Where Do Cavs Go From Here?

It’s been a few days now since LeBron James announced he was going to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, so now it’s time to look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers can do in the 2018-19 season.

The first thing to realize is the Cavs lose their first round pick to Atlanta (via the Kyle Korver deal) if they aren’t in the top ten picks in next year’s NBA Draft.

So, while the instinct of the organization might be to win as many games as they can, because there is more talent on the roster, young talent too, than there was in 2010 when James went to Miami, but at least for now, it would be best if the Cavaliers don’t win.

They could start that process by dealing Kevin Love, their most tradable commodity, for more young talent and/or draft picks.  Love will be 30 years old before next season starts, and in our opinion, you don’t want to start a rebuild with someone past 30 years old.

After the draft of Collin Sexton, the wine and gold have a collection of solid players who are under the age of 26.  If Rodney Hood (26) is resigned as a restricted free agent, coach Tyronn Lue could start he and Sexton at guard, Cedi Osman (23) and Larry Nance Jr. (25) at forwards, and Ante Zizic (21) at center.

Jordan Clarkson (26) would be the sixth man, and if Love is moved, we are sure another young piece or two would be coming back as well.

We are sure the Cavs would love to move on from veterans like JR Smith, George Hill, Kyle Korver, and even Tristan Thompson, but that isn’t as easy as it seems.

All of them have lengthy, high paying contracts, and those aren’t appealing to other teams, unless you are willing to take the similar contracts back in return.

And with a young team, it’s difficult to imagine having those players, who would likely be unhappy on a losing team after visiting The Finals, sitting on the bench in reserve roles.

Hill could be a good tutor for Sexton, if he was willing to do that.  It is difficult thinking Korver would be a problem, but he should be valuable to a contending team.

Smith and Thompson have been to four straight Finals with the wine and gold, so it is doubtful they would be happy with a subservient role in Cleveland, so a buyout could be likely for those two.

As for the returning players, as we said there are some nice pieces here, but unless Sexton becomes one, no star, and that’s what you need to win in the NBA.

Hood was averaging over 16 points per game in Utah.  Nance has showed he was a winning player in his time in Cleveland.  Osman played well in spurts (when he got time), and if his shot improves can be a very nice player.

Zizic showed solid post moves to score when used late in the season, but his defense needs work.

Whether these guys pan out or not, it shows more promise than the 2010-11 Cavalier roster.  The only players on that roster who had meaningful careers after that season were really Mo Williams (five more seasons, including the 2015-16 Cavs’ championship team), Ramon Sessions, still active this past season, and Anderson Varejao.

The biggest thing, and this has been an issue, is player development.  That hasn’t been a strong suit of the current coaching staff.

That could be the key to the season.

JK

 

 

 

 

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What Cavs Should Do Now…

Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers just ended their season after getting swept in the NBA Finals, it is still a busy time for the franchise.

The NBA Draft is next Thursday, and of course, the Cavs have the 8th overall pick, a result of the Kyrie Irving trade last summer.

There is also the free agency period which starts on July 1st.

Oh, and there is the whole will LeBron James decide to stay with the franchise or will he go through the free agency process once again.

So, the wine and gold are one of the last two teams standing and yet the next three to four weeks are critical to the future of the franchise.

Unless they hear something differently, they should use this period to show James the best place to win, right now and in the future is right here with the Cavaliers.

How do they do that? First, listen to what he was saying prior to and after Game 4 of The Finals.  He repeatedly said he liked playing with guys who have high basketball IQs.  How many guys do the Cavs have like that?

We would say Kevin Love is one.  Larry Nance Jr. is another.  From hearing James’ comments throughout the season, we believe he holds Cedi Osman in high regard.

George Hill is a playmaker, good shooter, and solid defender.

Kyle Korver and Jose Calderon are cerebral players too, but are a little long in the tooth to be productive NBA players on a nightly basis any more.

Are we missing anyone who you would consider is a smart player?  And being a hard worker or skilled in a particular area is not the same as being cerebral on the court.

So, GM Koby Altman has about two weeks to make some moves that would entice James to stay in northeast Ohio and try to lead the Cavs to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals.  And we would bet he would want a roster that could finish the deal, and not just win one game against the Warriors over the past two years.

Many of said the Cavs can’t do anything because of their salary cap situation and lack of expiring contracts.  However, they do have the 8th pick in the draft.  And remember, teams all over the NBA will give up good players for the chance to get great ones.

These same people said Altman wouldn’t be able to do anything about the roster at the trade deadline, and instead, he turned over 40% of the roster.

Nobody is saying it is easy, and no doubt the Cavs’ front office will have to be very creative and flexible to get something substantial done before the free agent period starts.

What we would not do is accept that James is leaving and start preparing for life after LeBron.  Look, it is really simple.  If James is on the team, the Cavaliers are a contender for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, without him, they are probably bound for the draft lottery.

Until LeBron or his representatives tell Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman that he has decided to play elsewhere in 2018-19, the Cavs need to make the roster something James will want to return to.

Plus, if you do that and he does decide to move on, you can always trade some of the veterans for young players and/or draft picks.

It should be an interesting two weeks.  And hopefully there is a new deal at the end for James, keeping him in wine and gold for a few more years.

JK

What Do Cavs Need To Do.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are down two games to none to Golden State in the NBA Finals, and many feel it is a foregone conclusion that the series will end quickly, with the same result as a year ago.

That’s the popular view.

On the other hand, the Cavs had an outstanding chance to win game one, until some questionable decisions, both by the wine and gold (JR Smith) and the officials, late led to an overtime loss, and really, on Sunday night, Cleveland still had a shot until Stephen Curry got hot in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors are shooting 54% from the floor in the first two games, compared to 43% for the Cavs, and based on that, you would think both games were blowouts.

This year’s games were decided by 10 (in overtime) and 19 points, compared to 22 and 19 a year ago.

Still, a few things need to be addressed for Cleveland.

First, the switching defense was horrible in game two.  There were far too many instances of Kevin Durant being guarded by Smith and George Hill, and Curry being checked by Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr.

We have said it all year.  Switching is lazy and it allows the offense to dictate who is guarding who.  The Cavs themselves like nothing more than to see Curry matched up with James.

The Cavaliers have to try something different and cannot allow wide open layups and dunks off the high pick and roll.  We say this knowing this has been a weakness all season long, so it will be difficult to improve at this stage of the game.

In terms of the players coach Tyronn Lue is using, it may also be time for some alterations.

Smith continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from the field, and just 3 of 10 from distance.  Although we have buried Rodney Hood recently, it may be time to see if he can provide some energy and shot making.

Jordan Clarkson is another who looks like the moment is too much for him.  He’s also not shooting well (3 for 13), and seems to be playing over 100 miles per hour when the game is being played at 60 MPH.

And Kyle Korver is struggling much like he did a year ago in the Finals.  It seems like the Warriors are long enough to contest his long range shots, and they are also doing what the Cavaliers did to him when he played for Atlanta.

They aren’t leaving him open.

The Cavs shot 37% from three in the regular season, they are making just 30% in the first two games of the series.  They need to find someone to make shots.  Only James and Hill have made more than 30% in The Finals.

It is also time for Cleveland to get more physical.  Golden State has collected ten more fouls in the series than the Cavs (they have probably really committed 30 more, but that’s another story), so Lue’s group needs to make their presence felt.

Don’t be afraid to play a little bump and grind with Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant.  Because of the overtime game, this trio along with Draymond Green are averaging 40 minutes per game.

Make an effort to wear down the Warriors, and do a better job attacking players with foul issues.  Durant picked up two in the first quarter on Sunday, and it seemed like Cleveland did not attack him.

Obviously, the Cavs need to win Wednesday night and get back in the series, going down 0-3 means it is over for all intent and purposes.

It is not the time for out and out loyalty based coaching.  If guys aren’t getting it done, you have to try someone else.

A win in Game 3 puts the Cavs back in the series.  No question about that.

JK

Cavs and Lue On The Brink?

For the second time this playoff season, the Cleveland Cavaliers face a win or go home scenario, trailing the Boston Celtics three games to two in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Besides all of the stuff surrounding LeBron James’ free agency at the end of the season, another person should be considered as if they are spending their last days in the organization.

We are speaking about coach Tyronn Lue.

It is no secret that Lue has had health issues this past season, heck, he missed nine games late in the year because of them.  We would not be surprised if regardless of the result of tonight’s game or this series, or The Finals, if Cleveland can win the next two games, that Lue does not return as coach of the Cavaliers next season.

We may simply decide he’s either had enough of being a head coach in the NBA or that he needs to take a year or two off before trying again.

The head coach said yesterday that he doesn’t worry about what doesn’t work after a loss.  If he’s not lying to the media, then he might be the first coach who doesn’t.

All coaches think about what didn’t work after a loss, and what they could do differently to achieve a winning result.  It’s the nature of the job.

However, for tonight’s game, Lue cannot be display the patience he has used toward his veteran players who haven’t been producing in this series.  There is simply no tomorrow if you lose tonight.

In game five, JR Smith and Jeff Green played 51 combined minutes and basically gave the team nothing on the offensive end.  Yes, Boston only scored 96 points, which is second lowest of the series, but the Cavaliers only scored 83, tying what they tallied in Game 1.

Both players have been outscored by Tristan Thompson, hardly an offensive force, in the series, and Smith ranks behind Jordan Clarkson, who has mostly been dreadful throughout these playoffs.

Smith ranks 4th in minutes in the conference finals, while Green is 6th.  Both have played more minutes than Kyle Korver, who we can all agree has been one of the Cavs’ five best players in the series, and Larry Nance Jr., who has played well vs. the Celtics too.

FYI, Smith has the worst shooting percentage (23.1%) for any Cavaliers in the series.  And that includes the guys who have only played in garbage time.

Green can help, but Lue has leaned on him far too heavily throughout the playoffs.  And the expectation that he will be a good three point shooter is ridiculous.  By the way, he’s 2 for 9 from distance in this series.

If either player doesn’t have it early tonight, Lue has to make a difficult decision to try something else.  Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but Smith and Green have had their chances.  It might be time to see what Cedi Osman can do, or put Jose Calderon out there for a bit.

We are also tired of hearing how it is Kevin Love’s fault for the Cavs being down in this series.

Has Love played great?  No, but he still leads Cleveland in rebounds at 11.0 per game, and is the second leading scorer at 15.0.  His shooting has been off, but there have been reports that he reinjured his thumb in the series.

He’s not the reason Cleveland is on the brink of elimination.

With a win or go home game, this is not the time for the coach to be exercising patience.  He has to look at players with a +, 0, – attitude.  Guys who are being a minus should be taken out.

The Cavs and the coaching staff have to figure out a way to get this series back to Boston for a game seven.

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

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