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11 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

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A MODEST PROPOSAL...

DON'T LET WINS AND LOSSES GET IN THE WAY OF COLLIN SEXTON

As a rule, I respect teams who choose not to tank. Basketball is about more than titles, and there's value to having an entertaining team that plays hard.

The Cavaliers are an exception to that rule. Cleveland decided to retool instead of rebuild after losing LeBron James, and the resulting team is more or less the same one that had the second-worst defense in the league last season—except now it's without the greatest player of all time.

It's clear that owner Dan Gilbert doesn't want to lose excessively like he did after the first LeBron departure. That's why Kevin Love is back on a max deal, and why the Cavs didn't seem to shop any of their veterans for future flexibility.

If the Cavs are hell-bent on chasing wins, they shouldn't do so at the expense of rookie guard Collin Sexton. Let the lottery pick play. He's a fearless, attacking guard who needs to polish his game. Don't let him languish behind 32-year-old George Hill so the team can pursue 39 victories. On a team with so many veteran leftovers, it can be hard for a rookie to be trusted with an elevated role. Respectability this year for the Cavs won't mean anything if Sexton hasn't developed.

STARTING 5

COACH TYRONN LUE

2017--18 RECORD: 50--32

PREDICTION: Miss playoffs

PG GEORGE HILL

41.5

3FG%

SG J.R. SMITH

37.5

3FG%

SF RODNEY HOOD

14.7

PPG

C TRISTAN THOMPSON

6.6

RPG

17.6

PPG

PF KEVIN LOVE (31 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

The loss of LeBron James will put pressure on Love to up his scoring. He averaged 23.5 points in his last four seasons in Minnesota, 17.1 in four years as a Cav.

BENCH

PF LARRY NANCE JR.

PG COLLIN SEXTON [ROOKIE]

SG JORDAN CLARKSON

(R)ROOKIE

(#)SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP CLEVELAND

I GET why they selected COLLIN SEXTON, but I think his upside is limited. He's a high-volume shooter, but to me he's just Monta Ellis. He'll be a solid sixth man one day, a decent starter, maybe, but I wouldn't have done it.... I'm looking to see what they get out of J.R. SMITH. Does he have anything left in the tank at 33? Young J.R. Smith was a streaky scorer. Without LeBron, does he get more freedom and opportunity to get creative? ... Their offense is doing a total 180. KEVIN LOVE is the guy now, but they're significantly less talented, so they'll have to share the ball more. I wonder how Love is going to handle everything now that everything's out there about his mental health. He has a new contract with long-term stability. Is he in a better place now to get back to that Minnesota Kevin Love? There's going to be more pressure on him in terms of his usage, but not nearly as much to win and compete for championships.... Now we'll see what Tyronn Lue can actually do. Their offense was just give it to LeBron, space the floor and see what happens. Now they're unpredictable. Nobody has film on this team.... TRISTAN THOMPSON was instrumental to their 2016 title run, but he had a down year last season. He's only 27 and put together a few nice seasons before that. He's big and protects the rim well. We'll see if last year was a blip or a permanent thing. That will come down to his mentality.... DAVID NWABA has shown some flashes in preseason, and SAM DEKKER might be interesting. CEDI OSMAN is a solid all-around player—not the sexiest, but he gets it done.