Too soon to judge Gilbert

Here’s the thing about Dan Gilbert: Sure, it looks like he’s in over his head right now but he just may be headed in the right direction. The timing of the Paul Silas firing was terrible, absolutely — I said it then and I say it today. But before we judge this guy, let’s give him a chance to put his plan into action.

Where would the Cavaliers be right now if Silas had finished out the year? They might be in the playoffs, sure, but there’s an equally good chance that they still would’ve failed to qualify. It’s not like this team was playing lights-out basketball when Gilbert let Silas go. They had dropped 13 of their last 21 (.380 winning percentage) and were coming off a 105-98 loss in which LeBron went for 56. In fact, after the firing the Cavs actually played a little better, going 8-10 under Malone (.444 winning percentage).

But for argument’s sake, let’s say Silas was retained and the Cavs made the playoffs. Then what? They would’ve been playing one of the top seeds in the East, most likely Miami or Detroit, and since the problems with this team obviously reside more on the floor than in the owner’s box, it’s relatively safe to predict a first-round exit for the Cavs. I mean, could Silas have taught any of these guys how to knock down a wide-open jumper? He wasn’t able to show Z how to defend the pick-and-roll while he was here, so what would have changed had he stuck around? It would’ve been the same team we saw the last month of the season, only with a different guy on the sidelines.

Either way, with or without Silas, the Cavaliers were not a very good team. LeBron is great, but the Cavs, as a team, are mediocre. Let’s give Gilbert a little credit for recognizing that and, most important, understanding that LeBron won’t be in Cleveland long if he’s playing on a mediocre team. So changes had to be made. Again, his timing sucked but Gilbert had to do something to help convince LeBron to stay. And what better way to do that than by bringing in a guy like Phil Jackson and finding a competent general manager?

By next season, the Cavaliers will look completely different, for better or for worse. If Gilbert is unable to get the guys he wants to coach and run this team, then it’ll be time to run him out of town. But what if Phil Jackson is the coach next year? And what if Gilbert lands some stud GM who can actually recognize talent in the draft? The Cavs will be much better off next year than they would have been had Gilbert come in, kept his mouth shut and not rocked the boat.

Of course, it’s impossible to know right now if his plan is going to pan out, but it’s also impossible to say with any sort of certainty that he’s ruined this team, as many fans and members of the media are already claiming. If, in a year or two, this team is still struggling to make the playoffs and LeBron is on the verge of bolting via free agency, then all the heat Gilbert is currently taking will be justified. But if Phil Jackson or Flip Saunders is leading the Cavaliers to the Finals next year, nobody’s going to miss Paul Silas. And nobody’s going to be calling for Dan Gilbert’s head either.

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates.