LeBron James managed to drag a team of mediocre players to the Finals in 2007. He lost to the Spurs, but back then he was younger. Now, a more mature, accomplished and understanding James is in his second stint with the Cavaliers trying to bring the first championship to Cleveland.
After he announced his decision to come back home, the Cavs traded for Kevin Love, signed James Jones, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and brought David Blatt to coach the super team. But can they win it?
The biggest problem the Cavs have is their defense. The only true defensive player they have is Anderson Varejao. Aside from Varejao, they do not have a big man that can protect the paint. LeBron James is one of the best defensive players in the league, but he cannot do everything alone. The Cavs allow 109.8 points per 100 possessions this year. Those numbers represent a lottery team, not a championship contender. All of the past championship teams have ranked at least in the top 10 for defensive rating. Coach Blatt continues to stress that his team needs to improve on the defensive end, but the results are not just there. The team often looks sleepy, uninterested and they put no effort on the defensive end.
One ball, too many players
In the playoffs, the pace slows down, and teams that play good half-court offense “survive” to the Finals and have a chance to win it all. The Cavs are an offensive juggernaut, but their half-court offense is too reliable on isolations and the brilliance of James or Kyrie Irving. Aside from James and Irving, Dion Waiters is another player that needs the ball in his hands to be effective. As a team, the Cavs average 21 assist per game. They had a 6 assist game versus Utah, and since then they’ve started to move the ball better. On the downside, they also average 13.4 turnovers. That kind of assists to turnover ratio doesn’t qualify as a championship contending stat.
Love and his role
Kevin Love is the crucial player in the Cavs lineup. He is the most important player, as he can rebound, spread the floor with his shooting and spark a fastbreak with his outlet passes. The problem is that he is still trying to find his role in the offense. The stretch four averaged 16+ points in the first few games, but since then he failed to score more than 13 points in 3 of the past five games. Coach Blatt stresses that they need to involve Love more in the offense, but that still hasn’t happened. One way to involve Love is to run pick and roll with either James or Irving.
No time to panic
The reality is, the Cavs have played just 10 games. They have a completely new team, new coach and new system. They will surely make the playoffs, advance to the second round, but from there on, it will depend whether they can find the chemistry or not. They have all the tools to be a contender, but unless Blatt figures things out, and they start playing more unselfish basketball, they won’t win it all. The East is relatively easy to win, with only Chicago and probably Toronto/Washington standing between them and the Finals. But no matter which top 4 team from the West gets to the Finals, they all can smoke the Cavs.