The Cleveland Cavaliers are a struggling basketball team.
They’ve had four draft picks in the top four of the draft over the last three years. They’ve hired a new coach. They’ve taken some chance on the free agent market.
Yet, to date, the result is the same. They continue to struggle and right now they are sitting at 10-21 on the season, and are on pace to win 27 games, a mere three more than last season, a record that got their coach, Byron Scott, fired.
That would seem to put the onus squarely on the shoulders of GM Chris Grant.
Grant has brought in some talented players, with the prime example being Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick in 2011, won the NBA Rookie of the Year, and has made an all-star team.
Outside of this year’s first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, the other two players who were selected in the top four of the draft were power forward Tristan Thompson, a solid player in the league and Dion Waiters, who has shown ability since entering the league last year.
So, Grant hasn’t taken any stiffs, with the disclaimer that it is still way too early to make any judgment on Bennett, who’s only 31 games into his rookie season.
Still, it seems that the GM hasn’t put together a basketball “team”, meaning the mix of talent hasn’t been working.
While we have supported Grant’s talent evaluation in the past, we did so thinking he would convert the duplicate talent he has at certain positions and convert them where the team’s weaknesses are.
The wine and gold have a plethora of power forwards in Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Earl Clark, and Bennett and a bounty of point guard types in Irving, Waiters, and Jarrett Jack.
This forces Mike Brown to have to play two power forwards and two point guards for much of the game. That’s not a good mix offensively and defensively.
What the Cavaliers do not have are shooters. Sure, Irving won the three point shooting contest last season, but he’s more of a penetrating guard than a pure shooter.
The odd thing is, these types of guys should be fairly easy to obtain, a lot of them bounce around the league like Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick.
That’s what is lacking with the Cavs right now. They don’t have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket from outside.
So when Irving and Waiters get into the lane with dribble penetration, they don’t have options to kick it out to, which makes the defense protect the basket all the more, making it tougher for those guys to score.
The extra power forwards aren’t as critical because Brown can use them, along with Tyler Zeller at center to alleviate some of the logjam, but the imbalance in the backcourt and at the small forward spot isn’t providing a winning mix.
On New Year’s Eve, the Cavs played the Indiana Pacers even for three quarters, but simply couldn’t make shots in the fourth quarter, being held to eight points for most of the quarter.
When a guard did get into the paint, there was the overwhelming presence of Roy Hibbert, and when the ball got kicked outside, they don’t have a reliable shooter.
If anything is to be salvaged this season, Grant has to act quickly. As it stands, the wine and gold can still make the playoffs despite their mediocre record.
In basketball, pure talent isn’t the only determining factor. You have to have the right mix and the Cavaliers don’t.
It’s on Chris Grant to make the correct moves and balance out his roster. And he needs to do it sooner than later.