What Is Wrong With The Cleveland Cavaliers?!
What Is Wrong With The Cleveland Cavaliers?!
I’ve seen many people claiming there is something wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the moment, and although that is obvious, no one has really dived into what exactly is wrong with the team currently. I’m here to really dissect it and break it down so let’s get started.
1. THE CAVS ARE OLD:
This is no major secret, but the Cavs are the oldest team in the NBA. This matters for a couple of reasons that we will cover as we go through. Some say age is just a number, and that may true in life itself, but in the basketball world, it’s starting to matter more and more as the game evolves. The league has never been played at a quicker pace than it is right now, or had more possessions being played out. With the ferocious, high tempo, transition nature of the game now, the need for athletes to match is crucial. Keeping all that in mind, the Cavs have definitely looked VERY OLD at times this year.
Cavs’ players 30 years and older:
– LeBron James (33)
– Dwyane Wade (36)
– JR Smith (32)
– Kyle Korver (36)
– Jeff Green (31)
– Jose Calderon (36)
– Channing Frye (34)
In truth, it’s a two sided coin because those savvy veterans are the ones that are going to help them come playoff time, but during a long and grueling regular season, age becomes a major factor on a nightly basis against young, fit and hungry teams. The Cavaliers are so old that their team doctors and physios decided to stay the night over during road trips. Opting to travel to the next city in the morning instead of later that night straight after the team has played in order to try and squeeze out some more rest. If anyone has watched the Cavs on back-to-backs this season as well, they have looked horrible the night after, with age and recovery playing a role as well. Let me make this very clear, age is absolutely no excuse for their recent poor form, but it does play a role for older teams during a seemingly never-ending regular season at times.
2. THEY’RE POORLY COACHED:
The players have correctly had the finger pointed at them, but as a collective, the staff also need to take responsibility for the lack of success as of late. Tyronn Lue has definitely underperformed and in my opinion, showed his deficiencies as an NBA head coach. Lue did a great job during the title run, but since then, has been extremely disappointing. When you look around the league and see a coach like Erik Spoelstra maximizing a roster with no genuine superstar, it makes you wonder how Lue has not steadied the ship with significantly more talent at his disposal. Of course, coaching talented players has many challenges of its own, but the point remains the same – Lue has not done enough and continues to make mistakes.
Alarmingly, some are glaringly obvious as well. Some of these include not having Channing Frye in the rotation when they won 18 of 19 games with him playing, not having Kyle Korver playing many minutes alongside LeBron James as of late, no change in lineups or personnel, the wrong lineups to finish games and the incorrect distribution of minutes are just some contributing factors on his part. The problem with Ty Lue is despite being good at forming relationships with players, he has never put a system in place which allowed them to collect easy wins. When you look at the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs, they are so well-coached that the system that is implemented allows them to pick up wins even on their off nights with overall less talent. This is absolutely a product of elite coaching and understanding that advanced schemes and systems can make the regular season a hell of a lot easier and reduce the minutes of your main players. Instead of employing a productive system, LeBron is Lue’s entire system. Their results are based purely on whether or not he takes them to a win, especially in the fourth quarter when the give him the ball and just get out of the way. This should never be the case when you have more talent than most in the NBA. When asked why the Cavs will be ok he responded with: “Because we have the best player in the world”, and despite that being true, it doesn’t give you much faith in his ability to maximize this team through his coaching.
3. THEY HAVE A BUNCH OF ONE-WAY PLAYERS AND SPECIALISTS:
Many people don’t factor this is when evaluating the Cavs, but they have far too many one-way and specialist players. Despite them flourishing alongside LeBron who’s maximizing what they have to offer through their specific skillset, the ability to overcome challenges or offer versatility is limited with players that are limited themselves. If we go through them, it becomes even more evident:
Kyle Korver: Purely a specialist shooter and not much else.
Kevin Love: Talented offensively, horrible defensively.
Channing Frye: Purely a specialist shooter and not much else.
Cedi Osman: Defensive minded, no offensive game.
Jose Calderon: Can run an offense, can’t defend anymore.
Isaiah Thomas: Talented offensively, can’t guard anyone.
Tristan Thompson: Talented defensively, horrible offensively.
Iman Shumpert: Defensive minded, little to no offensive game.
Jae Crowder: Talented defensively, limited offensively.
As you can see, despite the talent and well-known names, the Cavs have far too many one-way and specialists on their roster currently. It’s fine and valuable to have these sorts of players on any NBA roster, but when you have too many their production decreases because they need to do more than their capable of. There is a reason why Jeff Green has been the best pick up the Cavs have acquired this season, because he’s able to play both sides of the ball, he’s good in transition, he’s athletic, he’s versatile and he can pass, shoot and defend. All attributes that are the most effective in the NBA as it’s currently constructed.
4. THEY CRAVE SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR:
I wouldn’t say boredom because it’s too early in the season still, but this roster needs something significant to play for. With the East being the way it is the Cavs have more time to figure things out without slipping down the standings too much. Even through this difficult period they are still sitting third in the East and only 6 games behind the Celtics with a lot of the season still left to play. Some people say “flicking the switch” or “turning it on”, and the Cavs aren’t close to that as of yet, but this team will get better as the stakes rise. This again is absolutely no excuse for their recent form, but anyone who has played competitive sports at a decent level will understand not all games are built the same, and enthusiasm and effort levels vary consistently between contests. We saw what they could be in both first halves against the Golden State Warriors, it’s a matter of mustering that same desire on a nightly basis.
5. LACK OF CONTINUITY DUE TO INDIFFERENT LINEUPS AND INJURY:
I believe one of the biggest reasons the Cavs have faltered as of late is due to their lack of continuity. The Cavs have experienced injuries or time off for every major player this season. Because of this, their line-ups and rotations have been constantly changed. They should still be winning the games they’re expected to win, but it plays a factor when there is no continuity within the roster.
6. PROBLEMS INTERGRATING ISAIAH THOMAS AND DERRICK ROSE:
Adding to the above point, the integration of Isaiah Thomas has been an absolute nightmare so far. Thomas’ initial return was good but as he described it was “fools luck”. He’s of course still trying to find his rhythm and legs but the signs aren’t good. If the Cavs want to achieve something special it’s going to be hard with Thomas, because his offense doesn’t outweigh the problems he gives them defensively. It’s not that he doesn’t want to play defense, but he simply can’t because of his size. Anyone watching the Cavs-Thunder game would notice that Russell Westbrook was basically able to do whatever he liked as there was no way for Thomas to get over or around a Steven Adams screen. This is something that is almost impossible to work around, as oppositions with always put Thomas in pick-and-roll situations.
The integration of Derrick Rose has been difficult as well. With Rose missing so much time as the Cavs went on their big winning streak, the need for Rose was minimal. Now, his presence is needed but distributing his minutes as well as tip toeing around his constant minute-restrictions is not ideal. The Cavs have either been without a starting point guard or starting backup point guard for the entire season, sometimes both, and it has hurt them. They desperately need Thomas to return to his former self and find ways of hiding him on defense.
7. LACK OF PRODUCTION FROM PREVIOUSLY RELIABLE PIECES:
There are various factors contributing to this poor run of form but the Cavs are simply not getting the same production from pieces they rely on and have leaned on in the past. JR Smith has been nothing short of horrendous on both ends. Tristan Thompson has been dreadful. Jae Crowder has not found his place since his arrival and his defense (what he was acquired for) has been average. Kevin Love is supposed to be a star and All-Star but is maybe the most inconsistent talent in the league. Kyle Korver has struggled with his shot as of late. Dwyane Wade can’t get it going. Overall, there is just a lack of productivity at the moment with the Cavs.
These are players they rely on and have brought in to do a job but they’re simply not getting it done for whatever reason. It’s come to the point where if LeBron has a good but not spectacular game, they still struggle to win, it shouldn’t be the case at all. For example, Smith can’t go 2 for 25 over 4 games from three, Jae Crowder can’t go 3 for 18 over 3 games from three, Kevin Love can’t go for 28 and 14 against the Mavericks but have 2 points at halftime against the Celtics, it just can’t happen if you’re giving the team absolutely nothing else, it’s just not good enough and can’t happen consistently if you want to achieve something special. There is a reason a host of Cavalier players have been talked about being traded and rightly so, because they’re just not giving the team what it needs right now.
Scoring the ball hasn’t been the major concern for the Cavs, but defensively they have been atrocious. They scored 120 against the Thunder which is superb, but still lost by 20+ because they gave up 148. It has been disjointed, untrustworthy and plain awful defense by the Cavs during this tough stretch.
Their intensity is gone, and they’ve allowed it to become a habit. Many times this year they’ve been up big and let teams get back into the game simply because they can’t get stops consistently. Some of this is due to the lack of continuity we touched on, some of it is effort, but a lot is the Cavs don’t have many good individual defenders on this roster. We’ve talked about Isaiah Thomas’ shortcomings defensively, but he’s one of many players who can’t guard a toddler right now. This is hard to tackle, but an increased level of effort and intensity on that end of the floor is a start. They need to establish the right lineups to get stops, as well as creating the right schemes that will allow them to get stops even in their slower, less athletic state. Another way of fixing this is trading for defensive talent (did someone say DeAndre Jordan), or pieces that can hold their own on that end of the floor.
9. MUCH BETTER ON PAPER THAN IN REALITY:
A lot of people were saying this was one of the best Cavs’ teams of all-time during training camp, and while that may be true on paper, the Cavs aren’t as good or as deep as it actually seems. If you think about this season and the roster they have, keeping in mind the points we’ve covered, the Cavs roster is actually quite unbalanced and underwhelming. Dwyane Wade can’t play every game and isn’t close to the player that get us excited when we see his name on the roster, Derrick Rose can’t ever stay healthy, Isaiah Thomas has missed a large chunk of the season with a hip injury and it’s unknown if he will be the player he once was, Cedi Osman hadn’t stepped foot in America before this season and it’s still the same Kevin Love the Cavs were trying desperately to offload in the off season. They have no excuses for the poor run of form but the Cavs definitely need to get a lot younger and fresher for what the regular season demands.
I’ve always said this Cavs team is more suited for the playoffs, where you need experience to win. Their veterans will help them and a big plus is they’ll always have a day off in between playoff games. Their defense will also improve come playoff time as they can lock in on their opponents and try and take away what they like to do with a more concerted effort.
It’s highly unlikely this poor run of form will continue for the Cavaliers, but it might be very necessary to explore various different trades to freshen up this squad. Looks for the Cavs to be active as the trade deadline approaches and don’t be surprised if a couple of central pieces are moved to help them fix their current issues.