The NBA playoffs are less than a month away, but it feels like the Cleveland Cavaliers are further away than that from competing for an NBA title.
There are many people confident that the Cavs will put it all together before the post-season begins and they will march through the Eastern Conference and get to The Finals for the second consecutive year.
We are not one of those people.
Shortly after Tyronn Lue took over as head coach of the wine and gold, we wrote about how the Cavs had to get mentally tougher as a team in order to win a title.
After more than 30 games with Lue at the helm, the Cavaliers still seem to be shaky in terms of attitude.
There are several reasons for these thoughts:
The Constant Clunkers It seems like this team can’t play more than three good games in a row without following up with a simply horrible outing.
The home loss to Memphis and a terrible performance on Thursday against a bad Brooklyn team are just the two latest examples.
Perhaps they are bored and looking towards the playoffs, but it feels like it happens too often. What’s worse is the coaching staff doesn’t seem to have an answer.
Over-reliance On The Three Ball In the loss to the Nets, the Cavs went 9 of 37 from behind the arc. That’s 24.4%.
When Cleveland loses these days, it is usually because they are not making their threes, so they’ve become a live by the three, die by the three type of team.
The Cavaliers rank 9th in the NBA in three point shooting percentage 35.7%, taking the fourth most in the league.
However, when they aren’t going in, the team doesn’t seem to have or better yet, look for another alternative. They just keep chucking them up from deep.
That would be fine if they didn’t have players who have other options. Both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can take the ball to the hoop with anyone in the league. And Kevin Love can score in the post and has a solid mid-range game.
JR Smith is also versatile offensively even though he is best known for his long range marksmanship.
When the three ball isn’t falling, the wine and gold have to try another attack.
Defense Or lack of it, we should say. Since Lue took over and wanted the Cavs to play at a faster pace, the defense has suffered. And in the playoffs, you have to be sound at the defensive end.
Too often, Cleveland defenders allow opposing point guards to get into the paint which causes the big men to cover up for them, which in turn, allows their men to get lay ups and dunks.
If that singles out Kyrie Irving, then so be it. He simply has to do a better job keeping his man in front of him.
Which brings us to…
Kyrie Irving Irving has always been a scorer, but he’s becoming a major ball stopper. We don’t have a problem with him scoring, it’s the way it’s being done.
Mostly, he stands around the outside dribbling looking for a lane to drive to the basket. When the defense doesn’t allow that, it creates bad, long range shots to beat the shot clock, and fast break opportunities for the opponents.
Irving needs to move the ball, and then move without it to get open, and then get it back. That would seem to alleviate both problems.
Improvement in these areas would make us feel better about the Cavaliers’ chances.
Do they have the talent to get back to The Finals? Of course. But, the East is better, so without shoring up these areas, it will be difficult to get back.