The Cavaliers are in another January rut -- a familiar scenario during LeBron James' second stint in Cleveland. They build up wins in the early part of their schedule and then proceed to go on autopilot mode for the remainder of the season until they accelerate into a playoff run. It's a formula that's worked for them every season.
However, this season feels a little different. Maybe it's the lack of statement wins or the fact that they have the second-to-last ranked defense in the league, but Cleveland doesn't look like it can just flip a switch like it has in previous seasons. According to multiple outlets, some players on the roster are beginning to feel that way as well.
Several prominent players, speaking on condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems -- an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players -- could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.
The report comes shortly after the Cavaliers' fourth straight loss -- a 10-point defeat to the defending champion Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. All of Cleveland's losses during its skid have come against potential playoff teams. Extend it further and the situation looks even worse than before. After stringing together five consecutive wins in mid-December, the Cavs have won just three of their last nine games.
With Cleveland struggling so much, and the Feb. 8 trade deadline looming, the question on everybody's mind keeps popping up. Will the Cavs trade their coveted Brooklyn Nets' draft pick they acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade? They can also move their own draft pick, but that won't gain the same return.
According to ESPN, however, the chances of the Nets' pick being moved seems unlikely.
However, several league sources told ESPN that the Cavs would prefer to hold onto the pick as a potential franchise-resetting asset should LeBron James leave as a free agent in July.
It makes sense for the Cavs to hold on to a pick of that value with the potential of a reset looming. James has given them no indication he plans to stay beyond this season and a hard restart would be far easier with that kind of asset. On the other hand, the potential of what a draft pick can bring is often more valuable than the player that ends up being selected in the draft.
Cleveland is in an awkward position right now. It needs to make moves to convince James to stay past this season and compete for an NBA title, but is it willing to risk the long-term future to do so? Nobody would blame the Cavs if they moved the pick in return for another weapon that can help fuel another run at a title. After all, success is never guaranteed, but try telling that to a franchise that's already done that once before and needed a surprising reunion just to return to form.