The first season of that new era didn’t go so hot. Ty Lue was fired early on after he probably should’ve left with LeBron, and Larry Drew agreed to take over in the interim, but only on the condition the team would find a new head coach after the season was over. The team drafted a talented young player in Collin Sexton, but he experienced predictable growing pains, and Kevin Love’s lingering injuries meant this team was bad. They ended the season with the second-worst record in the league and are guaranteed a top-four pick at the very least. On Monday, they found their head coach in John Beilein to fully transition the franchise into this new era- and it could be the best move they’ve made in quite some time.
Beilein’s hire projects to be a very good one for Cleveland. He’s a universally respected coach in the basketball world who has built quality, competitive programs at each stop throughout his college career. The biggest positive for the Cavs, and what likely drove this hire, was Beilein’s player development. He’s been able to regularly bring along young players over the course of their time in his program and eventually turn them into good players who have a chance of being drafted. From 2000 to 2007 (the year of Beilein’s hire), two Michigan players were taken in the NBA draft. From 2007 to today, nine players have been taken. Not all of them have had substantial NBA success, but he can take a player at Point A and deliver them to Point B better in nearly every way.
Between Sexton and whoever they grab in this year’s draft, the Cavs are building around a core of young guns. Beilein is a much better bet to be able to develop that kind of young core than retreads like J.B. Bickerstaff or Lionel Hollins. Beilein’s Michigan teams valued the kind of attributes that younger NBA players usually need to work to achieve: hard-nosed, competitive defense and smart decision-making. Beilein will do wonders in both areas, particularly in regard to Sexton, who had an encouraging rookie season but averaged 2.3 turnovers a game and was a mess defensively.
Dan Gilbert hasn’t often made the right move in recent years. But Beilein is the kind of coach and person you want in your building when you’re attempting a complete reset of the franchise. He not only brings coaching chops, but will establish the kind of culture that NBA players will want to be a part of. If Beilein is given enough time, there’s no reason to think he can’t establish a similar foundation of success he’s had in the college game. The future hasn’t looked this bright in Cleveland in a long time.