In late January, LeBron James declared that the Cleveland Cavaliers were top-heavy, too reliant on him, guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love. He challenged team management to act, saying, “I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization.”
Judging by the work of general manager David Griffin over the past month, James’ words resonated. Griffin has assembled perhaps the most complete roster James has ever had to work with.
Cleveland added sharpshooting Kyle Korver in early January, and in the wake of James’ comments, the franchise took a chance on Derrick Williams, an intriguing power forward. Things ramped up this week with the signing of Deron Williams, who is the type of veteran playmaker James had openly pined for. On Tuesday, the Cavaliers got a cherry on top when they received a signing commitment from center Andrew Bogut, who was a central figure for the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland’s bitter rival, as recently as last season.
Coach Tyronn Lue now has 24 regular-season games to work out the kinks in what could be a rotation of 12 productive players. The Warriors, who were so proud of their depth in recent seasons that their slogan was Strength in Numbers, now appear to be more reliant on a small group of stars than Cleveland. Golden State could be in for even more trouble now that Kevin Durant is out for at least four weeks after injuring his knee in Tuesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards.
The roles for Korver and Deron Williams are obvious. Absent Stephen Curry, Korver, 35, could claim to be the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history. Deron Williams, while past his prime at 32, has settled into a productive role as a secondary player.
Derrick Williams is more of a wild card as he finishes his second 10-day contract with Cleveland. The franchise now must decide whether to sign him for the rest of the season or release him. Only 25, he has moved from draft bust to productive backup. In his short time in Cleveland, he has averaged 10.1 points a game with an absurd offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions, so he is likely to be worthy of a roster spot.
Bogut is far more complicated. A 32-year-old 7-footer, he has altered games, when healthy, with a defensive tenacity that borders on dirty play. But his defensive talent will be irrelevant if he is not effective enough on offense to stay on the court.
Bogut, released by Philadelphia, will join his third team since Golden State traded him to Dallas in July. He was once an important member of Golden State’s rotation, but he was jettisoned in a cost-cutting move that also acknowledged he had become a bad fit for a team that preferred to play small and fast.
Instead of re-emerging as a viable offensive cog, Bogut fell into an even deeper hole in Dallas, averaging just three points a game even as his minutes remained mostly steady. A sharp decline in field goal percentage and a career-low offensive rating have largely negated his defense, which has also fallen off some.
Cleveland hopes that those numbers were a reflection of the injury-prone big man working his way back to full health and that he can take some of the physical pressure off Tristan Thompson and Love.
But the depth delivered by Griffin means the Cavaliers do not really need anything from Bogut and can let him try to prove himself while keeping him away from other contenders. For a James-led team, that is a rare luxury, and proof that Griffin was far from satisfied.