Assessing Koby Altman’s Tenure as Cavs General Manager

It’s been a little over three years since Koby Altman officially became the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Altman was thrusted into the role when David Griffin and the team parted ways and the first time general manager was tasked with continuing to build on the dominant run the franchise was having.

In that time since, the team went from a championship contender to a rebuilding franchise with the departures of the two major building blocks: Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.

The fact that Altman is the only front office executive to receive a second contract under the ownership of Dan Gilbert is astonishing although his track record isn’t that strong into his tenure.

With the draft lottery looming in what could be a potential make or break situation for Altman, let’s look at the major moves that have been made during his tenure.

The Kyrie Irving Trade

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first-round pick, and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round pick.

Altman’s first task was a difficult one with Irving requesting a trade after six seasons with the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 2011.

At the time, it didn’t look like a terrible move with the Cavs acquiring Thomas and Crowder who were major parts of the Celtics’ success in the 2016-17 season with Thomas playing at an MVP level. Zizic was a promising big man and the Brooklyn Nets pick seem to be very valuable as the Nets were still rebuilding at the time.

However, Thomas was recovering from a serious hip injury and neither himself or Crowder seemed to mesh well alongside Lebron James and both were dealt by the 2017-18 trade deadline. Zizic played a few seasons with Cleveland in a limited role and has since went back overseas.

The Brooklyn pick which was reportedly the apple of owner Dan Gilbert’s eye turned out to not be so lucky in the Cavs’ favor which we’ll get to later.

Verdict: Bad Move

The 2018 Trade Deadline Shakeup

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Iman Shumpert and a 2020 second-round pick to the Sacramento Kings, and Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz for George Hill and Rodney Hood.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat for a 2024 protected secondround pick.

The Cavaliers tried to make the most of the post-Kyrie Irving trade and what was eventually the final season of Lebron James’ second tenure with the team. Cleveland signed Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade to make another run for the Finals.

However, the team just did not mesh well especially once Isaiah Thomas returned to action in early January. Cleveland was 24-12 without Thomas but once he returned, the team went 7-10 with him in the rotation.

On deadline day, Altman shook the roster up with three separate trades sending six players and two draft picks out and bringing four new players in.

The new roster went 19-10 down the stretch and went to the brink in two of their four playoff series (Indiana and Boston) but made it to their fourth straight NBA Finals where they were eventually swept.

Nance Jr. is the only player remaining on the roster from those trades and the other three players were eventually traded elsewhere.

Verdict: Average Move

The Kevin Love Extension

The Cleveland Cavaliers signed Kevin Love to a four-year extension worth $120 million dollars in July 2018.

With the departure of Lebron James, the Cavaliers said publicly that they were going to try and compete for a playoff spot and weren’t looking towards rebuilding. Extending Kevin Love was a sign that they were trying to do just that.

Four games into the 2018-19 season, Love had surgery on a toe injury that had been nagging him during training camp and preseason. Love was limited to 22 games and the deal immediately looked terrible as the Cavaliers were in rebuild mode.

Now the Cavaliers are stuck with one of the worst contracts in the NBA as Love still has three years left and approximately $91 million left on the deal.

While he’s still a solid player averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game and played in 56 of the 65 games this past season, his injury history and the contract makes the extension not such a good move by Altman.

Verdict: Bad Move

The 2018 NBA Draft

The Cavaliers select Collin Sexton with the eighth overall pick.

The Brooklyn Nets were one of the bad franchises during the middle of the 2010s and when the Cavs acquired their first-round pick in the Kyrie Irving trade from Boston, it gave the organization some hope that it would give them either a solid draft prospect or attractive trade chip.

The Nets however started making small strides under head coach Kenny Atkinson and the young core they were building, they improved from 20 to 28 wins in the 2017-18 season and the Cavs ultimately landed with the 8th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Cleveland selected point guard Collin Sexton with that pick and while hindsight would suggest the team should’ve taken Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Michael Porter Jr., Sexton is starting to make strides as an NBA player.

Sexton averaged 16.7 points and shot 43% from the field as a rookie and this past season he improved to 20.8 points and shooting 47.2% from the field. Already a solid 39% three-point shooter through his first two seasons, Sexton has reportedly shown a great work ethic in the gym and as he continues to transition to more of a two-guard, it’ll be interesting to see what his role with Cleveland will be moving forward.

Verdict: Still to Be Determined

The Larry Nance Extension

The Cleveland Cavaliers signed Larry Nance Jr. to a four-year extension worth $44.8 million on October 16, 2018.

The son of a Cavaliers legend, Larry Nance Jr. got the chance to come home to Northeast Ohio when the team acquired him in the fury of deadline deals made in 2018.

Nance Jr. has been a solid role player since coming to Cleveland and has established himself as one the leaders of the young core moving into the future. This past season was his best in Cleveland as he averaged 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest while also continuing to improve on his three-point shooting at a career best 35.2% from deep.

The contract value was good for both sides and will allow the 27-year-old to grow with this rebuilding team and keep the Northeast Ohio native home for the near future.

Verdict: Good Move

The Cedi Osman Extension

The Cleveland Cavaliers signed Cedi Osman to a four-year extension worth $30.8 million on October 26, 2019.

Osman was acquired by the Cavaliers on draft night back in 2015 but the 25-year-old from Macedonia stayed overseas until the 2017-18 season. He was in a limited role his rookie season while learning the NBA game under the guidance of Lebron James and Kyle Korver.

In the last two years, Osman’s role has expanded with the team and much like Nance, Osman will likely be part of the young core moving forward which is why the team signed him to an extension prior to the start this past season.

With Kevin Porter Jr. emerging, Osman will likely become more of a scoring threat off the bench. Osman’s shooting form has become similar to Korver’s and it’s shown with Osman shooting a career best 38.3% from three-point distance while averaging 11 points per game.

Osman is due $8.7 million next season and then scales down $700,000 per season in each of the final three seasons, a smart move by Altman to front load the contract which could make him look like a steal if he can contribute off the bench moving forward.

Verdict: Good Move

Hiring John Beilein

When the Cavaliers fired Tyronn Lue just a few games into the 2018-19 season, everyone seemed to realize that the team was no longer in contention and that the team was rebuilding. It would’ve only made sense to also hire a young, first time head coach and let the organization grow together in the rebuild.

That’s why when the team hired former Michigan head coach John Beilein, it left everyone scratching their heads. Beilein was 66 years old and never coached in the NBA.

Well it was a disaster in every sense of the word. Beilein didn’t mesh well with the NBA landscape and the reported incident where he called the players “thugs” where he supposedly meant to call them “slugs” made it realize it just wasn’t going to work. Also didn’t help that the team’s record was 14-40 under him. The two sides parted ways at the All-Star Break earlier this year.

Now while everyone could see that this was a Dan Gilbert hire as he’s always trying to lure the big name to make the great PR move, Altman took the lead and saying he was the one who recommended the hire to the organization. Either way it was a very bad move

Verdict: Very Bad Move

The 2019 NBA Draft

The Cavaliers selected Darius Garland with the fifth overall pick.

The Cavaliers selected Dylan Windler with the 26th overall pick.

The Cavaliers traded four future second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for the rights to Kevin Porter Jr., the 30th overall pick.

The Cavaliers held the fifth pick in the NBA Draft last year and there was no clear sense of what the team was going to do once they missed out on the opportunity to draft Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett.

They shocked some when they took a point guard for the second consecutive draft with the selection of Darius Garland. Garland played in just five games in his only season at Vanderbilt before a knee injury ended his collegiate career.

His rookie season had some ups and downs averaging 12.3 points and 3.9 assists per game and while some want to write him off, Garland’s shooting numbers improved in the few games after the All-Star break before the season shut down.

Dylan Windler was the team’s other first-round pick but a nagging stress fracture sidelined him for the entire season.

In what may be Altman’s best move as general manager, Cleveland sent four future second-round picks to Detroit for Kevin Porter Jr., who many had as a top-ten prospect although there was concerns about his attitude during his time at USC.

Porter is by no means a finished product but the 20-year-old showed plenty of flashes during his rookie season with his biggest moment coming against a playoff contender in the Miami Heat when he scored 30 points and 8 rebounds in a comeback victory.

This draft class is still clearly left to be determined but there’s some hope surrounding Porter with the uncertainty surrounding Windler and how Garland and Sexton can mesh moving forward.

Verdict: To Be Determined


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