Playoffs are inevitable for any NBA team that possess the best player in the league along with other All-Stars on the roster. Although, when discussing the Cleveland Cavaliers, playoffs is not enough to talk about, the NBA Finals has been the norm for this organization these past few years. That normality could potentially end this season.
Has the time come for NBA fans to rethink the team they predict to make it out of the East and compete in the finals? After three straight seasons of rightfully being the favorite, it looks like there won’t be a fourth straight appearance for the Cavaliers. Adding on, Lebron’s personal streak of seven straight finals appearances is also in jeopardy.
Following Monday night’s loss to the Warriors, several players on the Cavs’ roster have anonymously conveyed their doubt in making it to the finals this season. Reasons such as old age, defensively challenged players, and a plethora of role players have been tied to what players think is what’s holding the team back from attaining the same competitive peak that they’ve been able to reach the past few seasons despite mid-season struggles then as well.
Constant injuries to major rotational players could be another major contributor to the Cavs’ struggles. The Cavs have been riddled with injuries throughout this entire season, especially at the point guard position. Starting point guard Isaiah Thomas made his season debut on January 2 and is still trying to find his place in the Cavs offense. Backup point guard Derrick Rose has only played seven games dealing with a sore ankle and personal issues throughout this season. Guard Iman Shumpert has been out since November after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The list goes on almost as far as Santa’s naughty list and until they can regain full health, the chemistry will never get to where the team needs it to be in order to have a successful postseason. Team chemistry is at it’s best when the entire team is healthy, the rotation is consistent, and everyone buys into what coach is selling.
The Cavs started the season with a 5-7 record playing like a lottery caliber team before winning 18 of their next 19 games. Then emotions were swayed back to what we expect from a team that has Lebron at the helm. Yet, it didn’t take long for the pendulum of emotions to swing its way back to where it currently is as they dropped the past nine of 13 games. Included in their past nine losses were back-to-back losses of 25 or more points, the first of which Lebron had to endure throughout his 15-year career. No team has been able to win the NBA title after losing back-to-back games by 25 or more points during the season. The following game after those losses, they had a 22-point lead against the Pacers in the first half before blowing it and losing a third out of four straight losses (lost to the Warriors in their next game).
On Wednesday after practice Lebron expressed how this season has been on himself and his teammates.
“It’s been very challenging,” James said after practice Wednesday. “Just from the simple fact of how many guys have been in and out. This is a difficult year for our team. Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging.
“With everybody who has been out and coming back in, and the rotations, and things of that nature, it’s been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out. At the end of the day, we have a game every other day or every two days just like everybody else in the NBA. We have to go out and play.”
Head Coach Tyronn Lue was asked if he thinks his players believe they can win the championship this year.
“I don’t know which guys, but I believe so. I think a lot of the guys think that we can win,” Lue said. “We’ve been playing well as of late, the last couple games, and we’ve got to continue to build off of that. So I feel confident.”
Lue’s confidence is based mostly around the fact that he has the best player in the world leading his team on the court rather than what his entire team’s potential can be like once they completely mesh. Having the best player in the world and having the best team in the world are entirely different. One man cannot defeat an
On Thursday, they were able to get back into the win column defeating the Magic 104-103. The score alone is an indication that it was a tough win to achieve despite the Magic being the current worst team in the league. They went through multiple offensive dry spells throughout the game (as they have throughout the season) and after the game, Tyronn Lue made one thing know; Kevin Love needs more touches in the post in these situations.
“I know Kevin is playing the 5 and sometimes he has 5s guarding him, but we still got to be able to get him touches and involve him in the game,” Lue said. “I thought tonight he was great defensively, but we didn’t use him as much as we should have. But he still played through the game, and I thought he was great. But even in those offensive lulls, we got to still post him against 5s and just see what he can do down there.”
When Kyrie Irving was traded, Lue consistently preached the importance of keeping Love involved more often within the offense given Love’s offensive versatility between stretching the floor behind the three-point line as well as showing dominance in the post. Until Isaiah Thomas can catch his rhythm as he’s still getting used to the game again after seven months away from it, Kevin Love is the most important piece to the Cavs’ scoring offense. Most would think I am wrong and that Lebron is the most important although Lebron has always been a facilitator and he doesn’t possess the same shooting prowess as Love. That’s something that can be proven as long as Love gets the touches necessary for him to catch fire in games, especially in the post because that will open the floor for the other four Cavs’ players on the court with him.
The fact that the Cavs have been struggling to maintain leads against sub par teams is intimidating to think of knowing that top-tier teams can decimate a lead by the Cavs within a couple of minutes let alone a couple of quarters.
The Cavs are currently in third place in the East but only a game and a half ahead of the fourth seed Heat. The Cavs hold a 27-17 record including a 11-11 record against teams at or above .500 and a record of 16-6 versus teams below .500.
On Friday, rumors surfaced through ESPN that the Cavs will actively pursue a trade in order to obtain a “big-time difference maker” and names like Deandre Jordan, Lou Williams, and George Hill were mentioned. If the Cavs’ are able to pull off a trade that can reel in Deandre Jordan and Lou Williams, they will have exactly what they need to regain temporary dominance within the East and their chances of defeating the Warriors will rise profusely (mostly because their chances are currently slim) if they make it to the Finals. Although, if a trade for that difference maker doesn’t occur, they will not make the NBA Finals.