Cavs Need Quick Changes In Order To Repeat
Written by Chad Flannery on April 14, 2017
The Cleveland Cavaliers open the 2017 NBA Playoffs on Saturday at home against the Indiana Pacers. However, the team is scuffling into the playoffs, and they need to make some changes quickly in order to have a legitimate chance of repeating as NBA Champions.
We all know the saying “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” If this is in fact true, the Cavaliers may not be in a favorable position to repeat come playoff time. This season, the Cavs rank twenty-second overall in defensive efficiency and are tied with the worst team in the NBA by record, the Brooklyn Nets. Defense seems to be a persistent problem for them, given they have only gotten worse. Since the All-Star break, they rank twenty-ninth in the category, which has resulted in a mediocre record of 12-15. Given that they are already slated to start the playoffs with a tough matchup against Paul George and the Pacers, expect Tyronn Lue to tinker with the line ups throughout the series to find a line-up that will work. I believe we will see a lot more of J.R. Smith throughout the playoffs, given that he is one of the Cavs best defenders. It may be smart for the Cavs to substitute more often to keep everyone fresh. However, whatever Lue decides to do, he must figure it out quickly, or the Cavs may find themselves at home come Finals time.
Although this is not a problem now (they have a fully healthy roster for one of the first times this season), this will be pivotal if they want to repeat as NBA Champions. Like I suggested earlier, Lue may want to opt for more substitutions to protect his players from injury. If one of their big three was to go down due to injuries, like last year, they are as good as done. A hobbled Cavs squad would be unable to keep up with the Golden State Warriors (assuming they make it) or any other full strength, top-tier Western Conference team for that matter. LeBron James was miraculously able to do a lot of it by himself last year, but it is unlikely that would happen again.
3. Playing time
The minutes played per game may come back to haunt the Cavs come this postseason. James is averaging 37.6 minutes per game this season (tied for second in the league), and Kyrie Irving is averaging 35 minutes (fourteenth in the league). This will become a factor if the Cavs make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and play a team like the Boston Celtics, who do not have a single player in the top 30 in minutes played per game. The Cavs need to find bench players who can step in and take some of the pressure off James and Irving. I expect players such as Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver to play larger roles during the playoffs. The Cavs need to be able to depend on players besides James and Irving to produce if they expect to make it anywhere in the playoffs.