Cleveland Cavaliers, the Eastern Conference Champions for last 3 years have been in real trouble this season. A complete roster overhaul twice this year has taken a bad hit on their season as they lie 4th in the Eastern Conference. They sit with a record of 38-28, and have a severe chance of slipping as other teams are catching up. In the worst case scenario, they might not be able to make the playoffs and this will surely lead to LeBron James leaving, again, in Free Agency. They do have a slight competition ahead in their schedule as they face Portland, Toronto(twice), Miami, New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia as premier opponents in 7 of their last 16 games. They are 4-6 in their last 10 and if they win 50% of games going ahead, they end up with a record of 46-34. This is good for playoffs, as 8th seed Miami are 36-32 now, but they have to win those 50% which is kind of looking like a struggle. But, as great as LeBron James is, we strongly hope he won’t let that happen. But is a playoff spot enough for LeBron? What happens if he gets knocked out in 1st round? This would be a great hit to the legacy of a guy who is chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan. Where will Cleveland go after that if LeBron leaves? A lot of hurdles lie ahead on LeBron’s Cavs shoulders as their quest for another franchise championship is getting more difficult and with LeBron still in his prime, a playoff exit is a strong hit to his GOAT resume.
Flash back to our tourney days with these #TBT pics!
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 15, 2018
Talking about what went wrong with them, Let’s analyze a few points which are clearly a problem without a doubt.
1. Cavs had played this season with injuries.
Before the deadline, they played their first 3 months without Isaiah Thomas, a member of so-called big 3 including him, LeBron and Kevin Love. They had a winning streak of 13 games within that period, but they didn’t go up against any formidable opponent, the Philadelphia Sixers being the best of them. Apart from that they struggled, leading to a very anticipated return of the Mr. Fourth-Quarter, but, that didn’t work out either. Locker room tension was always an issue too, starting from JR calling out D Wade for the starting spot to Kevin Love being the scapegoat for all in a locker room meeting with issues like finger pointing reported. The chemistry was messed up as Koby Altman pulled moves before trade deadline, leading to a roster overhaul which brought them 4 young and athletic guys. They had a great start but are slipping with Kevin Love and Tristian Thomson also injured. They are yet to get adjusted to play with full squad and we are just weeks away from playoffs. So, lack of team chemistry and injuries are certainly hurting them.
2. The other main concern is the lack of hustle in defensive plays.
The 1st two games by the new team against Celtics and Thunder gave an impression that the change was brought not only to the roster, rather to their efforts too. But, that didn’t last long. Cavs are 5th in points per game and 9th in assists per game in the NBA, which is pretty good. But, they are 26th in the whole NBA in opponent points per game, giving up 110 points night after night which is not satisfactory. Obviously, LeBron James being the defensive anchor has lost a step in that side of the floor, he is 460th in defensive ratings out of 511 active players with a horrible rating of 112. There is communication breakdown on that side of the court and they gave up some costly points.
.@KingJames is averaging a triple-double over the last 14 games (since Feb. 7) with 29.1 points on .544 shooting, including .429 (33-77) from deep, 10.0 rebounds and 10.3 assists in 37.7 minutes. ? #StriveForGreatness? pic.twitter.com/Apt3jTRrxj
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 14, 2018
3. A proper center!
LeBron James always has an influence around the roster he plays with. Throughout his career, being a playmaker he surrounds himself with good jump shooters. But, he always lacked a good proper center. The fact is, a proper center brings out the better of him. In pick-and-roll situations, shifting the attention of defense, leads to defensive breakdowns and a feast in the paint. But, it never went that way as the last good centers he played with were Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Timofey Mozgov and washed up Shaq. This Cavs roster desperately needs someone who can protect the paint and snatch those rebounds. They are 23rd in rebounding and always give up valuable possessions. The paint is unprotected too and the bad defense of Cavs team makes the opponents feel confident about getting the numbers they want. LeBron can no more put his body on the line to return the shots and Kevin Love and Tristian Thompson are not so good defensively to do so. The whole onus now lies on the hands of Larry Nance jr. and Ante Zizic (if he gets minutes) to work this out or surely, this is the department opponents like to attack them on.
4. The inconsistency of the backcourt and Kevin Love.
Kevin Love is having the best season as a Cavalier, but he needs to continue it in the playoffs if they want to go deep. Tristian Thompson and JR Smith are too inconsistent and Cavs have the lowest scoring backcourt in the whole NBA.
5. Coach Tyronn Lue.
He was the man who made adjustments and stayed resilient with the team who came back 3-1 against a 73-9 Golden State Warriors team to bring the 1st title in Franchise history. He has not at all been that good. The Cavs don’t have a settled rotation yet and they are settling for 3s a lot. He needs to start imposing his will and tell them to play defense as well. The most hit he took was when a freestyling Cavs team blow out Celtics and Thunder team in their home, but are getting destroyed after they started spending some practice time with him. Coach Lue needs to start implementing something before it’s too late.
Cavs are indeed in pile of trouble. But, the most important thing is, they have the best player in the world, LeBron James, who has always flipped the switch in playoffs, stepped his game up on defense and offense and rallied his team on his back to the finals. This year Cavs are given a 9% chance to make it to the NBA finals past Celtics and Raptors. LeBron has defied the odds. Can he do it again? Can he surprise us again? The stakes are different this time. He just has a 20-10 all-star Kevin Love with role-players surrounding him. He has no superstars with him like other top stacked teams. Young LeBron did it once in 2007, but lost in the finals. Can the 33-year old do it? Because if he does, this is a strong statement to his legacy!