CLEVELAND -- They say all things must come to an end.
Unfortunately, the Cavaliers reign as NBA Champions is now in the rear-view mirror.
The ball is now in the Cavs court to see if they can improve their roster to the point of being able to wrestle the title back from the Warriors in 2018. Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland in 2016 and now Golden State in 2017 with the rubber match.
It's a long way away but oddsmakers in Las Vegas already have the two teams meeting up again in 2018 for the fourth-straight time.
It used to be having a 'Big 3' with a league MVP was enough to win it all with a good supporting cast. Now, it appears a 'Big 4' is needed, with two league MVP's.
The conundrum for the Cavs is they just might have the best team in franchise history--to date or in the future for that matter--with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in their primes, but unless the Warriors implode from within, they are poised for a NBA dynasty. The only thing stopping them would be themselves if one of the stars decides to leave the band or a major injury occurs.
Most everyone knew the day Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors that it was over for the rest of the NBA teams, barring possibly the Cavs. The only cases I heard from brethren in the media was "but there's only one ball" and "who's going to take the last shot?", aside from a major injury derailing them.
The injury to Durant would've made things interesting if he was unable to return for the playoffs, but that was a moot point. It's hard to think that the Cavs wouldn't have defended their title if it weren't for Durant. He was the series MVP and he scored over 30 points in every game. If you were to take his production out of every game, I would've liked the Cavaliers chances.
Many people felt after the 72-9 record-setting season in 2015-16 that the Warriors had a better team than the Cavs did. Not taking anything away from the Cavs, but everything went right for Cleveland in coming back for the title after being down 3-1.
Ironically, winning the title might have worked against the Cavs as there would've been a better chance that Golden State wouldn't have been able to sign Durant if they had already won back-to-back championships without him. Adding a former MVP to a 72-9 roster is almost ridiculous.
In my opinion, it will be hard for the Cavs to win another championship, barring what we already mentioned. The best possible hope is to continue to win the Eastern Conference and make it to the Finals, but it will be hard to win it all again without a major move. Golden State was 72-9 in the regular season of 2016 and then 'dropped' off to 67-15 in 2017. Meanwhile, the Cavs were just 51-31 this year in the regular season. Cleveland showed that they didn't really care about the regular season, but still the Warriors record was 16 games better and even thought Durant was injured for a good share of the latter portion of the season, the Warriors only lost a game or two in his absence. Golden State was 16-1 in the postseason, while the Cavs were 13-5.
So what can the Cavs do?
A good start would be re-signing GM David Griffin, who has been instrumental in putting the Cavs in a position to play for the NBA Title three-straight years, including winning one. I don't understand why he wasn't signed to a multi-year extension when Tyronn Lue was after last year's championship. He continues to make moves that have really put the Cavs in a strong position. Even though it wasn't a Durant move, he added Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams and Andrew Bogut this season with little to work with as the Cavs have the highest payroll in the NBA and are way over the salary cap.
Griffin reshaped the roster at the trade deadline of 2015-16 by adding J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov. He also added Channing Frye in a trade.
It's unlikely that there's any one player the Cavs could add in free agency this year that would be as impactful as Durant was for the Warriors. They didn't have to trade any player away, just sign him as a free agent. Names like Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond have been tossed around in the media, but to trade for a player of that caliber, you would have to give up key players. Plus, teams in the East unlikely would want to help the Cavs in any way.
The biggest impact player might be a big man as the Warriors are weakest in that area, but high impact big guys like Anthony Davis, LeMarcus Aldridge or Drummond are not just sitting around as free agents this year. If the Cavs could get a player like George, I think they could re-shuffle their lineup and find a way to make it work in some way.
There's going to be a lot of talk in the next several months on what the Cavs should do, but the pressure is squarely on Griffin or whoever is making the calls to get it right or the Cavs are likely only going to be playing for second place in the next few years.
The window for the 'Big 3' is open for a short span of years and they have to explore every possibility to try and counter the new NBA Champions by making the 'Big 4' a reality.
It's your move, Cavs.