Grading Browns Draft? Stupid To Do Now

No one can evaluate how the Cleveland Browns did in the NFL draft for several years.  Anyone who wants to tell you differently is insane.

All of the analysts who rank the drafts for each team are doing so based on how they ranked each player prior to the selection process.

For example, if the writer/analyst liked Corey Coleman and let’s say, Carl Nassib, then they would probably say the Browns had a very good draft.

If they didn’t like those guys, then they are panning Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta for not taking Laquon Treadwell with the 15th overall pick.

It really is that simple.

That’s why you see a large disparity of grade on the Browns’ draft.  Pro Football Focus gave them an “A”.  Mel Kiper gave them a “C”. Pete Prisco gave them a “C-“.

Lord knows what famous Browns critic Jason LaCanfora gave them.  Is there a grade lower than F?

One thing we can say is Brown and company are trying to make this team younger, and with 14 picks and the acquisition of CB Jamar Taylor from Miami, the roster will have a drastic turnover from a year ago.

We have written several times about the players over 30 years of age on this roster.  The choices Cleveland made indicate more of this group will be gone by the time training camp starts in July.

Paul Kruger said a lot of good things at OTA’s a few weeks ago, but with the drafting of Emmanuel Ogbah, Nassib, and Joe Schobert, there doesn’t seem to be room for him to play.

Grabbing Taylor in the deal with the Dolphins likely will mean that Tramon Williams will not be with the Browns for long.

And with four wide receivers being picked, one of them the first rounder, will Andrew Hawkins be in Berea by the end of summer?

If those players aren’t here, that will leave punter Andy Lee, Joe Thomas, John Greco, and Gary Barnidge as the only players on the wrong side of 30.

The lightning rod pick was taking QB Cody Kessler from USC on the third round.  That’s what a lot of people want to talk about, with most of the objections being that he was a third round pick.

While that is true, he was picked 93rd, and Cleveland had (at the time) the 99th and 100th overall picks.

If Kessler were chosen with one of those selections, would that appease the critics?  In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t mean much difference.

And for the people who wanted the Browns to take local boy Connor Cook?  A bunch of teams passed on him multiple times.  And to reiterate what we used to say about Brian Hoyer, just because a player is from here, doesn’t need they will be good quarterbacks.

Not everyone from northeast Ohio is Bernie Kosar.

Also, Kessler’s presence may mean another member of the over 30 set could be gone soon.  It wouldn’t be a shock if Josh McCown is dealt before the beginning of the regular season.

We knew going into this off-season that the Browns were going to overhaul their roster, and by getting 15 new players last weekend, the process has started.

But judging the draft now, and putting a grade on it is based on bias and is out and out stupid.  You also can’t pin the sins of past administrations on Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta.

The Browns are sticking to a plan right now.  Whether they can stick to the plan will probably determine how successful they will be.

JD

 

Previewing Cavs-Hawks

Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals and earned their second berth in the NBA championship round in the franchise’s history.

This year, they take on the Hawks in the conference semi-finals after Atlanta eliminated Boston in six games in the first round.

What can the Cavs expect starting on Monday night?

For the season, the wine and gold averaged 104.3 points per game compared to 102.8 for the Hawks.  Defensively, the Cavaliers allowed 98.3 points (4th) compared to 99.2 (6th) for the team from the Peachtree State.

After last season, the Hawks were branded as a ball movement team that relied on the three point shot, led by Kyle Korver.  Actually, the Cavs took 100 more shots from beyond the arc, and finished 7th in threes made, compared to Atlanta’s middle of the pack rank (15th).

Down the stretch, the Hawks became a tenacious defensive group, allowing the worst field goal percentage in the NBA at 43.2%.  Tyronn Lue’s group ranked 14th in this category.

Mike Budenholzer’s squad also ranked 5th in defense against the three point shot.  So, there is no doubt that Atlanta is very good at defending shooters.

However, it becomes a problem for them once a shot is missed.

The Hawks are simply not a good rebounding team.  Twenty three teams had more rebounds than them, and they allowed the 4th most offensive rebounds in the sport.

Cleveland was 9th in total rebounds and allowed the fifth least offensive rebounds as a team in 2015-16.

That makes Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love keys to this series.  If they can keep possessions alive after missed shots and can convert, that’s very demoralizing to opposing teams.

Jeff Teague improved his long range shooting tremendously this season, hitting 40% of his three point shots, compared to 34% a year ago.  He can be a handful for Kyrie Irving, who must stop penetration.

He did not shoot well from distance against Boston, so we would test his ability to make shots early in the series.

His backup, Dennis Schroder, who plays a lot, isn’t a good shooter from outside.

Atlanta’s best player is veteran Paul Millsap, an undersized four at 6’8″, but a very good scorer at 17 points per night.  He is very good at converting second chances, Love, Thompson, and company must keep him off the boards.

Because of Millsap’s size, it will be easy for Lue to use LeBron James at the four.  The Cavs should be able to match up easily if they want to go small.

Al Horford is Atlanta’s third leading scorer, and he’s a bit undersized to play the center spot.  Also, he seems to want to take more shots from the perimeter, which if we were playing defense, would be exactly what we wanted him to do.

And there is no question that Cleveland has to keep an eye on Kyle Korver, one of the NBA’s best long range shooters.

His three point shooting dropped by 10% this season, but you can’t let him get open looks.  You are surprised if he misses those.

Also, when he is on the floor, you have to go at him defensively.  He’s not a strong defender, and now 35 years old, isn’t getting any quicker.

With the home court advantage, it will be critical for the Cavs to come out and win the first two, obviously.  If they can win big, after last year’s sweep, the Hawks could be demoralized early.

This also shouldn’t be a physical of a series as the first round match up vs. Detroit was.  Atlanta doesn’t have the big bodies, but they are a better defensive team.

If Love and Irving are shooting well, we would figure the Cavs in no more than five games.

JK

Browns Finally Pick Someone

Several members of the media have criticized the Cleveland Browns over the years for not getting playmakers.

Tonight, they picked a guy in the first round who scores touchdowns in Baylor WR Corey Coleman, who scored 20 of them last season.

We doubt that Coleman is the guy who Sashi Brown was talking about as the guy they were targeting at the eighth overall pick, we figure that was Oregon DE DeForest Buckner, who was taken one spot ahead of Cleveland at #7 to the 49ers.

So, the front office traded down to #15, picking up another third round pick this year (the Browns now have five of the top 77 choices and seven of the top 100), and another second round pick in ’17, meaning they have two choices in that round.

You can make your Ray Farmer jokes about small wide receivers, because Coleman is just 5’10” and weighs 194 pounds.  But the scouting report on Coleman is that he is a home run hitter, a deep threat, someone who can score from anywhere on the field.

That’s something the Browns have lacked for years.

Coleman’s weaknesses are his hands, which causes us to raise an eyebrow, and that he played in a spread offense, so he hasn’t been exposed to the different routes they run in professional football.

We do have confidence in this coaching staff that they will address a players’ weakness and get them to improve. We don’t know if we could have said that in the past.

However, we still feel that by moving down to #8, and then to #15, Cleveland missed out on an elite talent.  Perhaps the best player in this draft, Buckner, went one pick ahead of their selection, and if he was the guy they wanted, they should have stayed at #2 and picked him.

That’s the point we have been making for the last three weeks or so.  The Browns need elite talent.  Why not start collecting it now.

Coleman looks like a good prospect, and he definitely fits an area of need, but is he potentially a dominant player?  None of the scouting reports we have read reflects that.

We felt the Browns had an opportunity to get a dominant player, which Buckner could be.  He was rated the best pass rusher in the draft and Cleveland could have had him if they just would have stood pat at #2.

That’s why we were thumbs down on trading out of that pick.  And it kind of blew up in the Browns’ face when the Niners took Buckner.

It doesn’t mean that Coleman is a bad choice.  Hopefully, he will give the Browns a player at the receiver position that other teams will have to game plan for.  That’s been a need for a long, long time.

However, the question is he a difference maker?  A player who will be a foundation for the building process this regime is putting together.

We don’t think we will be sitting here five years from now, with the Browns making their first playoff appearance since 2002, and saying that it all started with Corey Coleman.

Could you imagine that if they had picked Buckner, or Joey Bosa, or even Zeke Elliott?

So, today the Browns have another chance to take the best player still remaining on their board.  Our guess is they will trade down again.

This is not to say Brown and his crew will not be successful.  We like their plan of starting over completely.

But passing on what could be elite talent needs to be questioned.

The gathering of extra picks will no doubt help the Browns develop the depth needed to compete in the NFL, but you need great players too.

JD

 

Carrasco’s Loss A Tough Blow, Not A Death Blow

It was a bittersweet weekend for the Tribe in Detroit.  They swept the Tigers in Michigan for the first time since 2008, but they lost perhaps their best starter, Carlos Carrasco, to a hamstring injury.

Carrasco will miss approximately 4-6 weeks, and already doomsayers are sending a death knoll for the 2016 Tribe.

If there is one area the Indians have shown they have a little depth in their organization, it’s starting pitching.

Heck, the Tribe didn’t even have to go to Columbus to find a replacement for Carrasco, they simply went to the bullpen to find someone who has starting experience, and won 11 games at the major league level a year ago.

We are talking, of course, about Trevor Bauer, who at the tender age of 25, has made 64 big league starts.

Yes, we know about the right-hander’s consistency issues, he seems just a capable of pitching seven strong innings as being knocked out in the fourth.  However, he pitched just eight innings less than the man he replaces in the rotation.

Bauer’s problem has been throwing strikes on a regular basis, but in a lot of ways, he is much like Carrasco was before he blew out his elbow in 2011.

“Cookie” was 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA when he was injured at 24-years-old.  Bauer’s numbers last season when he was 24?  Try 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA.

This is Bauer’s second chance to be a starter.  If he takes advantage of it, the rotation will be even stronger when Carrasco returns to the mound.

We believe Bauer will continue to improve and will be better than he was last season.  He won’t be on Carrasco’s level, though.

If Bauer struggles, don’t forget two pitchers now toiling at Columbus, who could help out.  Mike Clevinger is the organization’s best pitching prospect, and has mostly been very good at the AAA level.

And you can’t ignore lefty T.J. House, who missed most of last season, but came up big down the stretch in 2014.  He is capable of providing solid outings in his arm is sound.

You also cannot forget that starting pitchers only go every fifth day.  Let’s say Carrasco missed the full six weeks, and the Indians would play every day (they don’t) in that stretch, a total of 42 games.

In that scenario, the righty misses eight starts.  Heck, the Tribe has already missed Michael Brantley, their best position player for 16 games and they survived.

Also, this injury would be more devastating to Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway if this were the post-season.

Our opinion is that you get to the playoffs by scoring runs.  It is difficult to qualify for the post-season if you can’t put runs up on the board.  However, pitching is preeminent once October baseball begins.

So, if the Tribe’s offense continues to get better and improves upon last year, they will be able to overcome the loss of a starting pitcher, even a very good one like Carlos Carrasco for a month and a half.

And if the Indians can make the post-season tournament, Carrasco’s arm will have less miles on it than other starting pitchers, and that could be an advantage.

We aren’t minimizing the loss.  Carrasco is one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.

But this is something that good teams overcome.  We still think the Tribe will be just fine.

MW

 

Playoffs Start, Kyrie Playing Much Better

Over the last few weeks of the regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had problems playing consistently, even within games.

They also seemed to play better without Kyrie Irving in the game.

He monopolized the ball, endlessly dribbling, and hoisting bad shots when he couldn’t find a way to the basket and the shot clock was running down.

The biggest problem though was his shooting.  His marksmanship from three point range had dropped 10% from a year ago.  He was prone to games where he was shooting more than 20 times per game and barely get over 20 points.

We thought if Irving was on your team in a pickup game, he wouldn’t be much fun to play with.

However, he seemed to change all of that once the playoffs started.

With the Cavs on the brink of a first round sweep of the Detroit Pistons, Irving’s game has returned to where it used to be.  In fact, Friday night, he may have played his best of the season.

He was patient, yet aggressive if that is possible.

He looked to score early in the possession, and if something wasn’t there, he didn’t continue to dribble, he moved the ball and got it back.

And he hit the dagger shot with less than a second left on the 24 second shot clock with a corner three.

The former first overall pick is hitting 52% of his shots behind the arc in the series, and is making 46.8% of his two point shots as well.  His effective field goal percentage 56.5%.

He still isn’t much of a playmaker, ranking third on the team in assists (behind LeBron James and his backup at the point, Matthew Dellavedova), but he’s only had four turnovers.

And after all of the angst about how the “Big Three” doesn’t fit well, and doesn’t play well together, all three of them are averaging over 20 points per game:  Irving at 26.3, James (23.0), and Kevin Love (21.3).

Both Irving and Love have also played much better defense in these games vs. Detroit.  Love was put in a couple of one-on-one situations with Piston point guard Reggie Jackson late in game one, and forced a couple of bad shots.

Irving has held Jackson to 45.2% shooting from the floor, and he has taken just three free throws in the series, obviously the forays into the lane are being minimized.

Now, we understand the Pistons are the 8th seed, and obviously will be the weakest opponent the Cavs will play in the playoffs.  It only gets tougher as you move on.

But as we have said all year long, the wine and gold’s primary opponent all year has been themselves, and in judging them based on how they have played since the post-season has begun, they have stepped up the quality of basketball.

The Cavs still need to continue to improve defensively, particularly in the first half of games.  Tyronn Lue has done a great job of making adjustments at halftime, because the defense has clamped down in the second half.

As the playoffs go on, you cannot have a poor first half defensively because you might go into the locker room down double digits instead of down five, like in game one in Cleveland.

But the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be in playoff mode, and it helps that Kyrie Irving has stepped his game up.

There were many in town concerned about his play over the last two months.

JK

 

 

Trading Down Just Means Passing On Talent

Based on our entry on Sunday, you can well imagine we were not happy with the Cleveland Browns’ decision to trade out of the second overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft.

To move down six spots, we feel you needed to get a second round pick this year, not two years from now.

The Browns are spinning this as having six picks in the top 100 players, however, two of those picks are #99 and #100.  Really, they have four picks in the top 77 players, which is just one more pick than they would have if they had done nothing.

For this year, you received a third round pick and another in the fourth in order to move down six spots.

We feel the Browns need great players.  Can they get one of the players we identified the other day with the 8th choice?  Of course, there is a chance, but now they could lose a possibility of getting the guy they judged to have been the second best player.

Getting a first rounder next year is a given, and if the Eagles chose correctly, which means the Browns passed up a good quarterback, that pick will be in the lower half of the first round.

If the guy they pick doesn’t play well, then the Browns get another high first round pick, which is what they already had.

It just seems like the old philosophy is still in vogue at Berea…We’ll be good next year.

Look, we know the Browns are not going to be contending for a playoff spot for a few years, but it’s still not too early to start accumulating the foundation.  So, unless another trade occurs, and it might, Cleveland still has just one first round pick, and one second pick this year.

That’s where you get starters.  And the Browns aren’t any better than they were before the trade.

If they would have received a 2nd rounder this year and then had four of the top 65 players, to us, that’s better value.

And if you are in the camp where you believed both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz can be franchise quarterbacks, you have to be livid today.

The Browns were in a position to get one of them, and now they will get neither.  Time will tell if Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta are smarter than everyone or they acted like a teenager who just got paid and its Friday night.

If you trade down again on draft night, it’s just a repeat of what has been done time and again in Berea, accumulating picks.  What you are really doing is delaying making a decision.

You are saying you don’t trust your draft board.

The gutsy move would have been to take whoever is the best player according to your rankings after the Rams made the first selection.  It worries me that these guys aren’t trusting the scouting staff.

That, and the high picks they received will not help this team until the 2017 and 2018 seasons.  It seems the whole process is being delayed, and Browns’ fans should be fed up with that thinking.

Not to mention you are also letting a team in your division, the Ravens, pick in front of you.

However, the people who love having picks will like this move.

We’d rather get the second best player in the draft.  On the other hand, based on decisions like this, they may get another opportunity in April 2017.

JD

 

 

An Early Tribe Check

With all of the rainouts and off days this early in the baseball season, it is hard to evaluate any team, including the Cleveland Indians.

That said, we do have some early thought about the Wahoos, a team we picked to win the AL Central.

We have seen fans complaining about the lack of runs scored by the Tribe in this young season.  After all, they rank 10th in the American League in tallies at this point of the season.

However, these people need to look closer.  The Indians rank 10th in the league because they’ve played the least number of games.

In actuality, Cleveland ranks 6th in runs per game at 4.2 a game, one notch ahead of the Blue Jays.  While we aren’t saying this will hold up all year, and we mean scoring more than Toronto, it does show the offense has improved a bit.

The pitching which was supposed to be the strength of the ’16 Indians, has not rounded into form as of yet, ranking 14th in the junior circuit, ahead of just Boston, who seems to give up eight runs per game, and Houston.

The staff ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of strikeouts per nine innings, whereas last year, the Indians led the AL in this statistic.

We said coming into the year that the bullpen was one spot that concerned us, and the first ten games haven’t eased those fears.  Bryan Shaw has been a disaster in two of his four appearances, one costing the Indians a game, and in the other turning a laugher into a game where Cody Allen had to get four outs.

If the Tribe has a lead in a close game tonight, who does Terry Francona go to in the eighth inning?

He can’t use Shaw again, so our guess is it would be Zack McAllister, but then who will be used if needed in the seventh?

Jeff Manship?  Trevor Bauer?  Those are the things that managers have to decide on the fly.  Handling the bullpen is one of best skills a major league skipper can have.

By the way, saying Shaw’s velocity is fine isn’t proof that his arm is sound.  Sometimes, a loss of command is a tell tale sign of arm problems.  Just saying.

In the meantime, losing games late is demoralizing to a team that needs to get off to a good start.  That’s the biggest reason Francona needs to use Shaw is some low pressure situations until he is right.

Back to the offense, it has been a bit inconsistent, but remember, the Indians are still missing their best bat in Michael Brantley.  Hopefully, the brass doesn’t rush him back, so that when he does return, he will stay in the lineup all year, and he hits like he normally does.

Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will be back soon, which means some rosters moves are coming.

Here’s hoping Tyler Naquin isn’t a victim.  The rookie has had limited playing time because of all the lefties the Indians have seen, but he has looked good.  He definitely deserves a roster spot over Collin Cowgill, but if Francona isn’t going to play him everyday, he may be better off in Columbus.

We would let Cowgill go, and send down a bullpen arm and keep Naquin because Brantley will probably need sporadic days off for his shoulder.

You could have a Marlon Byrd/Chisenhall platoon in right field, and a Naquin/ Rajai Davis platoon in center, with Davis getting extra time in relief of Brantley.

We bet the Tribe will go another way.

Remember though, it’s still early.  The first real opinions here will be made after 27 games, the 1/6th pole of the long season.

KM

 

Browns Should Keep #2, Trade Down Later

Many people think the Los Angeles Rams threw a wrench in the NFL draft plans of many teams when they moved up 14 spots to the first overall selection.

Now, there are many Browns’ fans and media alike advocating trading down to gain more picks, just like the Tennessee Titans did.

We are not in that category.

This is not to say the Browns have an awful lot of holes on the roster, and need plenty of help.  However, we would not trade down from the second selection in the process.

Cleveland earned getting the second pick by virtue of their terrible 2015 season, and they should not forfeit the choice.

While we aren’t draft experts or scouts, there does seem to be some talented players, Pro Bowl type players in the top five guys coming into the league.

If the front office and coaching staff still want a quarterback after signing Robert Griffin III as a free agent, then they can still select whomever is left between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

If they want to add to the other areas of the team, most of which need help for sure, they can choose between DT DeForest Buckner of Oregon, CB/S Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, DE Joey Bosa of Ohio State, and LB Myles Jack of UCLA.

Notice all four of those guys are defensive players, and if you can recall last season (or still want to for that matter), the Browns defense resembled a sieve.

Whether it is on offense or defense, the Browns need a star, someone to build the unit around.  That’s why we would keep the pick.

Don’t forget that the brown and orange have the first pick in the second round too.  Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta will likely be inundated with teams wanting that pick from the end of the first round on Thursday to the time the second round starts on Friday.

If Cleveland wants to deal that choice to get more picks, then so be it.  It is sound strategy.  We aren’t disputing the Browns need a large influx of talent.

But they need great players to start the building process, and more often than not you get great players early in the first round.

Granted, Tennessee got a haul for moving down to #15, they should have.  There is a big difference between picking first and in the middle of the round.  The Browns would probably have to go down that many spots to get that type of bounty.

Dropping out of the top five or even the top ten choices, won’t get you as much as the Titans received.  And is it really worth an extra pick or two this year to remove yourself from having the chance to pick one of the top five players in this year’s draft?

Besides, we feel the Browns will wind up with more picks this year anyway.  It would not be surprising if Cleveland dealt players like Paul Kruger, Trammon Williams, Desmond Bryant, and yes, even Joe Thomas for more picks during the draft.

Remember, all of those guys are over 30 years old, and we believe the front office doesn’t want aging players on this roster.

The gutsy move is to make a decision at #2, and not defer it until later in the draft.  Take the best player on your draft board, whether it’s a QB or not.

The Browns needs players, yes.  However, they also need great players.

JD

Sizing Up Cavs Vs. Pistons

The Cleveland Cavaliers open the post-season Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena against the Detroit Pistons, and it doesn’t figure to be as easy as last season’s path to the second round.

As you well remember, the Cavs swept the Boston Celtics a year ago, in a series most known for the Celtics’ physicality.  We all recall losing Kevin Love for the balance of the playoffs after his arm was pulled out of its socket by Kelly Olynyk.

We say it won’t be as easy because the conference as a whole is better.  Boston was a below .500 team (40-42) in the 2014-15 season, and this year, the Pistons are 44-38, which would have given them the 6th seed a year ago.

That said, the two teams do have some similarities.  Both are playoff newcomers, it has been since 2009 that Detroit has been in the post-season, while the Celts were very young a year ago.

Both squads are led in scoring by their point guards.  Reggie Jackson leads the Pistons with an 18.8 average, and both Kyrie Irving and Mo Williams (when he was starting at the beginning of the year) had problems containing Jackson.

However, he is just a 35% shooter from behind the arc, so logic dictates that Cavs’ defenders make him knock down a few shots from outside and take away the drive initially.  That will be something to watch early in the series.

Unlike Boston though, the Pistons have a dominant presence inside in Andre Drummond, who averaged 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game.  Detroit ranked second in the NBA in offensive boards throughout the season, so it is incumbent on the Cavs to limit the guys from the Motor City to just one shot.

Drummond’s achilles heel though is his free throw shooting.  Making just 35.5% of his tosses, it is very likely we will see a lot of deliberate fouling on Cleveland’s part to force the big man to the line, or perhaps to the bench.

It is hard to see coach Stan Van Gundy keeping Drummond on the floor in a close game because of this problem.

Still, it seems like Drummond could be a factor if Tristan Thompson cannot handle him on the boards.  We know Thompson is terrific on the glass as well, but the Piston is better.

And because Thompson isn’t really an offensive threat, it leaves Drummond free to contest shots around the basket, meaning the Cavs better have their perimeter game working.

When Channing Frye is in the game, he should get some open looks because Drummond doesn’t want to play outside.

This makes Lue’s handling of Timofey Mozgov more curious.  The big man will be needed in this series and in a potential matchup with Toronto in the conference finals

Mid-season acquisition Tobias Harris has been very good for Detroit since coming over from Orlando, but he pales in comparison to LeBron James, who will be his match up.

As usual, the Cavs biggest opponent in this series will be themselves.  If Irving and Kevin Love are scoring, it opens things up for JR Smith, and those four can put up 100 points between the quartet.

They also need to move the basketball and lock themselves in on defense.  If they don’t forget that is their recipe for winning, it should be a short series.

But make no mistake, these Pistons have some weapons which have been problems for the Cavaliers.  If they don’t pay attention to detail, Detroit could steal a game or two.

JK

Road Back To Finals Will Be Tougher For Cavs

With the NBA playoffs starting this weekend, the common verse being sung by local fans and both the local and national media is the Cleveland Cavaliers should win the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals.

Why?  Because they have LeBron James and he will raise his game in the post-season to another level.

And?  Because the Cavs have a very talented roster and eventually they will put everything together.

And??  That’s about all they have.

That’s worrisome from our point of view.  And an awful lot to put on the shoulders of James, although the way he has played over the last month shows he may still be the best basketball player in the world, despite the Stephen Curry enthusiasts.

Look, this isn’t last season, when the top seeded team was the Atlanta Hawks, a team without a lot of playoff success in the past, and not a physically overwhelming roster.

The East is much better in 2015-16, making the Cavs route back to The Finals, much more treacherous.

In short, the wine and gold need to have their act together starting this weekend, which is tricky because they seem to be playing in a fog over the last month.

Yes, yes, they played well last night against Atlanta.  It showed once again how good this team can be when they are clicking on all cylinders, but what happens when some adversity gets in the way, such as the opponents’ defense taking something away.

One of the members of the “Big Three”, Kyrie Irving, is in a huge shooting slump, and when he doesn’t shoot, he is dribbling an excessive amount of time.

Kevin Love has been starting games scoring a lot, but then he seems to disappear, mostly because it seems his teammates forget he is on the floor.

JR Smith has become a consistent three point threat, but “consistency” is not a word usually associated with Smith.

Post scoring?  Forget it, unless it is James doing it.  Timofey Mozgov’s minutes are dwindling by the week, and Tristan Thompson’s best offensive play is getting a rebound on that end of the court.

Mozgov seems to be marginalized by Lue, which we aren’t sure is a good move, because the Cavs will need him, particularly against Detroit and Toronto.

Iman Shumpert has struggled with his shot all year, although he is out there for his defensive ability.  Matthew Dellavedova looks like a guy who needs a few days off before the playoffs start.  His shot seems to have taken a siesta as well.

The other question is how will Lue handle himself in the playoffs.  We said this a year ago with David Blatt, but the post-season is really the measure of coaching in the NBA because adjustments are needed to fit your opponent.

Can Lue make the tactical moves needed to offset what other teams are doing to Cleveland both offensively and defensively?

This isn’t a knock on Lue, we just don’t know if he can make the correct moves to counteract the other squad.

And he will be going up against some veteran guys with success in the post-season, guys like Stan Van Gundy, Frank Vogel, and perhaps the best bench coach in the league, Boston’s Brad Stevens.

Right now, based on the past several weeks, we have questions as to whether or not the Cavaliers can get back to The Finals, because it seems once again to be all on the shoulders of James.

There is no doubt he can carry the team there, but it doesn’t give the wine and gold much margin for error.

This we do know.  It won’t be easy to return.

JK