If you understand the game of basketball, you can understand that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going through some growing pains.
After the fast start when the four new players showed up after the trading deadline, the wine and gold have split their first quartet of games following the all star break, and one of the wins was a close one over the lowly Brooklyn Nets.
Not only are the players getting to know each other, but Tyronn Lue also is going through an adjustment as to how George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. fit with the holdover Cavaliers.
One thing that continues to be an issue for the Cavs are slow starts, they have been struggling in the first quarter during the last three contests. The problems have a lot to do with the personnel that starts the game.
In the first game after the break, Cleveland led Washington after one, 31-22, with JR Smith leading the way with 9 points.
Unfortunately, in the last three games, the Cavaliers trailed by seven, five, and four points after the first quarter respectively.
Smith has scored 11 points TOTAL, in those three games. Could we make a case that the key in the first quarter is JR Smith?
The bigger issue here is that Smith, who has always been streaky, isn’t having hot streaks with the regularity he had earlier in his career.
So when you have Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Cedi Osman in the starting lineup, there is a real possibility you will not be getting anything offensively out of this trio, and that’s a problem.
That’s why Lue needs to balance out his starting lineup with a more accomplished offensive player. We would recommend moving Rodney Hood to the first unit.
Hood would also give the first unit more length, and more versatility on the offensive end. Smith is more of a three point specialist, while against Brooklyn, we saw Hood attacking the basket, taking just one three point shot.
Nance’s tendency to pick up fouls is the reason to keep Thompson opening the game, although it seems the latter’s offensive game has regressed since last season. If starting Thompson means ending the game with Nance, we are all for it.
As for Osman, he will go to the bench when Kevin Love is ready to play, but somehow Lue needs to keep giving him playing time because as his defensive versatility.
The rookie has been guarding the opponent’s best player, regardless of what position, at the start of games, so the coaching staff has confidence in him on that end of the floor.
If that would happen, who would be the odd man out in the rotation? As weird as it sounds, it could either be Smith or another veteran, Kyle Korver.
When Korver is hot, it is a thing of beauty. He can turn a game around by himself. However, his shooting is the extent of value. His defense should keep him off the floor in close games when stopping the opponent is important.
The reason the newcomers stand out is they are multi-dimensional. Players like Thompson, Smith, and Korver do one thing well, and that’s Lue dilemma, finding the right time to use them.
That’s what the last 22 games should be about, finding balance for the ten players in the rotation, so the lulls that occur within a game are minimal if they can’t be avoided.