We asked three of our Cavs writers Will, Jacob and Jake to answer these five questions about the team.
1.The Cavs are sitting at 3-5 to start the season. The general consensus seems to be that there is no reason to panic yet. If their poor play continues, at what point would you start to worry about the team?
Will: I definitely don’t think it is time to panic. The Cavs, in the past three years, have gone through some bad stretches where you wonder if something is really wrong with the team. They always seem to figure it out by playoff time. If you remember last year the Cavs were atrocious in the last week of the season and even in the first round of the playoffs against the Pacers. This team will get bored at times because they have been to three straight finals and they know they are better than everyone and you even see the Warriors playing down to their opponents right now. I would say April is when I would start getting worried. LeBron has earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playoff time. It’s the Cavs conference to lose and unless the Bucks or the Wizards make huge strides I just don’t see any reason why the Cavs can’t cruise to another Eastern Conference crown.
Jacob: It is too early to panic. We have seen the Cavs go through rough stretches in the past few seasons, but this one just happens to come within the first ten games. Isaiah Thomas isn’t back yet and we need to give the other new pieces time to integrate into the system and build chemistry as well. If halfway through the season the Cavs are still floating around .500 and playing terrible defense, then we should all be concerned.
Jake: For me to be concerned, it’s more about how they’re winning or losing games and not necessarily how many they’re winning and losing. They have an entirely new roster this year, so it’s going to take some time to work out the chemistry issues. The concerning part though is if they continue to show the same problems they did last year even with this new roster. If they can’t show that they’re working on their defensive issues and how holding a lead when LeBron isn’t on the court, then I will start to be concerned.
2. What’s the biggest area of weakness for the Cavs team?
Will: The defense is by far the biggest concern for me. The defense was a problem last year and even though they went to the finals again I don’t think it was fully solved. You add Rose and Wade who are underwhelming to say the least defensively, not to mention Isaiah Thomas whenever he comes back. Who, let’s not forget had one of the worst plus-minuses for Point Guards last year. You add Crowder who is going to need some time to adjust to the team and will be huge in the playoffs with his defense. In the three games against Orlando, Chicago, and the Nets they gave up 17 threes which is just terrible especially against those three teams. I think it is safe to say after three years with this Cavs team that they are never going to be an elite defensive team. They struggled defensively all last year and it killed them in the finals, so because of that I do worry about the team’s defense going forward.
Jacob: It seems obvious, but the defense cannot stay at this level for any longer and allow us to expect success. The Cavs have no passion on defense and have no respect for any team that probably will miss the playoffs. If the urgency on the defensive side improves soon, then there may be very few weak spots on this team.
Jake: Their defense would be the biggest weakness I can think of right now. Though, I feel like they could fix that with their effort. The more interesting problem to me is figuring out how to handle giving LeBron some rest on the bench. That’s not something that can be fixed by just putting in extra effort.
3. Do you think the constant lineup changes are having a negative effect on the teams performance?
Will: I am not worried about the constant lineup changes. I think that is something that was bound to happen with Thomas hurt and Derrick Rose as your starting PG. The team is old and there are some different pieces to work with. I am glad Lue is taking some risks at the beginning of the season to see what works and doesn’t work. Lues lineups have been in question the past few trips to the finals where Steve Kerr coaches circles around him. So, I am glad Lue is trying different things and maybe can do different stuff come June.
Jacob: I believe the coaching has more to do with the team’s performance rather than the starting lineup. There are legitimate arguments for why J.R. should be starting over Wade and vice versa, or why LeBron should be the primary point guard or stay at small forward. In addition, J.R. and Tristan Thompson both have played as bench players or starters in their careers, so it’s not like this is new to them. The way these lineups are playing, not who is in the lineups, has been the deciding factor in all of the poor efforts we have seen.
Jake: The constant lineup changes definitely hurt the continuity the team is trying to build. They have to keep making these switches to try and find what works until IT comes back, but I still think it’s having an effect. For example, I think having JR come off the bench to start the year messed with his confidence and could be part of the reason why he’s been so cold.
4. Is there a specific starting lineup you believe they should stick with until Isaiah Thomas comes back?
Will: My ideal lineup until Thomas comes back is Rose, Smith, LeBron, Love and Thompson. I like this because I think it is important to keep J.R. involved. I will take a terrible shooting night for J.R. over the nights he just doesn’t look involved. This isn’t meant to be a knock on J.R. but he is someone who has to always be involved to keep him focus (at least that’s what it seems like). I can’t help but think back to 15 Finals where he looked like he was on another planet. I like Wade off the bench, he is used to being the main scorer and he gives the Cavs some offense off the bench and a leader on the floor. I am sure this opinion will change at least 10 times before the season ends, but this is my opinion for now.
Jacob: Rose, J.R., LeBron, Love, Thompson. I feel that Jeff Green deserves a starting spot but he may just thrive as being a role player with energy off the bench. Thomas will take Rose’s spot when he returns, so just try to create a pattern that will be similar to the one Thomas will run.
Jake: I would like to see them try the Rose, JR, LeBron, Crowder and Love lineup again. I loved the idea of Tristan coming off the bench and being a spark for them. He’s thrived in that role before. That lineup also gives Rose and LeBron a full lineup of shooters that they can feed. This, of course, is only until Isaiah Thomas comes back.
5. What do you think the Cavs should do with the Brooklyn Nets pick?
Will: The popular opinion on the Brooklyn pick is to trade and get Cousins. I wrote a piece over a week ago stressing Cousins constant problems with teammates, refs, fans, and coaches and how it may not be the best fit for the Cavs. I understand where people are coming from in wanting to get Cousins because they believe he matches up well against the Warriors and that he is a beast on the floor when he ignores all the other B.S. that’s around him. That being said I am not fully against trading the pick for a star, but other than Cousins I don’t see one that is available that merits the pick. I think it is best for the Cavs to keep the pick to at least have something to build around IF LeBron leaves.
Jacob: Looking at the team’s early struggles, this team could need upgrades if they want to even compete with Golden State. The Cavs better look at trading that Brooklyn pick for a superstar, such as DeMarcus Cousins, in order to make the best team possible. Let’s stop focusing on replacing LeBron if he leaves and try to win another championship.
Jake: Right now, I want them to keep it. Even if LeBron stays in Cleveland after this year, they still need to start thinking about a future without him. While it doesn’t look like it now, at some point his age will catch up to him. If he does decide to leave, they will need that pick to start the franchise rebuild.