The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming a frustrating basketball team.
After losing superstar LeBron James to his much-celebrated free agency, most of the hoops fans in this city have given them the space to rebuild.
The fact that James didn’t give any clue to the team that he was intending to leave, and that the Cavs management had no Plan B, the following season was a disaster that everyone expected.
The wine and gold went 19-63, and wound up with two picks in the top four of the NBA draft thanks to a trade with the Clippers for Mo Williams.
The following year, armed with the first overall pick in Kyrie Irving, who wound up being the NBA Rookie of the Year, the team improved to 21-45 in a lockout shortened season. This record projects to a 26-56 record for a full 82 game slate.
A seven game improvement is a good start toward the road to respectability.
However, this season has been a huge step backwards. The Cavs currently sit at 8-28 on the season, which projects to an 18-64 season, which puts them right back to where they were the after James went to Miami.
We want to trust Chris Grant and Byron Scott, but right now, it is difficult to do that when the young Cavaliers play so inconsistently. They seem to play to the level of their opponent, which is scary for such a young team.
These guys should be happy to be playing professional basketball and shouldn’t be taking nights off against anybody, especially when their record is so poor. The worst road teams in the NBA have wins on their resume against the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. That’s not a good sign.
While no one misses Antawn Jamison’s shot selection or poor defense, it is obvious that his veteran leadership is missed. With Anderson Varejao now out 6-8 weeks, there is no one on this roster who provides guidance for the youngsters. Luke Walton has been around the league for a long time, but doesn’t get enough minutes to be a leader to the young roster.
That has to fall on GM Chris Grant for not bringing in someone who can show these players how to act and play like a professional. That’s probably a big reason Scott and Grant brought in Shawn Livingston. He’s a veteran and has a good feel for the game.
Because they have so many young players, the Cavaliers have horrible shot selection. They hoist up a lot of ill-advised three point shots, and too often the ball in monopolized by one player, usually Irving.
That comes down to coaching. Scott and his staff need to remind players that they are usually that wide open for a reason, the defense wants them to shoot.
Also, there doesn’t seem to ever be any low post presence, even when Varejao was healthy. It is understandable that rookie Tyler Zeller isn’t strong enough at this point to not get pushed out of the post, but there is no law that says the center has to be the guy to post up.
Perhaps it is Alonzo Gee or perhaps Irving or Dion Waiters who can line up near the basket on offense. There has to be some option.
The fans are starting to get a little angry. After a nice increase in the win total last year, the wine and gold have taken a step backward. As long as progress was being made, there is optimism, but the way the Cavaliers have played this year has some people worried.