During the Cleveland Cavaliers’ slow start, David Blatt received a lot of criticism from people who expected the wine and gold to be 82-0 for the regular season. After all, they added the best player on the planet, LeBron James and another all-star in Kevin Love to Kyrie Irving.
Now that the Cavs have won four in a row, some of that criticism has subsided, but there is one area that the new to the NBA coach needs to make an adjustment. That would be controlling the minutes of James, who will turn 30 years old at the end of the month, and has a lot of miles on his legs, having spent 10 full seasons in the league, plus playoffs, and his stints with USA Basketball.
James is currently averaging 37.7 minutes per night, which is right in line with the last three years he spent in Miami. However, he has accumulated more than 40 minutes in a game seven times in the season’s first 16 games.
That’s not going to help him or the Cavs if they do indeed make a deep run in the NBA playoffs.
So, Blatt has to make a conscious effort to limit James’ minutes, especially during this time of the regular season, when, let’s face it, the games don’t have a heck of a lot of meeting.
We are sure Blatt intends to give James around 35 minutes per night going into each game, but our guess is his competitive nature gets in the game, and as the contest goes on he wants LeBron on the floor so the Cavs have a better chance for victory.
Part of it could also be adapting to a 48 minute game too. In a shorter contest, resting a player five minutes gets them to 35 minutes on the floor, in the NBA, a player has to sit out for 13 minutes to be at that kind of playing time.
As a compromise, we would suggest James sitting out the last three minutes of the first quarter and the first four minutes of the second quarter. Currently, he is playing the entire first stanza. This would give him seven minutes off in the first half, and if Love and Irving are on the floor at that point, the Cavs shouldn’t be in any danger of getting blown out.
In the second half, the coach can keep James off the floor the last two minutes of the third quarter and first two minutes of the fourth quarter. That get James to 37 minutes per night. And when the Cavaliers get a blow out win, he will get even more time off.
We also think having LBJ on the floor as much as he is provides a crutch to the players coming off the bench, meaning they think James will handle things, and they are reluctant to step up.
While James is resting, why can’t Dion Waiters pick up the scoring slack? We know Waiters can put the ball in the basket, and if he can produce when he’s in there, it means LeBron can watch from the sidelines.
And that will also make the Cavs a stronger team.
If you spend as much time in the Association as James, it takes its toll. That isn’t to say LBJ is no longer a dominant player, but he does need to start cutting back on his minutes if he is to be at top form when the playoffs start. David Blatt knows this, he just needs to stick to the plan.