Support For LeBron Better, Cavs Even It Up.

After the loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we tried to calm people by saying the Cleveland Cavaliers just needed to win their two home games, so there was no reason to panic.

The Cavs still need to win one game on the Celtics home court, just like they did going into the series after a 111-102 victory at Quicken Loans Arena.

So, tonight was not LeBron James’ last game in a Cavalier uniform because he will be here Friday night for Game 6.

And of course, James was incredible again last night, scoring 44 points on 28 shots, and he added in five rebounds and three assists.  Can The King play better?  The seven turnovers he had say yes he can.

The “supporting cast” also played very well too.  Tristan Thompson had 13 points and 12 boards, and continued to give Al Horford trouble defensively.

George Hill has been a completely different player at home, scoring 13 points in each game, making 50% of his 20 shot attempts in the two games.  And he does a good job on the defensive end as well.

What more can you see about Kyle Korver.  The 37-year-old scored 14 points, had four rebounds and incredibly, three blocked shots.  Korver isn’t a great one-on-one defender, and never really was, and Brad Stevens tries to take advantage of that when Korver is matched up on Jalen Brown, but he is seemingly always in the right spot, and can always be counted on to dive on the loose ball.

We are sure the Kevin Love critics will be out in full force today, because he didn’t shoot well, but he still had 9 points and 11 rebounds, despite foul trouble.  And his tip in basket in the fourth quarter came at a critical time.

As for the people who think Tyronn Lue shouldn’t be second guessed if the wine and gold win, we need to ask what is his obsession with Jeff Green.  Green is a solid defender, that’s true, but the combination of he and Thompson on the court at the same time needs to be junked.

The Cavs play horribly with that duo on the court together.

If Cleveland is to get the road win they need tomorrow night, they have to take care of the ball better.  19 turnovers (seven by James, six more by Love) is way too many.

The Cavaliers also need to continue the defensive effort they received at home too.  Boston shot 40% in the two games at The Q, and if they can get those kind of results in Beantown, that will bode well for the team.

Yes, Boston was in the same position in their first round series against Milwaukee, and the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, a superstar, but the Greek Freak isn’t the best player in the sport, and the Bucks don’t have the experience which permeates the Cleveland roster.

What that means if perhaps the Celtics will be feeling some pressure understanding that a loss on Wednesday night means going back to Cleveland, where they haven’t played well, for a must win contest.

Right now, momentum is with the Cavs.  They need to smell blood after two straight wins and jump on Boston early.

One other advantage for Cleveland.  They have LeBron James.  And that’s a big edge.

JK

 

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What Needs To Change In Game 2 For Cavs?

Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers should know better by now.  You cannot and should not overreact to a single game in the NBA playoffs.

If we would have told you before Sunday’s game one that Cleveland would shoot 36% from the floor, and go 4 of 26 from three point range, while the Celtics make 51% of their shots, we both would have predicted a 25 point loss in Beantown.

Then you add in Boston shooting 64.1% on contested shots, while the wine and gold made just 30% of wide open shots, and you can see why the Cavs weren’t really in game one.

Basketball is a funny game, we say this all the time.  A team can execute a play perfectly and the player who ends up with the ball misses the shot.  Conversely, you can be totally discombobulated offensively, and then a great player makes a contested shot.

That’s just the nature of the game.

What coaches and players do is try to even out the odds.  Normally, the percentages even out, and team make open shots and miss ones that are defended.

When it doesn’t work out that way, it is awfully frustrating to watch or play.

Could it happen again in game two?  Of course.  And if it does, all the Celtics have done is hold serve on their home court, and the Cavaliers can even it up and make it a best of three series by winning games three and four at Quicken Loans Arena.

We would doubt that Marcus Morris or Al Horford can play better tonight than they did in the first game, and we would also be surprised if LeBron James was as inefficient as he was on Sunday.

And quite frankly, we’d be more shocked if the wine and gold made just four three point shots.

This doesn’t mean that’s all it comes down to in tonight’s contest.  The Cavs have to show more fight, and they have to do a better job on Horford, who the Celtics use to facilitate the offense.

It appears Tristan Thompson will start in place of either JR Smith or Kyle Korver, to add some size to the lineup, and Thompson has done a good job of defending Horford in the past.

We would like to see more of Jordan Clarkson attacking the basket, not settling for mid-range jump shots.  And while Rodney Hood got credit for being okay in Game 1, we weren’t impressed.  Yes, he scored 11 points, but needed 12 shots to do so.

We also think it sends the wrong message, even in the playoffs, to put him out there after he refused to play in the series clincher vs. Toronto.

Cleveland needs to rebound better too, as they were outrebounded 48-40 on Sunday.  Jeff Green had one board, and Hood had none.  Both must do better.

There has to be better ball movement too.  The Cavs only had 18 assists, half of them by James.  Now, some of that is you can’t award an assist unless someone makes a shot, but the next highest assist total was by Kevin Love with three.

Game one was just a bad game for the Cavs.  If tonight’s game is similar, then there is reason for concern.  Even if that happens, it only means the wine and gold must win the next two at home.

JK

 

 

Previewing Cavs/Celtics

For the fourth consecutive season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, and for the second straight campaign, their opponent is the Boston Celtics.

There are similarities as to each team’s path to this point in the playoffs, as both the wine and gold and the Celts had first round series that went the full seven games, but it took Boston five games to win the second round series against Philadelphia, while the Cavs swept the top seeded Toronto Raptors.

Boston is missing their top two players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who missed the entire season after breaking his leg Opening Night in Cleveland.

The Celtics have been led in the post season by rookie Jayson Tatum, averaging 18.8 points per game, and third year pro Terry Rozier at 18.2.  And, of course, they have veteran big man Al Horford, who has been eliminated by the Cavs the past three season in the playoffs.

Boston has only played six players in every post-season game, but they do have Marcus Smart back after he missed the first four playoff contests.

Brad Stevens is considered the best coach in the NBA or at least in the top two (with Gregg Popovich) and his team was the best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season.

In the playoffs though, the Celts rank 11th out of the 16 playoff teams in defensive field goal percentage, and in terms allowing points, the Cavs have actually allowed fewer points per game than Boston.

The problem for Boston in last year’s series, won by the Cavs, four games to one, is the same problem much of the NBA has, they can’t stop LeBron James, who averaged 29.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists last year.

The big three of James, Irving, and Kevin Love all averaged more than 20 points per game.  Boston’s leading scorers were Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, neither of whom are still with the team.

Remember, the Cavs won the four games last season by the following point totals:  13, 44, 13, and 33.

Stevens’ team is more athletic this season with Tatum, Rozier, and Jalen Brown, but they are less experienced, at least in terms of playing James in the playoffs.

In our opinion, Boston will probably try to be physical like Indiana had some success with in the first round.

But the wild card might just be George Hill for Cleveland.  Hill missed three and a half games in that series, and the Cavs are 6-2 this season in the playoffs when Hill plays.

The other problem Boston poses is they are versatile offensively.  Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue likes to blitz certain players, much like they did against Victor Oladipo in the Pacers’ series, and DeMar DeRozan vs. Toronto.

Who does Lue do that to with Boston?  Will be make Tatum the focus of the defensive scheme or will it be Rozier or Horford?

Will that offset the issue the C’s have in slowing down James?  As it has been said, the problem with guarding James is if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough.

So, Stevens will probably use Marcus Morris in the Lance Stephenson role, that as an irritant to James, trying to frustrate him.

And as usual, the outside shooters for the Cavs will have to come through.  At least one of the shooters (Love, Kyle Korver, JR Smith) have to be hitting from outside to allow James room to operate in the paint.

Quite frankly, we were surprised with the ease in which the Cavaliers dispatched the Raptors, but we don’t feel that way with the Celtics.  In our opinion, Boston isn’t ready to win four games out of seven against Cleveland.

That would mean an 8th straight trip to the Finals for James, and a fourth consecutive trip for the Cavs.

JK

 

Cavs Still Need Some Players To Step Up

Basketball is a funny game.  We have always said that you can execute a play or a plan perfectly, but a player still has to make a shot.

Conversely, you can do everything wrong and somebody like JR Smith hits a seemingly impossible shot, and the team likes good.

In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first round series against the Indiana Pacers, which went the full seven games, the wine and gold shot 43% from the floor, and 32.2% from three point range.

In the first two games of the conference semi-finals against Toronto, the Cavs have shot 48% from the floor, and 36.2% from behind the arc.  Is it just that simple?

Maybe.

Certainly, Indiana was much more physical with Cleveland, and until game seven, coach Tyronn Lue seemed hesitant to match that physicality by playing Tristan Thompson, who is one of only three truly big bodies on the roster.

Thompson started the ultimate game in the series, scoring 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cavs have looked like a different team.

He has averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes in the series vs. the Raptors.

Of course, it also helps to have the best player in the world, one Mr. LeBron James.

All he has done in nine post-season games this season is average 34.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 9 assists, and dominated the three games (Game #2, Game #4, and Game #7) where his teams’ back was to the wall.

Oh yeah, he’s also playing 42 minutes per game at age 33.

In the first round series, save for Kyle Korver, James had little help against the Pacers.  Kevin Love was the only other player to average double figures (11.4), but that was more than six points less than his regular season average.  Love also shot just 33% from the floor compared to 45.8% during the 2017-18 campaign.

Even though it is just two games, Cleveland has five players scoring ten or more points against the Raptors.  Besides James (34.5), the Cavs also have big offensive contributions from Love (19.0), Smith (17.5), Jeff Green (15.0), and Korver (12.0).

And we didn’t mention another player having a big impact in George Hill.  Hill missed three games against Indiana in round one, and didn’t play in Game 7 until the second half because of back spasms.

Hill provides solid defense and another ball handler to initiate the offense for Lue.

Certainly, Smith shooting 58% from the field and going 7 of 9 from three, and Green making three quarters of his shots from the floor and knocking down 5 of 7 from beyond the arc probably isn’t sustainable.

But if Love continues to play (read: make shots) like yesterday, that duo’s likely cool down won’t hurt as badly.

Still, at some point, Lue will need Jordan Clarkson or Rodney Hood to make some shots.

Clarkson has made just 17 of 52 shots (32.7%) and has hit just 4 of 20 threes.  And if take out his Game 4 performance vs. the Pacers, his only really good game in the post season, those numbers drop to 12 of 43 (28%) and 2 of 17 from three.  One of those threes was in garbage time last night.

Clarkson is capable of turning a game around with his scoring, and something tells me he will be needed to do just that in the next two games at Quicken Loans Arena.

Hood shot just 26% from three last year in the playoffs compared to 37% in the regular season, and has made just 2 of 14 this season.  He needs to step up offensively too.

If the Cavs just hold serve at home, they will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight season.  However, we doubt in will be easy.  Toronto is a quality team.

However, the Raptors are faced with having to win four of the next five games, with three of those being in Cleveland.

We don’t think the Cavs will rest on their accomplishments in the first two games.

JK

The Remarkable Mr. James Strikes Again

For all the frustration Cleveland Cavaliers fans have had in the regular season since winning the NBA title in 2016, this first round series against the Indiana Pacers may top all of it.

The wine and gold took a 3-2 series lead in the best of seven series thanks once again to the heroics of LeBron James, the sport’s preeminent player.

James won the game with a three pointer at the buzzer.  He did that after playing 41 minutes, scoring 44 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and somehow had eight assists, even though for the most part, his teammates couldn’t make a shot.

The Cavs shot just 41.3% for the game, and if you take away James’ 14 of 24 from the floor, they were under 34% on the night.

It makes the assist total even more impressive when all of the other Cavs besides James combined to make 17 shots.

We are sure in his heart of hearts, James is thanking Kyle Korver, who hit two huge threes in Game 4 to help tie the series, and last night was the only Cavalier who could seemingly make a shot, scoring 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting, including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Take Korver out of the mix, and the rest of the Cavs knocked down just 11 field goals in 40 attempts.  That’s 27.5%!

JR Smith made as many shots as we did, but he harassed the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo into a 2 for 15 night, as part of a gritty defensive effort by Tyronn Lue’s team, particularly in the third quarter when Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 to turn a seven point halftime deficit into an eight point lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Outside of game one, when Indiana recording an 18 point win, the other four games have been decided by three, two, four, and three points.

That’s a close series.

And when a series is that close, the determining factor is usually in favor of the team with the best player, and that would be the Cavs, who also became the first team in the series to win two straight games.

James is averaging 34.8 points per game on 55% shooting, and has also made 47 of 57 free throws, as he is constantly attacking the basket.

He’s given the team a lead in the series heading into game six, despite Kevin Love shooting under 33% during the first five games, and the entire rest of the team shooting under 40% (39.3%) in this playoff season.

Love did play a solid defensive game, particularly on the perimeter, where he isn’t supposed to be able to stop anyone.

Besides Love, no other Cavalier is averaging more than 10 points per game, and Love is at just 11.8, although Korver is close at 9.8 per contest.

They are leading despite their starting point guard, George Hill, missing the last two games, and not being able to finish two others.

The three young players acquired at the trade deadline are combining to score just 17.4 points, and Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson have hit just 23 of 55 shots (42%) from the floor.

You have to think at some point, the shots will start to fall.  We don’t believe these guys are that bad.

Despite all that, the Cavs can eliminate the Pacers and advance to the second round Friday night in Indianapolis.  And they are in that position because they have the best player in the world.

Last night was just another reminder of that.

JK

Is Lue The Right Man For This Cavs’ Team?

As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into another “must win” game tonight against the Indiana Pacers, down 2-1 in the best of seven series, the heat is getting turned up on coach Tyronn Lue.

Many people, including us, have been critical of Lue’s substitution patterns and the wine and gold’s defensive scheme, which centers on having players who can defend multiple positions.

He has had problems incorporating the four players GM Koby Altman acquired at the trade deadline into the mix.  Outside of Larry Nance Jr., and we are stretching it with that, none of the new guys appear to know what they are supposed to do on a night in, night out basis.

However, when Lue took over the head coaching reins midway through the 2015-16 campaign, he took over a pretty much a veteran unit.

The only younger guy he inherited was Matthew Dellavedova, who was in his third NBA season, and was a backup point guard and defensive specialist.

Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert were in the fifth NBA seasons, and they all understood what their roles were.  Irving was the second option offensively, capable of explosive performances.

Thompson and Shumpert were defensive players based on hustle and grit.

The primary bench options on that team were veterans like Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Mo Williams.

Lue’s biggest move upon taking over the team was to get them to play at a faster pace.  He famously said the Cavs were not in shape to play the up tempo game he wanted.

Now, switch to 2017-18, and the Cavaliers are a much different team.

Yes, there still is experience with James and Kyle Korver (15th season), JR Smith (14th),  Jose Calderon (13th), and Jeff Green and George Hill (10th), but after the deadline moves, there are also a lot of younger players in the rotation.

Nance is in his third year, while Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson are both in their fourth seasons, and of that trio, only Hood has been on a winning team prior to coming to Cleveland.

Cedi Osman is a rookie, and although he has shown promise that he can contribute to this team, the coaching staff seemed bothered by his presence, giving him real minutes only after the trade, and many times that was due to necessity.

What we are trying to say is Lue didn’t have experience as a head coach in developing young players, and that’s what was needed after Altman turned over the roster.

The coaching staff appears to be throwing these young players out there and seeing if they can figure it out, that doesn’t always work.

At least one media member has pointed out that the four new guys played better before the coaching staff started giving them instructions and direction.

Remember the two games right after the deals?  The road wins over Boston and Oklahoma City might have been the two best wins of the season for Cleveland.  The newcomers just went out and played basketball.

Even the veterans who started the season, save for Dwyane Wade, looked lost at times, not sure of what they were supposed to do.  Jae Crowder didn’t look remotely like the player he was in Boston, but he’s contributing for Utah right now.

NBA head coaches are used to change a team’s culture, which Lue was brought in to do in 2016.  Other times, they are needed to coach, to develop younger talent.  That’s wasn’t Tyronn Lue’s job when he took over.

But that’s what is needed now.

JK

Cavs Win, But Look Shaky In Doing So.

Many people around northeast Ohio, and national pundits too, had it as a foregone conclusion that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.

Instead, they are lucky to head to Indiana with a split in the first round series after winning Game 2, 100-97 at Quicken Loans Arena.

And they needed a virtuoso performance by LeBron James to do it.

James had 46 points (on 17 of 24 shooting), 12 rebounds and five assists, scoring the Cavs’ first 16 points helping Cleveland have a 33-18 lead after the first quarter.

The Pacers spent the rest of the night slowly but surely getting back in the game, but came up just short.

Still, if you are a fan of the wine and gold, you can’t be feeling all warm and fuzzy after this one.  Only two other Cavaliers, Kevin Love (15 points) and Kyle Korver (12) finished in double figures as coach Tyronn Lue used a series of odd lineups in this one.

First, Lue changed the starting lineup, but went smaller, going with JR Smith, Korver, and George Hill with James and Love.

It worked in the first quarter because James went berserk offensively and Victor Oladipo picked up two quick fouls and missed much of it.

But Lue’s move, as is most of his strategy benefits the team on the offensive end, and he continues to ignore the defensive side of the game.

Once the Pacers’ star got back in the game, it became one as for the second straight game, Cleveland struggled to contain him and his backcourt mate, Darren Collison, as the duo combined for 38 points on 16 of 29 shooting.

The Pacers started getting back in the game by using Myles Turner inside (18 points on 7 of 12 from the floor), but the Cavs seemed content to allow this as their two legitimate inside defenders, Tristan Thompson most notably, did not play.

Have you ever seen a team give up so many open layups in the half court game than the Cavaliers?

Hill got into foul trouble as well, although he played well, but the coach allowed him to pick up his fifth foul late in the third quarter instead of sitting him after his fourth.  Jordan Clarkson and Jose Calderon replaced him, but weren’t effective, so Cleveland played much of the fourth quarter without a legitimate point guard on the floor.

Larry Nance played 24 minutes, the only member of the bench to play more than 20, and he took just one shot and had five rebounds.

The Cavs were at home and their bench played tentatively, what is going to happen when they visit Indianapolis?

Rodney Hood hit a couple of shots in the first half, but after intermission lost the ball twice trying to dribble.  Clarkson isn’t playing with the confidence he showed after coming to Cleveland, and the Pacers made runs when Calderon was in the game.

Right now, the offense and defense seem to be disjointed, the Cavs play like there is no philosophy or structure on either end of the floor.  We understand the roster upheaval and injuries have led to constant changes in who is playing, but what does it say that the wine and gold don’t have a system to fall back on?

If the Cavs want to advance to the next series, they will need someone besides LeBron James to start playing at peak efficiency.  Right now, with the system the team is playing with, we aren’t sure that can happen.

JK

 

 

 

 

 

All Game 1 Loss Means Is Game 2 Is Must Win

Going into the Cavaliers’ first round series against the Indiana Pacers, our main thought was the unknown.  We had no idea if the Cavs would come out and play great, or if the moment would be too much for those players without a significant amount of playoff minutes.

It turns out the latter was more the truth than anything else.

Does this mean we think the Cavaliers are doomed to be eliminated in the first round this season?  No.  However, it does mean that they better win Wednesday night, because you can’t lose the first two and then go on the road.

First, the Cavs have to come out with a more aggressive mind set.  They were far too passive in the first quarter, and that stage was set by Tyronn Lue, and the team’s two best players, LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Love took just eight shots for the game, the same total as Rodney Hood, and just one more than Jeff Green, George Hill, and Larry Nance Jr.

And James didn’t attempt his first shot until the first quarter was almost over.

The coaching staff has to establish both of these guys right from the get go.  They are the primary scorers for the Cavaliers.

Prior to game one, we figured the Pacers would leave Green open and if he made open threes, it was something they would live with to slow down James driving to the basket.

Green wound up 0 for 7 from the floor, three of those misses from behind the arc, and the wine and gold didn’t seem to have a Plan B.  Of course, no one was shooting well from distance as Cleveland made just 8 of 34 attempts.

Which is another rub, quite frankly.

The Cavs like to shoot threes.  They attempted the 5th highest total in the NBA this season.  They are usually pretty proficient as well, ranking 6th in the league in three point percentage.

However, when the long distance shots aren’t falling, they don’t do anything to adjust, they just keep letting them fly.  In a game like Sunday’s, why not attack the basket more often?

No team in the NBA is more reliant on their offense for their defense than the Cavaliers.  And when they are missing threes, that leads to long rebounds, and in turn, that leads to fast break opportunities.

As we have seen over the last two seasons, the Cavs strength is NOT defending in transition.

A problem for Lue is reflected in this question:  Who is the Cavs’ third best player?

The fact there is no definite answer to this question makes it difficult in determining substitution patterns.  Is it Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr, George Hill?

When the trade were made in February, we are sure GM Koby Altman thought it would be Rodney Hood, but he has been hurt a lot, and has had a problem playing with a LeBron James led team when he has been available.

Who can Lue count on behind James and Love?  It makes it a problem in deciding the starters as well, because so many of the players very been inconsistent this season.

So, Lue usually makes his decision based on offense, which is why Green got the nod, presumably because he’s a better three point shooter than Nance or Tristan Thompson, and they want the floor spread for James.

As the old saying goes, defense is a constant.  Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing for Cleveland.  It also explains games like Sundays, though.

It’s not time for panic, but it is okay to be concerned.  The game one loss means Wednesday is as close to a must win game as an elimination contest.

That’s something we aren’t used to over the last four seasons.

JK

 

 

The Toughest Road For Cavs Yet?

The NBA playoffs start this weekend with the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Indiana Pacers in the first round for the second consecutive season.

Unlike last year though, these Cavs are not the defending NBA champions, and personnel wise they are a much different squad than a year ago.

That’s why we are very interested, and a but unsure as to how this playoff run will play out or ultimately end.

They no longer have Kyrie Irving, their second best player a year ago, and a guy capable of taking over a game scoring the ball.

There are only five players left from last season.  LeBron James and Kevin Love are the mainstays, players who Tyronn Lue has to know what he will get on a night in, night out basis.

Two of the other three, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson have been wildly inconsistent all season, and the latter may not see a lot of playing time in the playoffs this season.

The fifth player in Kyle Korver, a professional shooter who can change a game with his three point accuracy, but no one, except perhaps Lue, is sure how he will be used in the playoffs.

The trades made at the deadline, while needed to revive what had become a team in the doldrums, also brought mostly players who are unproven in the playoffs.

George Hill is the lone experienced player, having been in 83 playoff contests, and has been on two squads which went to the conference finals.

Yes, the Cavs have James, the ultimate equalizer.  And they have Love, who has scored 15.5 points and grabbed 9.4 rebounds in three years of post-season play.

Other than that, what else can Lue’s crew hang their hats on during a playoff run?

Defensively, they are improved since the deals, but still rank 29th (out of 30) in defensive efficiency, so they will have to outscore their opponents.

They are capable of that, ranking 5th in the NBA in offensive ratings, but as the old saying goes, defense shows up every night.  The question is, will the shooting?

The playoffs are different.  Just ask Rodney Hood, who shot 42.4% from the field, and 38.9% from three during the regular season last year with Utah, but shot 35.2% from the floor (26% from behind the arc) in two post-season series for the Jazz.

Remember that two key members of the rotation, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., have never played beyond the regular season.  Clarkson has provided instant offense off the bench since arriving here, but will it carry over starting this weekend?

Who will step up to help James and Love with the scoring load?  Will Hill be a reliable option?  Will Smith return to the form of the previous playoff runs (he has shot much better since the first of March)?  Has Hood learned from last year? Or will veteran Jose Calderon be a bigger contributor than anyone could have imagined when he was signed last summer?

Regardless, this will be the toughest playoff test for the Cavs since James came back to the wine and gold.  There is that much uncertainty.  Maybe we will have a better answer after the first series, but right now the only thing to really bank on for this team is the presence of James.

But since we are talking about the sport’s best player, that may be enough.

JK

Will A Rookie Help the ’18-’19 Cavs?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are heading to the NBA playoffs, but some fans are obsessed with the draft pick which the Cavs acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade.

That pick, of course, originally belonged to the Brooklyn Nets, who fans of the wine and gold have been following all season long.

We even heard some fans saying that LeBron James should sit out Sunday’s game against Dallas because a Mavericks victory could help the Nets sink in the standings, thus giving the Cavs a better chance to obtain the first pick in the NBA draft.

The most attractive thing about the pick, which currently sits in the 7th position if the season ended today, giving Cleveland a 4.3% chance at the first overall selection and a 15% opportunity to pick in the top three, is what it is worth to other teams.

We say that because of today’s nature of the draft, which because of the “one and done” rule, means many of the lottery picks are based on potential, not the ability to help a good NBA team right now.

Note that we said a good NBA team, meaning one that makes the playoffs.  Let’s examine last June’s draft, for example.

Of the rookies getting more than 20 minutes of playing time per game, only four are doing so on teams that will probably make the post-season.  That quartet would be Jayson Tatum (Boston), Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Bam Adebayo (Miami), and OG Anunoby (Toronto).

Of those four, only Tatum was picked in the top ten.  Granted, most good teams don’t get an opportunity to pick in the top ten, however, think about it.  None of the rookies taken in the top ten have been impactful enough to lift their teams out of the lottery.

Looking at the year before, the only player who was a rotation players with a playoff teams was Jaylen Brown (3rd overall pick with Boston).

Now in their second year, Ben Simmons (Philadelphia-1st overall), Jamal Murray (Denver-7th pick), Jakob Poeltl (Toronto 9th), and Thon Maker (Milwaukee-10th) are contributing to playoff teams, but the other players who were selected in the top of the draft are still on bad teams.

Going back to 2015, first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns will likely help Minnesota make the playoffs, but the rest of the players picked in the top ten are still on also-rans.

Beyond that group, Myles Turner Kelly Oubre, and Terry Rozier and solid contributors on playoff squads.

So, looking at the players projected to be selected in the top ten in the 2018 draft, how many could get significant playing time on the Cavs next fall, if James remains with the team?

Certainly Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton and Duke’s Marvin Bagley would be rotation players, but they are projected to go with the first two selections.

Most of the other players thought to be top ten picks probably don’t have NBA ready bodies.

Other players we think could play right away are Collin Sexton, a freshman point guard out of Alabama, Duke C Wendell Carter, and Villanova swingman Mikel Bridges, who is a junior, not a one year college player.

This isn’t to say the other top selections won’t be solid NBA players in time, or that they won’t put up good numbers for bad teams.

The point is there aren’t many players ready to come into the league and be solid contributors for a team with aspirations of making a deep playoff run, and history shows this is the norm.

So, the best plan for GM Koby Altman is a draft day trade to bring in a young veteran who will fit in and be able to help now.  We aren’t talking about a guy who is on the wrong side of 30, but a player in his mid-20’s who might be heading toward the free agent market, like Kevin Love was when the Cavs traded for him.

That’s the best bet for the Cavaliers, not someone who played just one year of college basketball.

JK