The Transformation Of JR Smith

It has been said many times that no player on the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to sacrifice more than Kevin Love.

Love was a star in Minnesota, the guy the entire offense ran through.  He was a high scorer too, averaging over 26 points per game twice in his Timberwolf days.

With the Cavs, Love became a “third wheel” behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  His scoring dropping to around 16 points in Cleveland, before climbing to 19 this season.

Many people say Love became a glorified stretch four, a spot up three point shooter.

That’s crazy, of course, but we guess people figured he was going to continue to average 26 points a game with the Cavs, which would be almost impossible.

However, another member of the wine and gold has sacrificed greatly, and it largely goes unnoticed.

When GM David Griffin made the three way deal early in 2016 with Oklahoma City and New York, it was thought Griffin had his eye on Iman Shumpert, a wing defender, who was also athletic enough to run the floor.

Smith was regarded as a throw in on the deal, a player put in to balance the salary cap ramifications, basically (it was said at the time) if you want Shumpert, you have to take Smith.

JR’s reputation was that of a troublemaker.  He has tremendous talent.  He was sixth man of the year in 2012-13 when he averaged 18.1 points for the Knicks, a season in which New York won their division and lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

As the Knicks fortunes went south, so did Smith’s concentration.  He liked the NYC nightlife, his scoring average and shooting percentage dropped, and the Knicks management wanted to unload him.

His reputation on the court was that he never met a shot he didn’t like, and fired the ball up at times to make his coaches grimace.

We remember NBA writers saying at the time of the trade, that when JR is on a good team, he is fully engaged, which will help him with the Cavs, they were a team ready to make a title run.

In game one of the Eastern Conference finals vs. Atlanta, Smith stole home court from the Hawks with an incredible shooting display, scoring 28 points by hitting 8 of 12 from beyond the three point line.

Smith can still knock down shots, but he is the guy Tyronn Lue turns to in stopping the opponents best wing scorer.  He did a great job on Paul George in the first round, and gave DeMar DeRozan fits in the conference semifinals.

He had a thumb injury which required surgery this season so his scoring average dropped to under 10 per night (8.6) and his three point shooting fell from 40% to 35.1%.

But he is still a key member of the Cavs because of his defensive prowess, and it doesn’t hurt that fans around northeast Ohio love him.  People here don’t care about your past, they judge you on how you treat them.

His emotional reaction to winning the NBA title on Father’s Day a year ago is something we will never forget.  He thanked his dad for always standing by him.

So, while Love has certainly subdued his game in order to win, don’t forget how JR Smith has went from a player considered undisciplined to one his coach trusts to do a great job on defense against the top scorers in the NBA.

Sacrifice and unselfishness.  Lue and LeBron James always talk about it and Smith is a grand example of what they mean.

JK

Cavs Keep On Rolling

Another series, another sweep for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tyronn Lue’s squad is moving on to the Eastern Conference final for the third straight season after taking care of the Toronto Raptors in the minimum amount of games.

And save me the Kyle Lowry excuses, Raptors fans.  Yes, he is your team’s second best player and an all star. But outside of Cleveland, no one cares the Warriors won The Finals in 2015 because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out.

Also, no one cares outside of northeast Ohio that Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar couldn’t start in the World Series.

It’s a loser’s lament.  We get it, it has happened to our teams, but in the end, people won’t remember.  Besides, the Cavs were dominating the Raptors (sorry, Dwayne Casey) before Lowry sprained his ankle.

So, as a result of the sweep, the veteran Cavs will probably get another week off before they take on the winner of the series between the Celtics and Wizards.

Just think how good the Cavaliers can be if Kyrie Irving ever starts shooting the ball well.  Irving shot under 40% from the floor in this series (37.5%), although he was better from three point range in the conference semi-finals.

It was another incredible performance by the sport’s best player, LeBron James.  The King averaged 36 points per game against Toronto, shooting 57.3% from the floor, hitting 48% of his long range shots.

He complemented the scoring and shooting by adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the series.  It has taken the post-season for everyone around the country to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James.

During the regular season, all basketball fans heard about were Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and to a lesser extent, Kawhi Leonard.

All three had tremendous regular seasons, but since the playoffs have started, James is reminding everyone who the best player in basketball still is.

Another thing this series showed is the transformation of JR Smith.  Smith came to Cleveland with the reputation as a shooter without a conscience, but now can be put on the opponents’ best wing scorer, and put him in check.

Smith’s defense of DeMar DeRozan in the first two games of the series was a big key.  Add that to the job he did against Paul George in the first round, he is a huge for what Cleveland wants to do defensively.

Back to Irving, he did a great job passing in this series, averaging 8.5 assists in the four games.  When Irving gets seven assists or more in a game, the Cavs are 23-6 for the season, including the playoffs.

And when Irving is being rested, Deron Williams has played very well.  He was on the floor when Cleveland busted open game three in Toronto, just as he was in the big comeback win over the Pacers in round one.

Finally, Kyle Korver was huge in the last two games of the series, hitting two huge three on Friday and going crazy in the second quarter today with 16 points on four three pointers.

And the defense continues to improve too, which was a huge concern going into the post-season.  When Toronto missed shots, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love gathered up the misses.

So, the Cavs are back in the NBA Final Four, the conference finals.  Even if Boston wins the series in five (the quickest it can be over), it will probably be the upcoming weekend before the next series starts.

That’s the biggest benefit for winning early.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs-Raptors Set To Do Battle…Again

Last season, the Toronto Raptors were the only Eastern Conference team to win a playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They won both games three and four in Toronto to even the Eastern Conference finals, before the wine and gold won the next two contests to advance to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

We all know what happened there, right?

This year, the two teams meet one round earlier, in the conference semi-finals, and they finished the regular season with the same record.

The Cavs have home court advantage by virtue of winning the season series, 3-1.

Toronto is a top ten defensive team, so it will not be a picnic for the Cleveland, who like to win by outscoring their opponents.

In defending the Raptors, they are a team, much like Indiana, that doesn’t shoot a lot of three point shots, ranking 22nd in the NBA in attempts and 13th in percentage from beyond the arc.

Where the Cavs should have an advantage in on the boards.  Toronto is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, so Tristan Thompson should be able to buy Tyronn Lue’s squad some extra attempts, and they defending champs must control the defensive glass when they force a miss.

The Raptors also take care of the ball very well, 4th in the Association in least turnovers.

Toronto holds opponents to 44.9% shooting, slightly better than Cleveland’s 45.8%, but they are slightly ranked lower in defending the three pointer.

Remember last year, Dwayne Casey was so afraid of the Cavaliers three point barrage against Atlanta in the conference semis that he placed too much emphasis on that and let the Cavs parade to the basket in the first two games.

It will be interesting to see how the Raptors play it starting tomorrow night.

No doubt the Cavs have to defend Toronto’s high scoring backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (27.3 PPG) and Kyle Lowry (22.4).  They account for 43% of the Raptors’ field goal attempts.

DeRozan doesn’t take many three point shots, less than two per game, so the Cavs may give him that shot, which he is not comfortable in taking.

Serge Ibaka, who came over at the trade deadline, likes to shoot from out there and he can make them too, shooting at 40% since arriving in Canada.

The Raptors also have a solid big man in Jonas Valenciunas, at 12.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.  Lue will likely combat him by using Channing Frye to draw him out of the paint, and perhaps off the floor.

Casey started using Norman Powell instead of the big man in the first round series win over Milwaukee.

Toronto also picked P.J. Tucker at the deadline, presumably to guard LeBron James, but he shot slightly over 40% with Toronto, which means the Cavs don’t have to honor him on defense.

Offensively, the Cavs need Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to make shots, which they struggled doing in the first round.

Irving shot 42% from the floor and just 22% from the three point line.  Hopefully, the time off allowed him to rest his legs and get them back into his shot.  He also needs to average more than three assists per game, even if the offense is running through LeBron James.

Love also shot just 42% from the field, although he was much more successful from beyond the arc, knocking down 41%.  He needs to continue to attack the basket when he gets the ball near the basket, and also has to be a force on the defensive boards.

This doesn’t figure to be an easy series if both teams play well.  Keeping DeRozan from having big nights is probably the key to the series.

If the Cavaliers aren’t playing well, and don’t continue to improve defensively, they could be pushed to the limit.

JK

 

 

Was Cavs’ Defense Better Than You Think Vs. Pacers?

The Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up another first round sweep in the NBA Playoffs, taking care of the Indiana Pacers in just four games.

It was the 10th sweep in LeBron James’ great career and he has now won 21 consecutive first round games.

The Cavs had defensive issues throughout the regular season and the analytics had Tyronn Lue’s squad as the third worst in defensive efficiency in the four game sweep.

Statistics have the Pacers having the shortest distance per field goal attempt of the 16 playoff teams, showing Indiana didn’t have much of an issue getting into the paint.

On the other hand the wine and gold’s field goal percentage against ranked in the bottom of the top half (7th) of the teams that qualified for the playoffs.

Cleveland did some good things against the Pacers, though.

Although Paul George averaged 28.0 points per game in the sweep, he did it by volume shooting.  A 46% shooter in the regular season, the Pacers’ star shot just 38.6% against the Cavaliers, as Lue threw several defenders at George, including JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, with James helping on double teams.

And the All Star really struggled from the middle of game three throughout the completion of the series.

The other player the coach mentioned in terms of limiting before the series was C. J. Miles, who torched the Cavs in the regular season for 17.0 points per contest.

Miles was stifled by the Cavaliers, scoring just 7.3 points per game in the series, and he shot just 31% from three point range.

Lue’s defensive philosophy is to identify the opponent’s strengths and try to take them away.  It seems he did just that against the Pacers in this series.

In order to do that, the coach is willing to give something up, and to this point, it’s hard to argue with his success.

So basically, if the Pacers were going to emerge victorious, it was going to have to be because Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, and Lance Stephenson had huge performances.

Those four combined for 56 points per game on 49% shooting.

However, out of those four players, only Stephenson, who played only six games for Indiana this season, has the personality to be the lead dog.  The rest are complementary players, forced into a big spot.

Not everybody can handle that situation.

That’s Lue’s philosophy, but opposing players into situations that they aren’t comfortable in.

As the playoffs go on, it will be more difficult to do this because the better teams have better options and more players capable of producing under the bright lights of the post-season.

Luckily for the Cavs, they have veterans who have stepped up in these situations throughout their careers.  Channing Frye was huge a year ago for the Cavs.  Two years ago against Atlanta on the road, the wine and gold won because Smith got hot in game one.

One of the new veterans acquired by GM David Griffin had a huge impact in this series, and that is Deron Williams.

Williams seemed to not be sure of how he fit when he first arrived in Cleveland, but he gave Lue some very good minutes in the second half of game three and in the second quarter of the deciding game.

There is no question that Cavs can be better on defense than they were vs. the Pacers, but they did accomplish some of the things they set out to do in the series.  That’s something to watch in round two.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs Biggest Opponent Now Is Themselves.

The probability of the Cleveland Cavaliers losing their first round series wasn’t very high at the start of the matchup.

However, someone forgot to tell the Indiana Pacers that, because they almost won Game 1, and recovered from a 19 point deficit in the second half to make the second game closer than it should have been, but the wine and gold prevailed, 117-111 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

So, the Pacers have the daunting task of having to be a LeBron James led team four out of five games to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

While publicly James says it doesn’t matter how many points the Cavs win by, as long as they win, the point is in a first round match up, style points do count, especially if the team struggled the way Tyronn Lue’s squad did over the last month of the regular season.

In game one, Cleveland had trouble on the defensive glass and shot just barely over 50% from the free throw line.  That’s not a good recipe for winning in the playoffs.

Last night, the Cavs won the battle of the boards, but only because the three frontcourt starters (James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson) all had ten or more boards, because no one else had more than two rebounds.

And the home team hit 20 of 23 from the charity stripe, with the only three misses coming from James, who is working on a new free throw routine after a career low percentage from the line.

Again, only three players took free throws, with Love and Kyrie Irving making all 17 of their shots.

Iman Shumpert provided a lift in the second half after JR Smith left with a hamstring problem.  Shumpert seemed focused after getting a DNP-CD on Saturday, playing solid defense on Paul George, and chipping in with five points.

The bench still isn’t providing a lot of scoring.  Deron Williams had nine, but in total, the subs only scored 21, compared to the Pacers, who had 32 points off the bench.

Don’t blame Kyle Korver though.  Although the veteran has only taken five shots in the two games, he has captured the attention of Indiana, because his man isn’t helping off him.  That leaves the lane open for James and Irving to get to the basket.

Cleveland was +10 with Korver on the floor.

We understand it is early in the playoff chase, but the defensive issues which plagued the wine and gold recently haven’t been totally cured.  Indiana shot 51% in game two.

Nor have the issues with a fourth quarter lead disappeared.  The Cavs move the ball very well to get the lead, and then revert to isolation sets, which are resulting in long, missed shots on offense.

This allows the opponents to get back in the game.  And the culprits are usually James and Irving.

The Cavs only had 19 assists on 42 made shots in game two.  James had 7 assists, but Love was the only other Cleveland player with more than two.

Look, we don’t want the Cavaliers to be playing at their best right now.  Hopefully, they will get better incrementally as the playoffs move on, so they are playing at peak efficiency when and if they return to the NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, they can’t play poorly enough that they don’t win the Eastern Conference.

The best thing for Lue’s team is to make short work of the Pacers, and get plenty of rest before the second round matchup.  The quest for that begins Thursday night in Indianapolis.

JK

 

 

Trust In Cavs’ Playoff Hopes Are Based On LeBron

Since the first of March, we don’t know what to make of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They went through that month sleepwalking on defense for the most part, and their three point shooting, a staple of their offense, began to get hit or miss.

Then, last Wednesday, they hammered the Boston Celtics, their rivals for the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, in Boston no less, and it looked like they were on the right track.

But Friday night, the wine and gold was basically run off their home floor by an Atlanta Hawks’ team that gave their starters the night off.

It was similar to a year ago when Memphis was without many of their regulars and knocked off Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

After the game, Kyrie Irving revealed that his knee was very sore on Thursday, yet Tyronn Lue played him Friday with a two game lead in the Conference standings.

Tristan Thompson is already out of the lineup with a sprained thumb, and Kyle Korver has missed several games recently with a foot issue.

Put all these factors together, and it doesn’t seem like it’s the formula for defending the NBA title the Cavs won last June.

In fact, there is only one reason for optimism.  LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers.

Yes, you can talk about Russell Westbrook and James Harden for MVP, and we know Stephen Curry has won the award the last two seasons, but everyone knows that James is still the best player in the sport, and still its most dominant force.

For all of the talk about how Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors a year ago because Curry was banged up, Andrew Bogut was hurt, and Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, no one talks about how James took that same Warriors’ squad to six games the year before without Irving and Kevin Love.

With Matthew Dellavedova and Thompson as his primary wingmen, he actually had the Cavaliers with a 2-1 lead in the series.

So despite the Cavs’ struggles over the last six weeks, we pin our hopes on James.  And quite frankly, he’s earned that respect.

Lue should be called into question for some of the struggles.  He has played James too many minutes, and Irving too, which many be a reason for his sore knees.

And after integrating the new players seamlessly a year ago, Deron Williams still seems lost, and Derrick Williams, who played well when he first came to Cleveland seems to be a forgotten man.

Deron Williams seems to defer way too much to LeBron and Irving.  Let him do what he has done throughout his career, run the offense.  He’s not a good defender anymore, but he is almost in a shooting role, and he’s not making shots.

The bench has been struggling lately, and it has been missing youth and athleticism, both of which Derrick Williams can provide.  And he showed he could defend when he arrived on the north coast.

Lue needs to give him some minutes, probably at the expense of Iman Shumpert, but with a lot of age on the bench, maybe just use the extra body and play the 30+ year olds a few minutes less per game.

A win on Friday night and a win today in Atlanta would have allowed Lue to rest his key players until the playoffs begin next weekend.

The most important thing for the post-season run is having James, Irving, and Thompson rested and ready to go.  We would include Kevin Love too, but he missed six weeks recently and probably needs the court time.

Pinning hopes on James is a tried and true method of winning, and based on recent events, it’s the only hope fans should be putting any credence in.

JK

 

 

Guess The Cavs Were Bored in March?

If you subscribe to the theory that the Cleveland Cavaliers were just playing out the regular season, waiting for the playoffs, what you saw last night was Exhibit A.

After a feeling out period in the first quarter, after which Boston held a one point lead, the Cavs dominated the Celtics the rest of the way, in route to a resounding 114-91 win.

Did we mention the blowout occurred in Boston?

The win should sew up the top seed in the Eastern Conference for Cleveland, which now holds a one game lead over Boston, and holds the tie-breaker by winning the season series against Brad Stevens’ team, three games to one.

Much has been made about the wine and gold’s play defensively after the All Star break, as the Cavs ranked 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency in that time span, but Tyronn Lue’s squad held the Celts to just 91 points for the game, and just 41% shooting for the contest.

And the wine and gold did some creative things defensively, blitzing the pick and roll on occasion, and trapping too, things they haven’t showed on defense since the calendar turned to 2017.

It was almost like the contest was a dress rehearsal for the playoffs, which start in about a week and a half.

Isaiah Thomas, Boston’s best player, got his, scoring 26 points, but the truth is the Celtics don’t have a good “wingman” for Thomas, as Jae Crowder was next with 13 points, and Al Horford, who must have nightmares about the Cavs, had 12.

Meanwhile, Cleveland had five players in double figures, led by the sport’s best player, LeBron James, who dominated the second quarter, had 36, and he was backed up by Kyrie Irving (19), Kevin Love (15 points, 16 rebounds), and JR Smith, who had 12 points.

Did we mention the Cavs played without their best interior defender, Tristan Thompson, who has a thumb problem?

Now, Lue can start resting his start players in earnest.  With a back-to-back situation on the road on Sunday and Monday (Atlanta then Miami), we would expect James, Irving, and Love to sit in one of those games, and if Wednesday’s regular season finale is inconsequential, which is probably will be, the “Big Three” won’t play in that one either.

Assuming they miss the Monday game vs. the Heat, that would give the trio about a full week off before the post-season begins at Quicken Loans Arena.

We aren’t going overboard about the win last night.  The fact is, it isn’t good enough to play with that kind of intensity for one night during the playoffs, it has to be done every night.

On the other hand, after the shaky month of March, it was good to see the Cavaliers approach a “big” regular season with a determined approach and the result was tremendous.

It shows the Cavs can still play like champions, they still have it in them.

Remember, this is a veteran team.  Cleveland is much more experienced than either Golden State and/or San Antonio.  Perhaps they know how to treat the dog days of the post All Star break schedule, saving energy for the playoff run.

We will find that out very, very soon.

JK

 

What Needs To Be Done To Fix Cavs’ D

The Cleveland Cavaliers either have a huge problem or they are deceiving the rest of the NBA.

They haven’t played solid defense for most of the season, but over the last few weeks, the ease at which opponents are scoring has become alarming.  Allowing over 125 points is becoming a regular occurrence.

We feel there are several factors at work here, some of which can be fixed prior to the beginning of the NBA playoffs, and some that may not be able to be repaired.

The first problem is familiarity.  Since JR Smith was injured around the holidays, Cleveland’s roster has been in flux.  Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, and Larry Sanders have all been brought in, and Smith and Kevin Love missed significant time with injuries.

Those things, coupled with the lack of practice time NBA teams, particularly older ones, get during the regular season, make defensive rotations difficult to assimilate, and that shows in games.

There are many nights where the wine and gold look like they just met in a pick up game on the playground.  Really, they pretty much did.

The second problem is the defensive schemes are very vanilla, and this is by design because Tyronn Lue and his staff aren’t showing anything for the playoffs.  For the most part, the Cavs aren’t blitzing the pick and roll, and aren’t trapping point guards to force the ball out of his hands.

We are sure this will be done once the post-season starts.  Think back to the Boston game early in March and last night’s contest vs. Washington.  The Cavaliers pretty much guarded both Isaiah Thomas and John Wall straight up.  That won’t be the case in a playoff series.

It looks ugly now, but why show either potential opponent your cards before you have to.

However, we can call into question Lue’s playing rotations.  He has a deep roster, but still insists on playing LeBron James 38-40 minutes per game.  With the playoffs beckoning, why not reduce that to around 32 per night.

He also has too many lineups on the floor with glaring deficiencies.  For example, a group without Love and Tristan Thompson, which results in opponents getting second and third shot chances.

We see too many group on the floor without a solid defender besides James.  It is his job to make sure there are at least two or maybe three players who can guard someone on the floor at all times.

He has cut back on the playing time of Derrick Williams, an young, active guy who has shown signs he can guard someone.  Which is exactly what the Cavs need right now.

We know Cleveland wants to go into the playoffs healthy, but a big problem defensively is allowing dribble penetration out front.  Kyrie Irving isn’t fighting through picks and isn’t staying in front of his man.

If you know the game, this leads to the interior defenders having to pick those men up, leaving their man open, or leading to ball rotation for an open three point look.  You can’t have that in the playoffs.

Speaking of interior defense, all of the minutes and guarding on the perimeter seem to have taken a toll on Thompson, whose defense has slipped as the season has progressed.

His ability to guard smaller men away from the basket on switches was a key to last year’s title run.

The regular season games are winding down, meaning fixing the problem soon is critical to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If they play defense like they have over the last month or so, they simply will not win the Eastern Conference again.  Let’s hope our theory on being secretive about their plans is correct.

JK

 

 

Love Is Exactly What Cavs Need

Kevin Love returned to the floor and was in the starting lineup Thursday night when the Cavaliers took on the Utah Jazz.

He played 19 minutes, scoring 10 points, and probably most importantly, grabbed 9 rebounds.

With his return, now the Cavs can officially start their playoff push, with 14 games remaining in the regular season.

When Kyle Korver returns from his foot injury, Tyronn Lue will have a full roster at his disposal for the first time since really the end of December.

And no doubt, their will be rest for “The Big Three” once the Cavs playoff position is etched in stone.  They are currently a game and a half ahead of Boston for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and two games ahead in the loss column, although we don’t think that matters to the team.

The wine and gold went 7-6 in Love’s absence, a far cry from their 34-13 record when the big man from UCLA is on the court.

Their is no question that Love is a lightning rod, mostly from fans, around northeast Ohio.  When the Cavaliers lose, he is usually the first player to get the blame.

He’s not tough enough, he missed wide open looks, he can’t defend, etc.

However, two things were noticeably absent while Love was out.  First, it was obvious the Cavs need a third scoring option behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  Too many times, those two had 25+ points, and the next best total by anyone was something like 14.

Love scores 20 points per game, and on those occasions when James and Irving are off the floor, he provides another scorer.  So, for the most part, Lue can have two of the trio on the court at all times.

They also missed Love on the glass, where he averages 11 caroms per night.  In the 13 games Love was absent following his knee scope, Cleveland was outrebounded in 10 of those contests.

In the ten games before Love was out, the Cavs was only outrebounded twice.  Clearly, his presence is very important on the glass, particularly the defensive boards.

As for durability, Love has played in more than 70 games, five times in nine years, including the last three before 2016-17.

His last two injuries were a shoulder separation which knocked him out of the playoff during his first year with Cleveland, and the knee scope this season.  It’s not like he’s constantly spraining ankles or has a chronic knee issue.

As for his defense, we know he’s not going to make an NBA All-Defensive team anytime soon.  On the other hand, he’s not the open door he’s portrayed to be on that end of the floor either.

His defensive win share is 2.o, which among power forwards is very similar to Serge Ibaka and Derrick Favors, and better than Blake Griffin.  Let’s just say he’s not great, but he’s not a sieve either.

So, if you want to replace Love during the off-season, know that you will need to replace his rebounding and scoring, and he averages 20 points and 11 boards per night.  The other players who do that?  Think DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Good luck getting one of them.

Besides, remember that the Cavaliers are the NBA’s defending champions.  You know who was on that team?  Yep, Kevin Love.

JK

Cavs’ Defensive Issues Are Due To All The Changes.

Our initial reaction after the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night was they looked like they had never played with each other before.

Which, of course, is true.

Think about it, Derrick Williams has been with the team for about three weeks, Deron Williams about two.  Kyle Korver has been with the wine and gold since early January (he didn’t play on Thursday), so he’s never been on the floor as a teammate of JR Smith, who missed two and a half months with a thumb injury.

This presents a problem offensively, as Deron Williams learns where the rest of the players like to get the ball so they can score.

And as great as LeBron James is, and as much as he studies his teammates as well as opponents (remember how he told us we watched tape of Korver to see where he likes to catch the ball), even he admitted last night how tough this year has been with all the comings and goings due to roster moves and injuries.

There have been too many games recently where the James and Kyrie Irving are scoring almost half of the Cavs’ points.

Anyone still want to tell us how Kevin Love isn’t important to this team?

Love is a guy who is scoring more than 20 points per game, and in addition to that, is a huge factor on the defensive boards.  Anyone else notice the increasing amount of offensive rebounds the Cavaliers are giving up?

It is even a bigger problem defensively.  On that side of the ball, there is a great deal of trust, knowing you can pass an opponent off to another member of the Cavs, but you have to know they are going to be there.

Think about what Tyronn Lue has had to do on the fly.

He got Korver basically to replace Smith when he went down, and although Korver isn’t a horrible defender, he tries to hide his lack of quickness with knowing where to be, he isn’t as good a defender as Smith, who emerged last year as very good on that end of the floor.

Love isn’t an elite defender, but he is better than most people think, but replacing him in the starting lineup with Channing Frye is a large drop off in defense.  The wine and gold’s defensive rating takes a huge hit when Frye is on the floor.

Another issue with Love being out is that it has taken a toll on the Cavs’ chief interior defender, Tristan Thompson.

Thompson seems to be getting worn down as the season has progressed, having to battle opposing big men basically by himself over the past few weeks.

No doubt this was the biggest reason Andrew Bogut was signed, and also that it appears Larry Sanders will be inked to a deal in the coming week.

Smith is back now, and hopefully Korver’s foot won’t cause him to miss too many more games.

Love should back soon as well, perhaps in about 2 weeks.

Getting everyone back, and getting some extra practice time before the playoffs begin could be the biggest remedy for the defensive issues the team has had.

They need to play and practice together to get the trust back on the defensive end of the floor.  That should greatly decrease the glaring breakdowns when the opponents have the ball.

With all of the shuffling on who is and isn’t available on a nightly basis, something is going to suffer, and it’s usually defense.

When that improves, this team will be very difficult to beat.

JK