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5-on-5: What's next for Cavaliers after the David Blatt firing?

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Lue on replacing Blatt: 'It was tough' (0:51)

Tyronn Lue shares what he discussed with David Blatt after learning he would become the new Cavaliers coach. (0:51)

David Blatt is out as Cleveland Cavaliers coach. Our panel of experts offer their breakdown of the moves and whether LeBron James' team has improved its hopes of winning a title.

1. Firing David Blatt: Good move or bad move?

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Insider: Had to do it. The No. 1 job of any NBA coach is to convince the players to let him coach them. Otherwise, it doesn't matter how good his ideas are. Some guys just don't fit the NBA or a particular team, and vice versa.

Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Good move. There had been friction between Blatt and the locker room for most of his tenure. That makes his winning percentage sort of irrelevant because if the team isn't fully invested, nothing else matters. For the record, one of my main concerns about Blatt before he came over from Europe was his abrasive personality.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: Good move. It never made sense to keep Blatt in the first place if he wasn't hired to coach LeBron James, the best player on the planet at the time. I'm surprised Blatt lasted long enough to coach LeBron's first game back in Cleveland and even more surprised he coached the first game this season.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Good move, I guess. It's really tough to say without being in the Cleveland locker room because this move seems to be based more on having the trust of the team than the X's and O's we can see. In that case, I'm inclined to trust the organization.

David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: Bad move. Huge risk with very small reward. Blatt might have been lucky to have LeBron on his side, but his track record before coaching LeBron was stellar. In Blatt's two seasons, the Cavs won the Eastern Conference without Kevin Love and started this season 30-11.


2. Hiring Tyronn Lue: Good move or bad move?

Doolittle: Insufficient data. Doc Rivers' confidence in him is a good sign. That the players seem to like him is neither here nor there. Until proven otherwise, the assumption has to be that he's a guy who will just stay out of LeBron's way.

Elhassan: TBD. In the short term, it's a good move in that he has the ear and respect of the locker room, so buy-in will come much more easily for him, especially considering players typically want to play well for a well-liked, respected assistant coach in his first head-coaching gig.

But I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to give him a multiyear deal right off the bat. I believe one of the great advantages of interim status is getting maximum effort from both coach and players without the cost of long-term commitment. Who knows which coaching candidates will be available come summertime?

Haberstroh: Good move but hard to know from here. Is Tyronn Lue the next Luke Walton? What a wild NBA that we're asking that question seven months after the Finals. If we've learned anything from watching them, it's that LeBron seems way more interested in having sideline chats with Lue than Blatt. And communication is the first ingredient to a healthy working relationship.

Pelton: Jury's still out. The players obviously appear to trust Lue more, which is why he has the job. However, we've never seen him as a head coach, so we have no idea how that's going to work. That uncertainty might be a good thing if you believe the Cavaliers weren't going to win a championship as they were.

Thorpe: I can't say it's bad because this has seemed scripted as the likely outcome for a while. In 2014, I was asked my opinion of Tyronn Lue as an assistant, and I said that I thought he would eventually replace Blatt. But we will see if Lue is more like Steve Kerr or Kurt Rambis.


3. What is your take on LeBron James' role in the coaching change?

Doolittle: If James didn't want this to happen, it's impossible for me to believe that it would have happened. I've said since last year that Cleveland should just make James the de facto player-coach (regardless of the rules). Maybe this is the Cavs' way of doing something similar to that.

Elhassan: It's easy to jump to the conclusion that David Blatt's proverbial blood is all over LeBron James' hands, but the reality is Blatt alienated a lot of people in the Cavs' locker room. Could LeBron have laid his neck on the line to save Blatt's? I suppose, but again, can you really blame someone for not saving a guy not many liked?

Haberstroh: This will be LeBron's fifth coach in eight-and-a-half seasons in Cleveland. He had stability in Miami and fled in what many read as a power play. As the current frustrations in Cleveland show, it could be a case of "be careful what you wish for."

Pelton: Even if he wasn't specifically consulted, the Cavaliers organization surely wouldn't make a move like this without having a good sense James supported it. His opinion alone wasn't enough to force a coaching change while the team was winning, but when the road got bumpy, it made making a change easy.

Thorpe: ‎I know the spin, but this is a LeBron James operation through and through. Look who they have on the team: old guys who can shoot and are loyal to LeBron. Does anyone think LeBron isn't in charge or, for that matter, shouldn't be?


4. What do the Cavs need to do to win the NBA title this season?

Doolittle: Another player -- admittedly very expensive -- could be added around the deadline, such as another shooter-defender to help rev up small-ball lineups and strengthen the bench. But let's not forget the Cavs are in the top five on both ends of the floor. Lue's No. 1 task is finding a rotation that allows everyone to get a shift or two playing his ideal role.

Elhassan: Pray for calamity to strike the Spurs and the Warriors at the same time. Possibly also the Thunder.

Haberstroh: They can hope the Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs (yes, I'm calling it) resemble the final scene in Reservoir Dogs. All jokes aside, the Cavs' best chance will require an injury plague across the West.

Pelton: It's tough because I'm not sure there's anything the Cavaliers are doing wrong, so much as what the Spurs and Warriors are doing right. Cleveland's energy should be directed toward finding ways to even those matchups, most notably small lineups with Kevin Love at center.

Thorpe: The Cavaliers could use more athletes to pull off more effective pressure defenses against the Spurs or Warriors. They could also be wilier by doing what Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich have done in postseason matchups: employ "freak" defenses to steal possessions, quarters and wins.


5. Will the Cavs win an NBA title while LeBron is in Cleveland?

Doolittle: Yes. This year, it will be very tough because while the Cavs are a championship-caliber team, the Warriors and Spurs are historically strong. But Cleveland is a strong bet to make the Finals for the foreseeable future. Once there, the Cavs are just a bit of luck away from breaking through.

Elhassan: No. I think one of the main reasons LeBron was pressing and chastising teammates so vociferously and publicly to start the season was his sinking realization that this Golden State phenomenon isn't going anywhere. Now the Warriors are joined by the Spurs reboot. Cleveland's roadmap to a Finals berth remains an easier path than that of the West powers.

Pelton: Right now, it's less likely than the alternative, as I argued in my piece Friday. The Cavaliers are a long shot to win this season, and this will probably be the best James-led team in Cleveland because of his age.

Haberstroh: Yes. The majority of all-time greats won a championship in their 30s. That includes MJ, Kareem, Kobe, Duncan, Garnett, Dirk. The question for me is whether Tyronn Lue will be the one sharing the stage with LeBron. I don't feel as good about those odds.

Thorpe: Nope, not based on what we are seeing. One day, LeBron will not look anything like he did when he won titles, and that day is approaching more quickly than anyone realizes.