Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season has ended with a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, it is time for a look back at some of the reasons the season was filled with ups and downs.
One of the things that failed Cleveland in the Finals was their defense. The Warriors shot 51.3% for the four games, and shot 60.5% from inside the arc, a whopping percentage.
Many of these shots were uncontested layups and dunks by the Warriors’ “non-stars”. JaVale McGee shot 16 of 20 from the floor, Shaun Livingston was 13 of 15, Jordan Bell was 10 for 14. That’s 39 of 49 from that trio alone.
McGee in particular got a whole bunch of easy shots because the Cavs couldn’t defend the high pick and roll, something they struggled with all season.
We have railed all season long about a solid defensive plan for the team, something it could hang it’s hat on. As we have written previously, this lack of a basic defensive scheme came back to bite the wine and gold in the end.
The failure to manage LeBron James’ minutes also played a factor. While James wanted to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career, he didn’t have to lead the league in minutes.
That also falls back on the coaching staff’s reluctance to build some kind of offense when The King was sitting on the bench. We understand the plan was to put the ball in LeBron’s hands and let him orchestrate things, but when he wasn’t playing, there wasn’t a different attack.
That meant the Cavs struggled with James sitting, meaning coach Tyronn Lue had to rush him back in there to win games.
Early in the season, Cleveland was a veteran laden team, with Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder playing key roles. Rose got injured and left the team for awhile, and Crowder never fit in to the way to play off of James.
Wade initially was a starter, but after a few games, found his niche as the leader of the second unit, and the Cavaliers took off. We may never know what happened, but when the deals at the deadline were made, they involved Wade going home to Miami, which we feel everyone signed off on.
After those deals, it never seemed like the coaching staff involved or did anything to maximize the talents of Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, particularly the former. Larry Nance Jr. fit in because he’s instinctual and athletic.
And Cedi Osman, another good athlete already on the roster, and a contributor after the deals, never got back in the mix after he suffered a hip injury.
From game 42 through 52, Osman played at least 15 minutes every game, of which the Cavs won eight, and he averaged almost nine points, and 3. 5 rebounds per game.
After the injury, he played more than 15 minutes three times, a win over Washington, the loss to Philadelphia where the Cavaliers almost won after being down by 30, and the last game of the season.
Could Osman’s athleticism and basketball IQ have helped in the playoffs? We won’t know because he played only in garbage time.
The failure of getting athletic young players like Hood, Clarkson, and Osman, and even Ante Zizic, a former first round pick, hurt the Cavs in The Finals.
These were things everyone was concerned about as the season went on, so much of this is not a second guess.
But if James returns to the Cavs next season, these things need to be addressed for the betterment of the franchise and more success going forward.
Being younger and having a smarter team will help going forward.