It is no secret that the NBA is going small.
In the 60’s and 70’s, it was thought that you couldn’t win in the league without a dominant big man.
The Celtics were led by Bill Russell, and the only man who could challenge him in those days was Wilt Chamberlain. Then came Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Even in the late 70’s when the Washington Bullets and Seattle Supersonics were exchanging titles, the Bullets had Wes Unseld and the Sonics had Jack Sikma.
The only anomaly was 1975 when the Warriors led by Rick Barry won the title.
Yes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominated the 80’s, but those teams still had Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish manning the middle. And the Isiah Thomas led Pistons had a very good center in Bill Laimbeer.
It wasn’t until Michael Jordan won with the Bulls was the center not a factor, but the Rockets won with Hakeem Olajuwon, and after Jordan retired, Shaquille O’Neal was the dominant force in the sport.
Despite all this history, the Cavs seem to have no desire to have a true center on the roster.
Even Golden State, the poster boys for today’s NBA have centers on the roster with Zaza Pachulia starting and JeVale McGee backing him up.
Cleveland has no seven footer on the roster. Their tallest players are 6’11” Channing Frye, who is really a stretch four, and rookie Ante Zizic, who has garnered just 21 minutes on the season, mostly in mop up roles.
Tristan Thompson plays a lot of center, but he is just 6’9″ and not really a shot blocker. Kevin Love, ideally a power forward, also gets some time in the pivot.
By contrast, Pachulia and McGee log about 22 minutes per night for the Warriors.
The other elite teams in the NBA also have centers. Houston has Nene (6’11”) and Clint Capela (6’10”) who averages 1.6 blocks per night in 24 minutes.
Oklahoma City has seven footer Steven Adams, and in the East, the Wizards have Marcin Gortat and Toronto has Jonas Valenciunas.
And we haven’t mentioned Marc Gasol (Memphis) and Pau Gasol (San Antonio).
When Timofey Mozgov departed via free agency after the 2015-16 championship season, so did any interior defensive force Tyronn Lue had at his disposal.
To be fair, the Cavs did sign Chris Andersen and Andrew Bogut a year ago to play that role, but both were injured shortly after arriving in town.
We understand Lue wants his squad to play with pace and be able to spread the floor to open up driving lanes for LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade.
That seems to negate the need for a traditional center, however, there are times when you have to put a legitimate rim protector on the floor.
Right now, opposing teams know there is no penalty in getting to the basket against Cleveland.
We know James is a master at the chase down block, and Wade is a very good shot blocker for a guard, but it’s not quite the same.
If there is one thing that should be on GM Koby Altman’s “to do” list, it should be to get a legitimate inside defensive force.
Thompson is more known for his ability to defend away from the basket on pick and rolls, and his offensive rebounding ability than as an interior defender, and Lue doesn’t seem to want to develop Zizic.
The Cavs need to improve their defensive schemes and principals for sure, but getting someone who can clog the middle and discourage a parade to the rim for the opponents in needed too.
The wine and gold seem to have forgotten that fact.