The Cleveland Cavaliers are having players dropping like flies in the past week, and the best thing about that is that it is happening now, instead of March or April, right before the playoffs start.
Already playing one man short because of the Mo Williams situation, the wine and gold played the last two games without Kevin Love, who will be back (hopefully) on Friday, and then Chris Andersen blew out his ACL in practice.
Then they lost JR Smith to a broken thumb during Tuesday overtime victory in Milwaukee, and Smith will be out about 4-6 weeks, so he should be back around the beginning of February.
We have maintained since the beginning of training camp that the opening night roster would not be the same as the players who will take the floor for the first playoff game in April.
Mostly because we couldn’t see Tyronn Lue going into the post-season with a rookie back up point guard or using Iman Shumpert as Kyrie Irving’s replacement for about 12 minutes per night.
Teams trying to repeat as champions can’t use rookies in key roles.
The bright side of these injuries is it will give some players who haven’t been getting a lot of time on the floor an opportunity to either contribute or show Lue and GM David Griffin they can’t be counted on for the playoffs.
Mike Dunleavy has had a slow start to the regular season, perhaps trying to fit in to his new teammates. With the injuries, he has started to get more playing time, and is starting to knock down shots. He’s hit 46% of his three point shots over the last five games.
Dunleavy’s spot on the roster probably wasn’t in question, but it is good to see him getting more comfortable in the wine and gold.
The biggest opportunity with the players being out is in front of Jordan McRae, who seems to have played his way into Lue’s doghouse.
We had high hopes for McRae coming into training camp as a possible replacement in the rotation for Matthew Dellavedova. Our bet is that Lue wants McRae to play like the rest of the team, that is to say move the ball on offense and play solid defense.
McRae came into a close game against Memphis (Cavs were down by five) last week. He immediately shot the first three times he touched the ball, and within a couple of minutes, the Grizzlies’ lead shot up to 12.
Not the impression you want to make when you finally get some playing time.
McRae shoots the ball the same number of times as Dunleavy per game, and with a lot less minutes.
The young man would be better off putting a little more DeAndre Liggins into his game. Liggins has gained time and passed McRae in Lue’s eyes because of his ability to defend.
We understand that McRae is a scorer, that’s how he got to the NBA from the D-League. But in the NBA, playing time is distributed based on being able to defend. And that’s what McRae needs to show the coaching staff.
If McRae doesn’t impress the staff, he could be released with contracts become guaranteed or moved with either Andersen’s or Williams’ contract for a piece the Cavs need.
The opportunity is there for Jordan McRae, it’s up to him what he does with it.