Chris Grant's departure was going to happen sooner or later. Anthony Bennett's rookie season - easily the worst ever for a first-overall draft pick - pretty much guaranteed that. But when the Cavaliers were blown out by a Lakers team that had just eight eligible players to start the game and only four (yes, four) at the final buzzer, "sooner or later" turned into "goodbye, Chris, and don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Grant will be criticized, and deservedly so, for the garbage-fire the Cavaliers have become this season. His draft picks - Bennett and Dion Waiters in particular - have been major disappointments. And unlike some other notable first-round busts, Grant can't claim that other general managers would have made the same mistake. Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant was a legitimate debate at the time. Very few people thought Bennett would go first overall, or that Waiters - who wasn't even a starter in college - was worthy of the fourth-overall pick.
Is that reason enough for the firing? Over on SBNation, Tom Ziller suggests that Cavs owner Dan Snyder may have been too impatient, and he makes several good points. After all, the Thunder's rebuild took longer than Grant has been given. And itís worth noting that Grant made some truly excellent moves. He acquired the pick that became Kyrie Irving from the Clippers for Mo Williams and turned J.J. Hickson into Omri Casspi and one of the picks he just used in the Luol Deng deal.
A more important question, at least for fantasy purposes, is, "what happens now?"
In theory, the Cavaliers still have the makings of a fairly solid core. They could opt to build around Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Deng. Bennett's trade value is well under water at this point, but it is far too soon to write him off. The best move might be to let him spend a few weeks with the D-League's Canton Charge getting his game and confidence back together. But that leaves acting general manager David Griffin with several potentially-useful chips to deal, including Waiters (who reportedly doesn't get along with Irving at all), Anderson Varejao, and veteran guard Jarrett Jack. Watch the Cavs closely as the trade deadline approaches, as any roster shakeup could create a number of fantasy opportunities.
It wouldn't be a massive surprise if coach Mike Brown follows Grant out the door. Brown has done little to inspire confidence during his second run as head coach in Cleveland. According to several published reports, Deng has been shocked at the lack of professionalism shown by Cavs players as compared to what he grew accustomed to in Chicago. But Brown might be safe for the remainder of this season, as Gilbert could opt to let his next general manager make the next coaching hire.
Another takeaway from all this: is training camp more important than we think? Can it be a coincidence that three lottery picks that missed the preseason - Bennett, Washington's Otto Porter and Phoenix center Alex Len - have all struggled to be productive in their first years as pros?
Maybe missing a substantial portion of training camp should be a bigger red flag - especially when rating rookies.
Some other notes:
Picks for the Week
- Charles Barkley noted this week that Deron Williams has clearly lost a step. I'm inclined to agree. And as RotoWire's injury guru Jeff Stotts has noted, once ligaments (like those in D-Will's oft-injured ankles) are stretched to the point of injury, they're never the same. As with Dwyane Wade, it seems we'll have to budget a substantial number of games missed into any evaluation of Williams going forward. That also makes Shaun Livingston's surprisingly-good health all the more important to Brooklyn's short-term outlook.
- When evaluating which teams will be buyers at the trade deadline, don't forget about Charlotte and Washington. Sure, the Bobcats and Wizards might not be true contenders. If the Eastern Conference wasn't so putrid, they might just be fighting for the eight seed. But this season, they seem like locks to make the playoffs and, if things break right, maybe even reach the second round. Charlotte could really use a scorer to take some of the heat off Kemba Walker, and have Ben Gordon's expiring contract to use in a deal.
- The Lakers want to trade Pau Gasol. The Sixers would be willing to move Evan Turner. But both teams appear to be asking for far too much in return. Los Angeles reportedly wants one of the Suns' 2014 first-rounders for Pau, and Philly is looking for a similar return on Turner. Problem is, both Gasol and Turner will almost certainly hit the free-agent market this summer. That could prevent either player from getting moved unless desperation sets in.
- It will be a minor surprise if Mike Woodson is still coaching the Knicks after the All-Star break. New York's loss to the Bucks this week might have been the final nail in that coffin. A coaching change may also signal new willingness to start moving veterans and rebuilding; the Knicks might not be willing to deal Carmelo Anthony unless they're absolutely certain he won't re-sign, but someone like Tyson Chandler might get them a pick or two.
All percent-owned stats from Yahoo!
Danny Green (59%):
Green looked rusty in his first game back from a hand injury, but he's been excellent since, posting a 22-and-7 line against the Wizards and a 17-and-8 line against the Nets. He's likely to be one of San Antonio's featured scorers until Manu Ginobili
Marcus Thornton (41%):
Thornton could return to the rotation for Friday's game against the Celtics. He could leave the rotation soon after that, as he's a player the Kings are reportedly hoping to move before the trade deadline. Or he could get a big boost in value depending on his ultimate destination.
Steve Blake (38%):
The Lakers can't keep a point guard healthy for more than a week at a time. Blake has already suffered a ruptured ear drum and a bruised thigh since returning from the elbow injury that sidelined him for over a month. But he also posted a triple-double in that span and seems like a safer bet than Jordan Farmar
(14%) or Steve Nash
(49%). All of the above, as well as Kendall Marshall
(34%) are worth owning in the very short-term as coach Mike D'Antoni scrambles to put together a backcourt rotation without Kobe Bryant
or Nick Young
DeMarre Carroll (42%):
Carroll is best-known as a defensive specialist, but he's quietly in the midst of a breakout season at both ends of the floor. He's been especially hot for the last week, starting February off with three-game averages of 16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 steals while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Andrei Kirilenko (30%):
It is increasingly clear that Kirilenko's versatility is a big key to the success of the Nets' funky big backcourt/small frontcourt rotation. That being the case, expect AK-47 to play as many minutes as his health will allow down the stretch and for significant contributions all over the box score.
Timofey Mozgov (9%): JaVale McGee
could be sidelined for the rest of the season, which means center minutes in Denver will be split between Mozgov and Hickson (62%).
Brandan Wright (9%):
A double-figure scorer in five straight games, Wright has become a more significant player in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation of late.
Kyle Singler (3%):
Coach Maurice Cheeks' ongoing quest to find a perimeter threat that can open up some space for Josh Smith
, Andre Drummond
, and Greg Monroe
enters a new chapter with Singler moved into the starting lineup over rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
. The 6-8 Singler - a natural small forward - is an unconventional choice at shooting guard, but he should be a decent source of threes for as long as he can hang on to the job.
Chris Johnson (2%):
The Celtics have opted to sign wingman Johnson for the remainder of the season. Johnson probably won't have much fantasy value when Avery Bradley
(ankle) is healthy, but Bradley is reportedly on the trading block.
Austin Rivers (1%):
Heís one of several players the Pelicans are reportedly shopping in advance of the trade deadline. Rivers has shown pretty significant improvement since his disappointing rookie season. He could take a big step forward if given the opportunity.
Shawne Williams (0%):
The short-handed Lakers have brought "extra E" back on a 10-day contract. He might not get a ton of playing time, but Williams has put up solid numbers in D'Antoni's system in the past.