It has been written before, but few basketball executives have entered a more difficult situation than Chris Grant did when he became general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010. First item on the to-do list: manage the departure of LeBron James, a local legend smack in the middle of his reign as the world's greatest basketball player. Grant did pretty well, too. He spearheaded a transition in which the Cavs turned the LeBron-led roster into a collection of high lottery picks. It's exactly what you're supposed to do.
During that process, Grant landed Kyrie Irving, the player who seemed destined to follow James as Cleveland's franchise player. Irving struggled with injuries but showed enough to suggest he could be the centerpiece of the Cavs' next contending roster. With young players Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters all getting heavy early-career minutes, and Cleveland adding a healthy mix of veterans in Anderson Varejao (back from injury), Earl Clark, Andrew Bynum and Jarrett Jack, the Cavaliers projected to be one of the league's most improved teams in 2013-14.
To orchestrate that process, Grant brought Mike Brown back to coach the franchise. Brown was the man in charge of the most successful of the LeBron-era teams, and it figured that his defense-first approach would give Cleveland an upgrade where it needed it most. With two more first-rounders joining the party in top pick Anthony Bennett and sharpshooter Sergey Karasev, an idyllic cap situation and more extra draft picks in Grant's pipeline, this should have been the season in which the Cavs returned to relevancy.
Instead, it all blew up.