacers‘ signing of Bruce Brown, while their colleague Darnell Mayberry chooses the Pistons‘ hiring of Monty Williams as their new head coach.
  • Within the same story, Edwards, Robbins, and Mayberry identify Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Pacers forward Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker as some of the top breakout candidates in the Central.
  • The majority of the Pacers‘ players were in attendance for Summer League in Las Vegas, signaling the team’s growing chemistry and a culture that’s on the right trajectory, contends Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (subscription required).

Cavaliers Executive Koby Altman Charged With OVI

Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman was arrested and charged Friday night for operating a vehicle while impaired, according to a report from FOX 8’s I-Team.

We are aware of an incident involving Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman,” the team said in a statement, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). “We are currently gathering more information and have no further comment at this time.

According to the FOX 8 report, Ohio State Highway Patrol says troopers stopped Altman just before 9:00 p.m.

Troopers initiated a traffic stop and during their interaction with the driver, indicators of impairment were observed,” the patrol said, per FOX 8. “The driver was subsequently placed under arrest for OVI and soon after offered a breath test which he refused.”

Altman was also charged with committing a marked lanes violation, per the report. FOX 8 reports the patrol added that Altman was “respectful and cooperative with troopers.”

Altman joined Cleveland’s front office in 2012, working his way up through the organization before being named general manager in 2017. In 2022, Altman was promoted to president of basketball operations and signed a contract extension through the 2027/28 season.

Kings’ Monte McNair Named Executive Of The Year

Having constructed the roster that snapped a record-setting 16-year playoff drought, Kings general manager Monte McNair has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2022/23 season, the league announced today.

McNair, who controversially sent ascendant guard Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana in a blockbuster deal for Domantas Sabonis at last season’s trade deadline, supplemented the star duo of Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox this past offseason by drafting Keegan Murray, signing Malik Monk, and trading for Kevin Huerter.

Perhaps most importantly, McNair hired Mike Brown as the Kings’ new head coach after parting ways with Alvin Gentry. Brown won Coach of the Year honors after leading Sacramento to a 48-34 record and its first postseason berth since 2006.

Unlike most of the NBA’s other major postseason awards, the Executive of the Year is voted on by the league’s 30 general managers instead of 100 media members.

McNair received 16 first-place votes and showed up on 24 ballots, earning 98 total points. He beat out runner-up Koby Altman of the Cavaliers, who got seven first-place votes and was included on 21 ballots, finishing with 63 total points.

No other executive received more than two first-place votes or 20 total points. Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Nuggets GM Calvin Booth, and Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens rounded out the top five vote-getters, while sixth-place finisher Bucks general manager Jon Horst joined Stevens as the other executives who received two first-place votes. Nine additional execs received at least one vote.

Cavaliers Won’t Consider Replacing J.B. Bickerstaff

The Cavaliers‘ moves this summer won’t include a coaching change, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Speaking to reporters on Friday, president of basketball operations Koby Altman quashed any rumors that the team might consider replacing head coach J.B. Bickerstaff following a first-round playoff exit.

“Yes. Absolutely,” Altman replied when asked if the organization remains committed to Bickerstaff. “There’s no question about that. I mean, look what he’s accomplished. It’s actually funny, I’ve not heard that, maybe because I haven’t been reading or not on Twitter, but I’ve not heard that noise. So that’s not even a question. […] End that speculation.”

Bickerstaff led the Cavaliers to a fourth-place finish in the East, and their 51 wins were the most since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in 2018. Altman said he worked with Bickerstaff on exit interviews this week, giving advice to players on how to improve during the offseason. He also credited Bickerstaff with building a culture in the post-LeBron era.

“You can’t fluke your way into 51 wins,” Altman said. “You can’t fluke your way into the No. 1 defensive rating in the NBA. That’s coaching. I know we have great defensive personnel, but you have to have buy-in from them, and that comes from the head coach. And so we’re extremely happy with J.B. and the job he’s done.”

Altman addressed several other topics in his session with the media:

  • The Cavaliers won’t panic after their short playoff run, and Altman said fans shouldn’t expect “sweeping changes” this summer, Russo adds. Many of the team’s rotation players were in the playoffs for the first time, and Altman believes the organization can build on that experience. “I also think the strength of our roster is the fact that we’re positioned really well for the future with the guys that are most important under contract,” he said. “… We have to look at what’s the piece that we really want to improve and enhance and then use the vehicle that we have to go do that.”
  • Re-signing free agent forward Caris LeVert will be an offseason priority, Altman said. Russo notes that LeVert’s role with the team changed after Donovan Mitchell was acquired last summer, and he evolved into a sixth man and secondary playmaker as the season progressed. “He’s a big part of our attack,” Altman said, “and it’s a big reason why, at the deadline, I didn’t do anything because he was a big part of what we were doing and I didn’t want to lose that. So we’d be fortunate to have him back.”
  • Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were outplayed during the Knicks’ series, but there’s no thought of splitting up the big man duo, Altman adds. Allen is signed for three more years at $20MM annually, and Mobley is still on his rookie contract. “When you have the level of success that you’ve had with those two, it’s really hard to say, ‘Oh let’s just break them up based off one playoff series,’” Altman stated.

Cavaliers’ Altman Talks Season, Sexton, LeVert, Lottery Pick

The Cavaliers‘ first winning season since 2018 ended in disappointing fashion with two play-in tournament losses. The club finished 2021/22 with a 44-38 record, the eighth best in the East, but was defeated by the Nets and Hawks in successive play-in contests after being hit with the injury bug. Another bright spot this year: two Cavaliers players, point guard Darius Garland and center Jarrett Allen, made their All-Star debuts.

On Tuesday, team president Koby Altman sat down with reporters for an extensive end-of-season press conference. Kelsey Russo of The Athletic captured Altman’s comments in an excellent article.

Altman discussed his feelings regarding a disappointing conclusion to what had been an exciting year for the Cavaliers. “I’m still a little heartsick, to be honest with you,” he admitted. “It’s hard to process the season ending the way it did and that we’re not still playing, but such a remarkable year for so many reasons. A long runway ahead of exciting basketball. So, we’re excited, really excited for the future obviously, and the work continues.”

Here’s more from Altman’s media session:

  • Guard Collin Sexton, a restricted free agent this summer, was enjoying a solid start to the year before being sidelined with a season-ending meniscus injury just 11 games into 2021/22. The emergence of Garland may have made Sexton a luxury for the Cavaliers, depending on his sticker price. “He, in a lot of ways, was the start of not only the rebuild, but the culture that we have in place now,” Altman said of Sexton. “To lose him [with the knee injury], you can see throughout the year why we missed him or how we missed him. So, we owe Collin a great debt of gratitude for what he’s done, the work he’s put in and he continues to put in. An important part of his team.”
  • Trade deadline addition Caris LeVert battled injuries during his brief tenure with Cleveland. The wing has one season left on his current deal, and could be extended by the Cavaliers. “Caris, he got unfortunately derailed right after All-Star break,” Altman said. “He was coming to a place that had enormous success already, that had roles, defined roles, guys that are having a lot of success, All-Star seasons. To try to fit in was not easy. It wouldn’t be easy for anybody. But I love what Caris brought to the table — his competitive fire, he defended; he fit right in.”
  • Because Cleveland missed the playoffs following its play-in losses, the club will retain the 2022 lottery pick it acquired in its trade for LeVert. “I think we’ve done an incredible job through the draft, and taking a step back now and looking at the [upcoming] draft, I like the draft,” Altman said. “I’m not just saying that. Where our pick lands, can we get another … there’s nothing wrong with having another young player that you can develop.” Russo adds that Cleveland also possesses two second-round selections.

Cavs Willing To Deal This Year’s First-Rounder, Rubio’s Contract

The Cavaliers are willing to deal this year’s first-round pick and might also move Ricky Rubio‘s contract in order to acquire another guard or wing, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Cleveland has been the league’s biggest surprise, piling up victories despite losing Collin Sexton and Rubio to season-ending injuries. The Cavaliers have won eight of their last nine games and are 11 games above .500.

This week, the Cavaliers were granted an $8.9MM Disabled Player Exception — half of Rubio’s salary — due to the torn ACL he suffered last month. That exception would be nullified if they traded Rubio before using it. Rubio will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Cleveland owns all of its first-round picks and has eight extra second-rounders at its disposal, including a pair this season, while only owing two second-rounders to other clubs. The team also has a $4.3MM trade exception at its disposal.

But as Fedor notes, the team is approximately $3MM below the luxury tax threshold and also doesn’t want to wreck the chemistry it has built. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said those factors will come into play regarding any moves president of basketball operations Koby Altman might make.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about that,” Bickerstaff said. “We know how fragile chemistry is and how quickly it can be bothered. This is a very important time for our team, an opportunity — if they’re there — to improve itself, but also an opportunity to not feel rushed to do something that could impact the chemistry we’ve built. Our front office has a heavy understanding of how important that is. They are aggressive to improve this team. They do a lot of homework and understand the type of people you’re going to bring in if you do decide to make a move. We do have something good brewing here with the group. Definitely don’t want to do something that negatively impacts it.”

Cavaliers Extending Koby Altman Through 2027/28

Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman has signed a contract extension through the 2027/28 NBA season and will get a new title in the process to boot, becoming Cleveland’s president of basketball operations, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Woj notes that the 23-18 Cavaliers have already surpassed their total win total from 2020/21, when they went 22-50. All of the team’s top young players – guard Darius Garland, power forward Evan Mobley, and center Jarrett Allen – were added under Altman’s stewardship. The Cavs GM also hired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who recently inked a long-term extension of his own that could keep him with Cleveland through the 2026/27 season. Woj adds that Altman has emerged as a serious Executive of the Year award candidate thanks to the team’s exciting run thus far.

Altman also sagely traded for veteran point guard Ricky Rubio during the 2021 offseason. The 6’2″ veteran proved to be a key ball-handler and perimeter defender for Cleveland before going down for the season with an ACL tear.

Currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland is without Rubio and fellow guard Collin Sexton for the rest of the season. The team has responded by adding veteran Rajon Rondo and new two-way guard Brandon Goodwin. The Cavaliers have the assets to make a splashier move for backcourt help at the trade deadline.

Altman has led the Cavs’ basketball operations since the 2017 offseason. The 39-year-old first joined the organization’s front office brain trust in 2012 under GM Chris Grant. Altman stuck around after David Griffin was elevated to the role of general manager in 2014, serving as director of pro personnel for Cleveland’s 2016 championship team, and saw his role elevated to assistant GM for the 2016/17 season. During his first season as GM, Altman oversaw roster construction for the final (for now) Cleveland team to reach the NBA Finals with LeBron James in 2018.