Cavs owner Gilbert’s rally cry for next season: Just win, baby

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert answers questions at a press conference in 2019.

No matter what happens in Wednesday’s NBA Draft, or the free agency period that follows, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has made one thing clear as he continues to progress from a stroke suffered in 2019 — he wants to win.

Maybe not win big. But win more than 19 games every year. That’s how many the Cavs have won in each of the past two seasons.

It should be noted that Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman shares Gilbert’s philosophy. Altman’s mission is to take steps to make the Cavs a playoff contender — in 2020-21.

With the NBA having instituted a playoff play-in tournament, there is no reason the Cavs can’t dream of the postseason. The play-in tournament will involve the teams that finish 7-10 in each conference.

So in order to compete for the playoffs, all the Cavs need to do is finish with the 10th-best record in the East. Considering there are only 16 teams in the conference, that’s not setting the bar unreasonably high.

Now, all of this may sound like a no-brainer. Of course, the Cavs should try to win. To the casual fan, that’s what always makes the most sense.

But that’s not always today’s NBA. Today’s NBA GMs use buzzwords like “process” and “growth” and “development.” They talk a lot about the future.

As one NBA coach told me, “A lot of GMs are in cover-their-(butt) mode. But anyone can field a terrible team. How about winning some games?”

Sometimes, GMs do indeed want to lose. They want a higher draft pick. Or more wiggle room under the salary cap. Or more assets to build for the future. It’s a great plan for roster-building. But it’s terrible for business. And never forget that pro basketball is a business first.

Altman hasn’t fallen into that trap, at least not publicly. I don’t think he has privately, either. You don’t trade for center Andre Drummond and change coaches to J.B. Bickerstaff in February if you’re determined to go in the tank.


By now, you’ve heard the trade rumors. Some involve Drummond. Some involve the Cavs trading back in the draft with the New York Knicks (from No. 5 to No. 8). Lots involve Kevin Love.

Altman also must operate with the assumption that Tristan Thompson will leave in free agency. That’s not any inside information. But with Drummond coming back, and Thompson relegated to a backup role, it would also make no sense for Thompson to return.

A contender likely will give him a similar offer to the Cavs, anyway. I keep hearing about the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

Thompson has a house in LA. I’ve spoken to him and do not get the sense he is desperate to leave. He says he loves Cleveland and the Cavs will always hold a special place in his heart. They drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2011. He won a championship here in 2016. Those things matter to him.

But again, this is a business, and we all know LeBron James would love to have Thompson join the Lakers. Both are represented by Rich Paul, the Cleveland native who is perhaps the league’s savviest agent. The Lakers had six Paul clients on the roster in winning the title last season.

So I’d be surprised if Thompson is on the Cavs’ roster once training camp begins Dec. 1.

That means Altman and the Cavs have to prepare to replace him. They may do that in the draft. We have heard the name of Dayton forward Obi Toppin being a possible pick.

The Cavs can also try to get another big man via trade. I doubt they can do anything in free agency. With Drummond picking up his $28.7 million option, and Love’s large salary, they’ll have little wiggle room.

But the Cavs will have to do some wiggling, anyway. It’s what Gilbert expects and frankly, what everyone in the organization wants.

It’s time to take another step forward and everything the Cavs do in this shortened offseason will be geared toward that end.

About the Author

Sam Amico
Sam Amico is the founder and senior writer of Amico Hoops. He has covered the NBA on a full-time basis for both Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports, and has been a regular contributor to CBS Sports, the Boston Herald and

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