IT’S the hottest question in the NBA right now. What is up with the Cavs? And more importantly, can they be fixed? Defensively they are a nightmare, leading to 10 losses in their last 13 games. An emotional and firey team meeting on Monday led to a lot of finger pointing at Kevin Love’s expense and may have caused more problems than solutions. All in all, this isn’t what you want to here out of locker room with championship aspirations. Now what?
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TY Lue said after the Spurs game last night that he is open to making changes to the lineup. Recently the head coach has remained determined to keep the same starting five. After their recent play, something’s gotta give.
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WHEN it comes to lineup changes, there isn’t a helluva lot that Cleveland can do to solve their issues. In the past Tristan Thompson has been a starter for the Cavs, gaining a reputation as a relentless rebounder and high energy guy. Part of his production this season has been taken away due to a calf injury that saw him miss 19 games earlier in the year.
PLAYING the lowest minutes of his career to date this year, he is still averaging per 36 numbers (10.0 points & 10.7 rebounds) that mirror his career averages (11.7 points & 10.8 rebounds). Those averages are coupled with a career-worst defensive rating, that is slightly affected by just how miserable the Cavaliers defense is as a whole. Still, Thompson isn’t having a great year and shuffling the starters to make him play more will hamper their offensive versatility. If inserting Thompson into the lineup isn’t on Lue’s agenda then removing J.R. Smith from it in must be where his thinking lies.
SMITH himself has recognized his miserable play and told reporters that he would be open to coming off the bench if it leads to the team winning. The problem is there aren’t any answer’s on the bench. Dwyane Wade started a few games early in the year but has since carved out a nice role as their 6th man. Given his age, it would be unfair and unwise to expect him to take on a huge workload. Iman Shumpert just returned from injury, Kyle Korver and Derrick Rose aren’t good defenders by any means and rookie Cedi Osman has less than 300 career minutes.
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AS the losses continue to pile up the trade rumours are kicking into overdrive with names like DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams and George Hill all emerging as potential additions. The latter of the trio George Hill is reportedly close to joining the team according to Woj as a deal centred around Hill in exchange for Frye and/or Shumpert keep swirling around the NBA.
TARGETING Williams or Hill doesn’t solve any of their current defensive problems though so trading for either of them would be a mistake. Williams (408th out of 489) and Hill (448th) rank in the bottom percentile of defensive rating for this season and aren’t known as shutdown guys. A deal for a big man similar to Jordan seems like a smarter move. To get a player like that the Cavs would likely have to include the valuable Brooklyn Nets’ first rounder that they acquired in the Isaiah Thomas trade, essentially risking their future by going all in on winning this year. And there is no guarantees that Jordan will stay past this season due to his player option for 2018-19. Given the way their first 46 games have played out, I don’t think one player is going to solve all their problems.
UNFORTUNATELY, there is no secret trade or roster shake-up that is going to solve all of the Cavaliers problems. The solution is right in front of their eyes. Try harder.
IT has become a staple of LeBron James led teams that turmoil strikes around January and questions surface over their championship legitimacy, only for LeBron and Co to flip the switch come playoff time. Things are different this year though, with a much older supporting cast, finding that magical switch is going to be much, much harder. That doesn’t make it impossible though.
THERE’S no doubt that Cleveland will again make noise in the postseason once the season wraps up, but we all know LeBron doesn’t want another series or conference finals win. He has his heart set on winning it all and to do so this team needs to take a good hard look at themselves and get to work. No one is coming in to save this team. No one is going to dramatically turn around their form and re-energise the group, it’s going to take a whole team approach.
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WITH the Raptors and Celtics coming for the crown out East there is a lot of work for this Cavaliers team to do before the postseason. The changes they can make aren’t going to turn them into a top-10 defense though and there will be doubts over their ability to slow down opponents right up until the end of the year. Are they doomed? No way. Are they vulnerable? Absolutely.
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