Bickerstaff Next Wants Cavaliers To Be 'Playoff-Contending Team'

Sam Amico

We don't know if this season will resume or when the next will begin, but J.B. Bickerstaff is keeping hope alive for his team.

Namely, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach said he has eyes for the playoffs.

“I think our responsibility is to keep improving,” Bickerstaff said Wednesday on a call with Wine and Gold United members. “You always look outward. You’re always doing your job to see what players you’re going to get in the draft, what free agents may be available.

"But as a coaching staff, our priority is developing the guys that we have here and who we can identify to take the biggest step to make us that team that we want to be. And that’s a playoff-contending team.”

The Cavs (19-46) had the worst record in the Eastern Conference when the league suspended play March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. But they're 5-6 under Bickerstaff, who replaced John Beilein in February.

That's why thoughts of the playoffs are on their minds.

”That’s what our focus is right now," Bickerstaff said. "I trust our front office. They work tirelessly and are prepared. And, again, it was a small sample size, but if you look at the way we competed over that stretch, there’s no reason why we can’t have that conversation about achieving that goal for next year.”

Bickerstaff covered all the bases there. The Cavs will eventually have the draft and free agency, and perhaps a few trades, before the start of next season, whenever that may be.

Along with adding another player or two (or more), GM Koby Altman will have to figure out what to do about the team's older players. 

Tristan Thompson is headed for unrestricted free agency, Andre Drummond has a player option on his contract, and Kevin Love only started behaving like a true professional after the coaching change. All three could return, all three could be elsewhere at the end of the next offseason.

Right now, the main hopes for the future remain second-year scoring machine Collin Sexton, and rookie guards Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. And from the looks of things, Bickerstaff himself.

By the way, Bickerstaff is actually the second member of the Cavs to talk or be quoted about the playoffs this week. Sexton predicted Cleveland is going next season in a story posted by Forbes.com.

But there is a long way to go before the NBA even figures out its next steps. What matters to a team like the Cavs is that the right people and right mindset are in place.

"I’m confident that we’re heading in the right direction,” Bickerstaff said. “I think we’ve got the right leadership in place with Koby Altman. Koby is a tireless and relentless worker, talent-evaluator and creative mind. 

"We have an unbelievable owner. The resources that Dan Gilbert affords us to have are second to none. A lot of people talk about being champions but aren’t willing to do the things it takes to become a champion. He allows us the ability to do that with his leadership and the culture he has created here. 

"And we have the players on the floor who can help us start the foundation of who we are trying to be.”

Sam Amico covers pro basketball for SI.com. Follow him @AmicoHoops.

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