Many players in the NBA would give their left pinky toe in order to play for the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant endured the scorn of the world by joining the Warriors in 2016. David West passed on tens of millions of dollars with other teams to sign with the Warriors for the league minimum in 2016 and 2017. After tearing his Achilles, perennial All-Star DeMarcus Cousins chose to take a one-year deal on short money ($5.3 million) with hopes of adding a ring in Oakland.
Despite the team’s inconsistent start to the 2018-19 season, the Warriors team is the overwhelming favorite to win another NBA championship. After all, no other team features the likes of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on the roster. Plus, Cousins is coming soon to a basketball court near you.
While many players are dying to achieve the fame and acclaim that comes with playing for the Warriors, St. Louis native Patrick McCaw went to great lengths to get away from the Bay Area.
As a rookie in the 2016-17 season, McCaw was a key contributor off the bench on the Warriors’ road to a championship. As a second-round pick, McCaw averaged 4.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 15.1 minutes per game during the regular season. He even earned 20 starts for a 67-win team.
McCaw produced similar numbers in the playoffs as he helped the Splash Brothers put a ring on it. Nobody will confuse those numbers with Michael Jordan, but for a second-round pick, McCaw received invaluable experience and exposure with the champs.
The following season, McCaw posted nearly identical averages over 16.9 minutes per game. His season seemed to be rolling along nicely until he suffered a frightening back injury that required him to be escorted off the court on a stretcher. McCaw eventually returned during the playoffs, but coming off the injury, he had less of an impact during the team’s second-straight championship run in his sophomore season.
Then weirdness ensued.
As a restricted free-agent, many people expected to McCaw to resign with the Warriors and continue to develop behind Curry and Thompson. The 6-foot-7 guard had other ideas.
Instead of signing a two-year, $5M deal or a one-year $1.7M deal that would have allowed him to become an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season, McCaw decided to hold out.
“What in the world is Patrick McCaw doing?” the internet wondered.
Nobody understood McCaw’s position. Also, unlike many athletes who voice their demands in the media (either directly or indirectly), there was radio silence from the McCaw. Even his agents were dumbfounded when he turned down the offers from the Warriors.
According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, McCaw’s holdout had less to do with salary and more to do with opportunity. Slater’s column suggested that McCaw and his father (Jeff McCaw) had made the determination that the best thing for the players’ future was to get out of the shadow of the Warriors All-Star roster if he ever wanted to maximize his own potential. He was willing to sit out the entire season to make it happen. But as it turns out, he didn’t have to.
Friday, McCaw signed a two-year, $6M offer sheet with the Cleveland Cavaliers. When the Warriors declined to match the offer by Sunday, McCaw officially joined the Cavs.
This isn’t the same Cavaliers team that made it to four-consecutive NBA Finals. This is the Cavaliers sans LeBron James. This version of the Cavs currently boasts the worst record in the NBA.
As they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
In an interview after his first practice with Cavs, McCaw confirmed that his holdout was about finding a better opportunity to shine rather than any bad blood with the Golden State Warriors.
“I think it was time for me to move on for a new opportunity within myself. Nothing against Golden State, front office, coaches, players, the environment, it had nothing to do with any of that,” McCaw said. "It’s just a personal thing, and I wanted a new opportunity to move on."
In Cleveland, McCaw probably couldn’t compete for an NCAA championship, much less an NBA trophy. However, McCaw should have plenty of opportunity to prove that he deserves to be more than just a reserve player in the NBA.
The Cavs team is terrible. The team has worst defensive rating in the entire league. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers starting point guard, Colin Sexton, has been one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Sexton ranks 456th out of 456 players in ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric.
Defense is the skill on which McCaw hangs his hat. Considering that the Cavs dealt George Hill to the Bucks a few weeks ago, there are plenty of minutes to be had at the guard spots in Cleveland.
Now that he’s officially a member of the Cavaliers, McCaw can’t afford to relax quite yet. McCaw’s contract will not become guaranteed until Jan. 7. That means 23-year-old must look sharp on the court. Otherwise the team can treat him like a garbage Christmas gift, box him back up and return him for a full refund.
It appears though that McCaw’s big gamble on himself has paid off. Now he must prove that he can seize the opportunity he created for himself.
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