Can Cavs Finally Have Continuity in Playoffs?

We believe if you look up the term “a season in flux”, the picture that will accompany the definition will be that of the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers.

It started in training camp when LeBron James was nursing a sprained ankle and missed virtually the entire exhibition season.

That cost the team valuable on-court chemistry time with all the new faces brought in during the off-season.

When the season opened, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, and to a lesser extent, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic never shared the court with The King.

After a slow start (5-7), Rose and Tristan Thompson got hurt, so Calderon went into the starting lineup, and the wine and gold had their best stretch of the season, winning 18 of 19 games, with the second unit led by Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver making a huge impact.

Thompson came back first and then Isaiah Thomas returned to the floor, and things got out of whack, with the Cavs struggling in January (6-8) and particularly on defensive end of the floor.

Kevin Love then broke his hand, and Tyronn Lue started giving Osman more playing time, so there was another period of adjustment.

Really, the only constants in terms of good quality play to this point in the season were James and Green.  The rest of the team either missed time with injuries or were up and down in terms of quality of play.

Next came the big move at the trade deadline when GM Koby Altman traded off half the roster, bringing in some youth with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood, as well as veteran point guard George Hill.

To this point, Hood and Hill still don’t look comfortable playing with James, and while the former has missed time recently with a back problem, Hill played his 16th game with LeBron last night.

When the Cavaliers went on a west coast trip, the players starting dropping one by one, as they finished the trip without Thompson, Nance, Osman, Hood, Korver, as well as Love.

That meant John Holland and London Perrantes, whose names James may or may not know (we are kidding, we think) were getting time.

Now, Love returns to the lineup, but the squad is missing their head coach, as Lue is taking time away from the team to take care of a medical issue that has plagued him over the past few months.

Thompson and Nance are said to be close to returning, possibly this week, and Osman and Hood should be back in another week, causing more combinations of players that probably haven’t spent much time on the floor together.

All this with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Is it possible that the Cavaliers will finally get some continuity just as the playoffs are set to begin?  It very well may be.

And the experience the younger players have gained with all of the injuries in the second half of the season will give Lue many options to go to depending on what the opposition is doing?

Getting Lue healthy is a key too.  There is no question in our mind that when we aren’t feeling well, you aren’t thinking clearly.

This is not a guarantee of another appearance in The Finals.  There are a lot of teams in the East that can cause a problem, and no question, Toronto is an excellent basketball team with plenty of playoff experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the injured guys came back next week, and the Cavs had three weeks of being able to play with the same players?  We are sure everyone in the organization has that thought.






Cavs’ Flaws Coming Back To Haunt.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have recently played nothing like a team poised to make a deep post-season run since the All Star break.

They have went 4-6 in their last ten games after winning impressively in the two contests after the trade deadline leading up to the interruption in the season.

Kevin Love has been out for awhile with his broken hand, and now other injuries are starting to crop up.  Rodney Hood has a sore back, Cedi Osman has a hip flexor, Kyle Korver has a foot issue, and Tristan Thompson sprained an ankle.

Not many teams could play well without half of their rotation players, but it feels like coach Tyronn Lue’s lack of structure is telling in the team’s struggles, and together with the front office’s ignorance of having big people on the roster, you can make a case the planning is at least culpable in the losing.

Cleveland opened the season with just three real big men–Love, Thompson, and rookie Ante Zizic, and he has been basically ignored by Lue.

The mere idea of entering a season with just three post defenders seems ludicrous doesn’t it?  Especially in a sport, that although it has evolved in the past ten years, where size matters.

That’s the first thing that has come up to bite the Cavs right now.

The second thing would be the lack of development of young players like Osman and Zizic.  Osman has proven to be a solid defender on the perimeter, but he has been marginalized by the coaching staff, a group that most definitely would rather play veterans.

Now the team needs Zizic, but because he didn’t get time early in the season, he doesn’t get the time of day, even in a game like last Friday night, when the Clippers big men destroyed the Cavaliers inside.

Another problem is a lack of emphasis on the defensive end.  Lue’s squad ranks 28th in the league in defensive efficiency, and when the coach talks about his team, all he talks about is pace of play.

No mention about a defensive mindset or defense at all for that matter.

We would like to hear from the coach what exactly are the Cavs trying to accomplish on the defensive end.  They don’t defend the three point shot well, they are terrible in pick and roll situations, and it doesn’t seem like they have some help defense principles.

So what is the plan on that end of the floor?

Lue’s reluctance to change things up is also mind boggling.  JR Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes per game, despite having just 13 double figure scoring games in the last 40 contests.

Eight of those games came in an 11 game span from January 26th through February 22nd.  This means that in the other 29 games, Smith has scored 10+ points in only five games.

He’s the Cavs’ starting shooting guard, by the way.

And because there isn’t a firm offensive game plan, no one knows where the shots will come on a nightly basis, except for LeBron James.  It’s up to James to find where the other players want the ball, which he works hard to find out, but often (like Sunday night vs. the Lakers) it leads to the team going several possessions without getting good looks.

With the playoffs on the horizon, all of these things don’t bode well for a deep playoff run.

Here’s hoping the snooze alarm goes off for the coaching staffs and changes can be made, because it’s clear here that not all of the problems will be erased by Kevin Love’s return to the lineup.







The Tristan Dilemma

The Cleveland Cavaliers had already drafted Kyrie Irving in the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft when they took Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall selection.

At the time, the select of Thompson was a bit of a surprise, since he averaged just 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds a game at the University of Texas.

We were hoping for Enes Kanter to fall to the Cavs, but he was taken by the Jazz at #3, and Jonas Valanciunas was still on the board, but remember, he was not going to play in the NBA that season, and the Cavs didn’t feel like they could wait a year after a 19-63 record in the first year after LeBron James departed for Miami.

As a rookie, he averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, and increased those totals to 11.7 and 9.4 in his second season.

He stayed at those numbers in year #3, and it began to look like Thompson was a disappointment as the second best player on a team led by Irving.

Then, LeBron James and Kevin Love arrived, and that pushed Thompson down the food chain, where he became a role player on a title contender, a role he can and did excel in.

As a big man, Thompson had an ability to be able to guard smaller players when switching in pick-and-roll situations, a very valuable skill, and one that was a key in the Cavs’ 2016 NBA title.

He was also a relentless offensive rebounder, averaging 3.3 per game for his career and upping that total to 4.1 in the playoffs.

He was durable too, playing every game from his second year in the Association through his fifth year.

However, the last two seasons have seen a drop in Thompson’s game.  First, he’s never developed an acceptable jump shot from around 10-15 feet out like former teammate Anderson Varejao did.

He has always been and still is a liability on offense, as his main skill is crashing the boards.  Other than that, he doesn’t have to be guarded.

His defense has slipped as well.  He had a defensive rating of 108 in the three years he played before James came back, and improved that to 106, then 104 in the championship season.

Last year, it fell back to his rookie level and is now a career worst 112.

Perhaps Thompson’s playing through the bumps and bruises all those years is coming back to bite him, because he’s missed 22 games this season.

Unfortunately for Tristan, the Cavs are 19-3 in those games, which brings into question Thompson’s role with the team not only this season, but going forward.

Since Larry Nance Jr. arrived at the trade deadline, there is a discernable difference in how the wine and gold play with Nance in the game as opposed to Thompson.  Nance is more active and definitely a quicker leaper than TT, who needs to gather himself before jumping.

Thompson can still be an important piece for the Cavs, but he needs to be fully healthy, and it looks as though it should be as a guy coming off the bench.

We know coach Tyronn Lue has loyalty to the guys who won a title, both Thompson and JR Smith, so will Lue be willing to make the change for the good of the team?

The other issue with Thompson is his contract, which pays him $16.4 million per year this season, and increases by roughly a million more in each of the next two campaigns.

That’s far too much for what the team is receiving in return, leading to speculation the front office would like to move him this summer.

The point is Thompson may have been the 4th or 5th best player on the team, a key piece, two years ago, but he isn’t that anymore.

Can he fix that this summer?  Of course.  Do we think it is likely?  Our guess would be no.

It comes down to back for the buck.  It is likely that Thompson performance and role this post-season determines his fate.



New Cavs Are Exciting and Help Team, But…

There is tremendous excitement in Cleveland about the revamped Cavaliers.  They went from a team that appeared would be lucky to win one series in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the favorite again for many experts.

The Cavs still have the best player in the league in LeBron James, and eventually Kevin Love will return to the lineup, giving Tyronn Lue another scorer and three point shooting threat.

The wine and gold have now surrounded James with a cadre of three point marksmen, players like Rodney Hood, JR Smith, George Hill, Kyle Korver, along with Love.  All of them are shooting over 35% from behind the arc this season.

Those shooters provide driving lanes for Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, and James to draw defenders so those shooters can get wide open looks.

Talk about success in the playoffs though is premature because outside of Hill, the newest Cavaliers have limited experience in the post-season.

In fact, Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. have never been in the playoffs, nor has Osman, who is a rookie.

Hood played 11 games last season, averaging 8.9 points and shooting 35.2%, (26% from three) from the floor, compared to his regular season numbers of 12.7 points per game, and shooting percentages of 40.8% and 37.1% from distance.

It’s a different game in the post-season because opponents prepare for what you do well, and trying to take it away.

This isn’t to say Hood won’t make adjustments or won’t learn from his experience a year ago and be better.  Nor does it mean Clarkson and Nance’s performance will drop from the regular season because it is their first shot in the playoffs.

One thing in the Cavs’ favor is their major competition in the East isn’t exactly overflowing with post-season experience. Boston has Jaylen Brown, who wasn’t a featured performer a year ago (12 minutes per night), and Jayson Tatum, who is a rookie.

Toronto has more experience, but their bench, which has received glowing reviews for their success this year, doesn’t.

Plus, the Raptors and Celtics still have the same issue they have had over the past three seasons:  They have no one to match up with LeBron James.

We understand finding players to can slow down James isn’t easy, but you need guys with size and experience.  Young players who haven’t done it before have issues matching up to the speed and strength of playoff LeBron.

Don’t forget, the Cavs still have players who have been through the playoff wars with three straight trips to The Finals in Love, Smith, and Tristan Thompson, and Hill, who has played in 83 playoff games, making two appearances in the conference finals.

Hopefully, they can show the new guys the ropes, like James did in his first year back in Cleveland, when really only he and Smith had playoff experience among the guys getting the most playing time.

By the time they get to the conference finals, we will know how the newest Cavs have responded to the post-season.  More importantly, Lue and James will know who they can trust during these important games.

Getting to the playoffs is a first step, and securing a good seed helps too, although home court isn’t as critical to the Cavs with James leading the way.

The newest Cavs will help with both of those things, but until we see Hood, Nance, Clarkson, and Osman play effectively in the playoffs, there will be some hesitation in believing the wine and gold can get back to The Finals.



Time For Lue To Be A Leader.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are teetering on the brink right now.

They haven’t played well since the holiday season started, the defense is getting progressively worse, and now, Kevin Love will be out for awhile after breaking his hand in last night’s loss at Detroit.

Some team’s would look at the injury and band together, strengthen their resolve to win games without their all-star.  Look at Washington last night in their first game without John Wall, a 102-96 victory over Oklahoma City.

Unfortunately, we do not see that happening with this group of Cavaliers.

LeBron James looks disgusted with what is going on, and we are sure he and Dwyane Wade can’t believe what is happening.

The defensive effort on this team is putrid.  We saw at least four times last night where Pistons went the length of the floor for layups without anyone stopping the ball.

That’s taught in fifth grade basketball.

We have watched probably thousands of basketball games and we have yet to see someone score without the ball.  You have to stop the ball.

It’s time for strong leadership from Tyronn Lue, and we hope he has it in him.

It’s time for the coach to start holding players responsible.

If you aren’t going to put forth effort on the defensive end, you should be on the bench.  And that means anyone, including LeBron James.  The correct tone has to be set.

We found it ludicrous that Cedi Osman was inactive for last night’s contest, and when Love went down, that decision came back to bite the head coach.

Meanwhile, Iman Shumpert, who has been out since the middle of November with a knee injury, and when he came back fired up a three point shot 24 seconds after entering the game, was dressed, but he didn’t play, even when the game got out of hand.

So, the Cavs had to have Channing Frye and Wade playing in garbage time because Lue didn’t want to disrespect Shumpert and Derrick Rose by putting them in in that situation, even though neither played to that point.

Why didn’t Rose play?  Outside of Sunday’s game vs. Detroit, he had played pretty well since returning from the ankle injury, averaging 10 points on 15 of 24 shooting.  He has an off night Sunday and gets buried on the bench?

Lue’s rotations are often criticized and this is another case of a puzzling move.

Why was Frye benched when Tristan Thompson returned?  Why did Derrick Williams lose playing time a year ago when he played well?  It’s due to loyalty to veterans, and sometimes that’s not good.

Right now, the Cavaliers are getting very little on a nightly basis from Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson, all of whom are currently starting.

Besides James, which players are playing well?  Jeff Green, Wade, Frye, and Kyle Korver come to mind.  The problem is all of those players are over 30 years old, so limiting minutes for them has to be done to keep them effective.

Good players want to be coached.  Wade is always pulling players aside to offer insights on the game, but it’s time for Lue to start basing playing time based on performance right now, and not the past.

It’s a critical time for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  They need leadership from their coach.




Cavs Need Thomas To “Fit In”

The first year LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he famously told Kevin Love (allegedly) to stop trying to “fit out”, and start trying to “fit in”.

He may have the same message now for new teammate Isaiah Thomas, who is struggling to find his place with the wine and gold since returning to the starting lineup.

Thomas seems to be playing like he did with the Celtics, being a high volume shooter, which was needed in Boston, because they really didn’t have any other scoring threats.

In Thomas’ first year with the Celtics, he led the green in scoring at 22.2 points per game.  The next two leading point makers were Avery Bradley (15.2) and Jae Crowder (14.2), and neither of those two are known as guys whose primary reason for being on the team is putting the ball in the hoop.

Last year, Thomas scored 28.9 points a night, with again Bradley (16.3) and Crowder (13.9) ranking next.

This year, with the Cavaliers, Thomas is taking 26.4 shots per 100 possessions, the second highest rate of his career, behind only last season.

The difference is the wine and gold have plenty of other scoring options, namely LeBron James and Kevin Love.  They also have several other guys known for putting the ball in the basket:  Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, JR Smith among others.

So, it would seem Thomas needs to change his game, to fit in more into what the Cavaliers need to do to play winning basketball.

The other day in addressing the media, Thomas basically said that’s what here for, he’s a scorer, and if they don’t want him to score, then why did the Cavs trade for him.

That doesn’t seem to sound like a player who is trying to adapt to his new surroundings, or fit in to a team that has advanced to The Finals in each of the last three years, beating Boston in two of those three years, does it?

When the Cavs were playing well, winning 18 of 19 games with Jose Calderon playing the point, we felt if Thomas came in and played like Calderon, albeit penetrating a little more often, the Cleveland offense would be unstoppable.

Instead, they have a player who seems to have his own agenda on the floor.  Thomas is forcing bad shots, driving into two or three players without leaving himself an angle to find a teammate, and all the while playing poor defense, which isn’t a surprise.

He seems like he is aware he will be a free agent at the end of this season, and is trying to put up numbers, instead of being part of a winning basketball team.

If he wants to see an example of how to make the transition, he could look at this current teammate, Kevin Love.

Love was a high volume scoring in Minnesota, on a team that never made the playoffs, and he changed his role in Cleveland.

Perhaps that’s the problem, as Thomas’ Celtics went to the Eastern Conference finals a year ago, with him playing the way he is now.

However, with the Cavs, Thomas is another weapon, not “the weapon”.  He has the best player in the sport on his squad in LeBron James.  He has another all star in Love, plus an all time great in Wade.

Thomas could be a big help to the Cavs if he would decide to fit in with the wine and gold style of play and learn to play off of James.  Can he do that?

If not, then the Cavs probably have to make his tenure with the team a short one.  They may not have a choice.



Not Ready To Give Up Hope That Cavs Can’t Win A Title.

Nothing incites panic around the sports city of Cleveland more than a Cavs regular season loss to the Golden State Warriors.

After Monday night’s defeat, the town was filled with talk ranging from the wine and gold having no chance to win a second title in three years to folks talking about how the Cavaliers should deal LeBron James before he can leave in free agency this summer.

Our belief from watching the two games, which were played within three weeks, is right now Cleveland is a little short, but both games were decided late.  The Christmas Day matchup was tied with a couple minutes remaining, while the Martin Luther King Day game was even into the fourth quarter.

It would be surprising if Koby Altman didn’t make a deal before the trading deadline, but everyone assumes such a transaction would involve a fourth star player to add to James, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin Love.

That may not necessarily be the case.

We believe the team needs an upgrade on the wing, where JR Smith has declined from the title team of 2015-16.  Getting a player like Kent Bazemore from Atlanta (12.5 points, 39% from three, a very good defender) would be an upgrade.

Maybe you could swing a deal to bring Bazemore and C Dewayne Dedmon (10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 41% from three) to the team, upgrading the team at both the wing and getting a rim protector.

Or you good get Nerlens Noel and Wesley Matthews from Dallas, a duo that would accomplish the same task.

Getting players such as these would give Cleveland a better chance against the Warriors because it would improve them, or at least should improve them defensively.

Of course, improving the team’s defensive scheme would be a step in the right direction as well.  If you don’t think the philosophy is an issue, just check the performance of Jae Crowder last year in Boston, and Kyrie Irving’s defense a year ago in Cleveland.

As for the organization’s biggest prize, the first round pick from Brooklyn, we would consider giving up that pick for a young player who is under contract for two or three more years, or at least isn’t an unrestricted free agent during that span.

After all, a player who is already good is better than one who might be good, because the latter describes most draft picks.

While we understand that Tyronn Lue likes to play with pace, we would rather see a different tact against the Warriors.

We would slow the game down on offense, and try to establish an inside power game vs. Golden State, being very physical with them.  Let James operate the offense out of the post, and whoever is being guarded by Stephen Curry needs to take him to the basket at all costs.

Why not take a page out of the 80’s Celtics playbook vs. the Showtime Lakers?

Playing fast is what Golden State does, and if you try to match them, we feel you will lose more often than not, because they are better at it than you are.

Because the games were close late, we feel some creative minor tinkering would be enough to make a possible fourth straight Finals’ matchup competitive and one the Cavaliers could win.

We refuse to think any team is unbeatable.  No doubt, the Warriors are good, in fact, they are a great team.  They aren’t perfect, though.

It’s up to Lue, James, and the wine and gold organization to put together the plan and the talent to knock them off.



Cavs Need An Aggressive JR Smith

When you are the Cleveland Cavaliers and your best player is the best in the sport, the scrutiny is unbearable.

The wine and gold have lost five of their last seven, and seven of their last nine, yet still have the sixth best record in the NBA.  But, if you listen to people talk about Tyronn Lue’s squad, you would think they may miss the playoffs.

When you figure in eight of the last ten contests have been on the road, with the next two also away from Quicken Loans Arena, you could almost understand the mini-slump.

Lue is working Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, and he is bringing some added scoring to a starting lineup that really had only LeBron James and Kevin Love as scoring threats.

When Love isn’t making shots, which has happen in two of the last three games, the starters struggle to score and the Cavs fall behind early in games.

Unfortunately, Jae Crowder and more specifically, JR Smith haven’t stepped up when needed.  So, should Lue start pondering shaking up the starting lineup?

It’s trickier than you think.  First, the second unit has been so good, you have to think he doesn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart with them.

Second, if you make a move with Smith, do you risk losing him as a contributor down the road.

Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes (29.8), trailing just James, playing about the same amount of time per game as he has since arriving in Cleveland.

His number of shots taken has dropped from 11 per game in his first two years here to just 7.1 this season.  And his defensive rating is the lowest it has been too.

Smith turned 32 last fall, and you have to remember not everyone ages like James, who is in his 15th season.  This is Smith’s 14th year in the NBA, so perhaps age is starting to take its toll.

Before making any changes in terms of who plays, we would like to see Smith start looking for his shot more often.  He seems to be looking to drive more often and his assist numbers are the highest since he arrived in Cleveland.

But that hasn’t been Smith game since he came to the NBA.  He’s a sniper, a shoot first guard with the ability to make tough long range shots, and when he gets going, he’s unstoppable.

He was the reason the Cavs took game one of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, hitting eight threes, scoring 28 points as Cleveland stole home court advantage with a 97-89 win.

If he can’t regain that form and that style of play, perhaps Lue should try Channing Frye with the first unit, providing another three point shooter at the start of games.

After all, when the veteran big man has played ten or more minutes in a game this season, the Cavs are 16-3.

Ironically, Frye’s three point shooting is down, from 40% to 31% this season, but he is making 68% of his attempts inside the arc.  His defensive rating is behind just James, Love, and Dwyane Wade on the Cavs.

Since, Frye’s time has diminished since Tristan Thompson’s return to health, moving him into the starting five could be a big benefit.

The other player we would consider is rookie Cedi Osman, who could provide length, hustle, and his defensive rating is just behind Frye’s.

It has been reported that instead of another big man, GM Koby Altman may be looking to upgrade at the #2 guard spot, which would mean the organization would like Smith to step it up.

The trading deadline isn’t that far away, so the time for Smith to step up is now.  He needs to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor.




Yesterday’s Cavs Loss Makes Us Feel Good.

There are so many ways to look at yesterday’s Christmas Day match up of what is currently the NBA’s hottest rivalry, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Yes, the defending champs won at home, 99-92, but this was a tie game with two minutes remaining, and the Warriors got an offensive rebound and Klay Thompson converted a three pointer to put Golden State up for good.

We understand that Stephen Curry did not play for Steve Kerr’s group, but Isaiah Thomas has yet to suit up for Tyronn Lue, and both should be ready for the rematch at Quicken Loans Arena next month.

The Cavs hung in this game despite shooting just 31.8% for the game, and made just 3 of 24 shots in the second quarter.

Yes, the Warriors are good defensively, but they aren’t making a habit of making teams shoot this poorly on a night to night basis.  There was a little bad luck for the wine and gold shooting that poorly.

Still, despite this inability to put the ball in the cylinder, the wine and gold were in the game to the end.

From a Cleveland standpoint, it was also the first time several Cavs played in a battle between these two teams, and many of those newbies didn’t do well yesterday, something we expect to change going forward.

The Cavs’ bench, normally one of the league’s best, made just 6 of 26 shots, and Dwyane Wade, a veteran of this kind of intensity, made four of those shots.  Jeff Green, who has been solid all season, had a poor game.

However, Jae Crowder responded with a 15 point, six rebound afternoon, and responded well to the physicality during the game.

And of course, no Cavs-Warriors game would be complete without the officiating coming into question.  Kevin Durant’s non-called fouls against James down the stretch reminded us of the game five no call in last year’s Finals, when he hit James in the head on a drive, which would have been his third foul (in the second quarter), but it was ignored by the officials.

One decision Lue and his staff have to ponder is the role of Tristan Thompson going forward.  Cleveland is 18-3 when Thompson plays less than six minutes in a game this season, and 6-7 when he is on the court longer.

With the emergence of Kevin Love playing center, and the effectiveness of the second unit when Channing Frye is out there, it is tough to see where Thompson fits.

By the way, didn’t Love put to rest the notion he can’t play against Golden State with yesterday’s 31 point, 18 rebound performance?

Back to Thompson, he doesn’t seem to fit with the Cavs anymore.  His main strength on defense was being able to switch on pick and rolls, but the team is doing better with that as a whole.

Offensively, with spacing being a huge deal in James and Wade being able to penetrate, Thompson doesn’t have to be guarded, because even after six years in the league, he still cannot knockdown a shot from outside of five feet.

Thompson played just 11 minutes yesterday, getting two points and six boards.  Frye did not play.  We wonder what he could have brought to the table on a day the Cavs were having problems making shots.

All that aside, yesterday’s game showed the Cavs probably are better suited to handle the Warriors next summer than they were a year ago, which is what management wanted.

Still, by the time next June rolls around, and if the two teams meet for a fourth straight year with the title on the line, it could be a different situation.

Cavs’ fans should continue to enjoy the chase, and long forward to Thomas’ debut, which will probably be this week.




Best Thing For Cavs’ Defense? Make Shots.

There is no question that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense has been hugely disappointing so far in this young NBA season.

And the biggest thing needed to help the defense might be for the Cavs to start making shots.

That seems ridiculous, right?

Let’s start with the fact that the Cavs’ transition defense is terrible.  Besides giving up easy layups on fast break opportunities, the new NBA has three point shooters spotting up in transition, and they are getting wide open opportunities.

In the wine and gold’s four victories this season, the lowest shooting percentage for the team was an Opening Night 45.8% vs. Boston.  In the other three games, the Cavs shot over 50%.

In their five losses, they shot 50% or better in just one game, the loss last Wednesday night to Indiana.

Overall, Cleveland ranks 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, but that is misleading because LeBron James has started the season on fire.

James has been taking roughly a quarter of the team’s shots (23.1%), and he is making a crazy 61% of those attempts.

However Kevin Love, who has taken the next most shots, is hitting just 41.4% of his attempts.  Derrick Rose is third in attempts per game, and is making 50%, but he has missed four games, and the Cavs lost three of those contests.

It gets worse from there, though.

Dwyane Wade is making just 40.3%, Jae Crowder is hitting on 39.7% of his shots, and JR Smith is at a horrific 27.4% total, and only 21% from behind the arc.

And those players rank 4th through 6th on the team in field goals attempted.

Combined, that sextet combines for 88% of the Cavaliers’ field goal attempts on the season.  And four of those players are in major shooting slumps.

When those guys start making more shots, and yes, we understand James won’t be able to maintain that torrid pace (we think), there will be less transition opportunities, which will help the defense.

That’s not the only thing that needs to improve.

For some reason, the Cavs’ organization seems to ignore the impact of having big men on the floor.

Even Golden State, for all of their small ball tendencies, still have made it a priority to have some size on the roster.  Besides Kevin Durant, they have Zaza Pachulia, JeVale McGee, and David West, and brought in rookie Jordan Bell, who Steve Kerr is giving some playing time.

Without Tristan Thompson available, coach Tyronn Lue needs to start giving rookie Ante Zizic some time because outside of Love and Jeff Green, he doesn’t have a lot of height on the roster.

Sometimes, we think the Cavs forget that height is a big factor in the sport of basketball.

We also believe the Cavaliers play too fast for their own good.

In 2015-16, Cleveland was 28th in pace and 10th in defensive efficiency.  That number dropped to 21st last season, with the Cavs ranking 15th in pace.

This season, albeit very early, Lue’s team ranks 14th in pace, and last in defense.  Perhaps some sort of compromise is in order.

We believe the shooting issues will take care of themselves.  Players like Love, Crowder, and Smith have proven track records of making shots.

The other issues are incumbent on the coaching staff.  There is a time to play bigger and slower, particularly with a roster that is one of the league’s oldest.

We will see if Lue can adjust.