The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the NBA’s brightest young rosters, and they have plenty of hope for next season and the future beyond it.
Just about everyone outside of the state of Ohio expected them to have a dreadful season, but they instead finished with a 44-38 record and came within minutes of reaching the NBA playoffs.
General manager Koby Altman has assembled a talented and potent roster, while head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is getting lots of production out of it.
Bickerstaff will now have a new lead assistant, as Greg Buckner has been promoted to the role of Cavs associate head coach.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are promoting assistant Greg Buckner to associate head coach, sources tell ESPN. Buckner played a significant role with J.B. Bickerstaff in elevating Cavs’ defense into one of league’s top five last season.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2022
Who Is Greg Buckner?
Buckner is originally from Kentucky, and he went on to play college basketball at Clemson University, where he helped the Tigers reach the NCAA Tournament three times.
He then entered the 1998 NBA Draft, where he was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the 53rd overall pick.
Buckner spent the 1998-99 season with the Grand Rapids Hoops of the Continental Basketball Association, a defunct minor professional basketball league, and he got his first NBA action the following year.
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard, Buckner usually came off the bench, and he could move over and play the small forward spot.
Most 6-foot-4 guards and way too small to play the 3, but head coach Don Nelson was one of the pioneers of modern-day small ball, and thus Buckner got to play the position while holding his own.
No. 1, 21 • Greg Buckner
205 Games in 4 Seasons
Debut: January 6th, 2000
5.2 PPG | 3.2 RPG | 1.1 APG pic.twitter.com/3Iisq1NNHp
— 𝐷𝐴𝐿𝐿𝐴𝑆 𝐻𝑂𝑂𝑃𝑆 (@dallas_hoops) June 10, 2022
He left Dallas in 2002 and would play for four teams in the next six seasons, which included a brief return to the Mavs.
In 2008, Buckner was involved in a blockbuster trade when the Minnesota Timberwolves sent him, O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker to the Memphis Grizzlies for four players, including current Cavaliers big man Kevin Love, who had just been drafted.
After his playing career ended shortly afterward, he joined the Houston Rockets for one year as a player development coach, and after short stints with the Rockets and Grizzlies as an assistant coach, he moved on to the Cavs for the 2020-21 campaign in that capacity.
While he has been in Cleveland, Buckner has been credited with helping the team make strides on the defensive end.
Last season, it ranked 17th in points allowed and 25th in defensive rating.
But this season, the Cavs were fifth in points given up and seventh in defensive rating, which is an enormous improvement.
Most young teams are not good on the defensive end, but Buckner and Bickerstaff are creating a culture that is based around winning with defense.
Now, it is time for them to upgrade on the offensive end, especially in terms of 3-point shooting and playing at a faster pace (they were just 26th in pace this season).