The Cavaliers have had a shaky season. That’s to be expected when the team is built around a player that is no longer on the roster. There are, however, a few bright spots in these dark times.
Kevin Love is still an All-Star and due to his injuries and trouble fitting into the new role Tyronn Lue threw him into, many fans seem to forget that. Love’s impact since returning from injury should not be overlooked, as the Cavaliers look significantly better with him on the floor, not only due to his own numbers, but due to his impact as a veteran and All-Star presence sharing the floor with many young and unproven guys.
Our young pieces, namely Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman, have shown flashes of brilliance and are growing better with every passing game. Osman, named a rising star, is proving himself to be a great value piece for his second-round draft selection. As a rookie, Sexton is putting up impressive scoring numbers, averaging 16 points per game. Sexton started off the year a little shaky and inconsistent, but seems like he’s getting a hold of things and finding his groove and looks to be a capable and versatile scorer, reminiscent of the last Cavalier point-guard to don the number two.
Koby Altman has flipped a team of veterans built around the departed Cavalier, LeBron James, and turned them into countless draft picks and young players. Altman found suitable homes & better situations for the veterans that helped the Cavs reach four-straight NBA Finals and got back many valuable assets in return. In addition, Altman also re-signed All-Star Kevin Love back for his remaining dominant years, valuing loyalty over the idea of ‘tanking.’
Channing Frye returning to Cleveland for his final season despite having his best years elsewhere is a great sign of loyalty and a class act for a veteran like Frye. Channing is a fantastic locker room presence and has undoubtedly been helping with the development of the young guys. As an extra plus, the people of Cleveland will get to see off a fan-favorite from the championship-winning squad in his final game.
Despite the good, there has been a significant amount of bad this season.
The win-loss ratio speaks for itself. The Cavs currently sitting at 16 wins to 50 losses, good for the 3rd-worst record in the NBA. While this does land us a probable top-three pick in the draft, the team is struggling to find their stride on the floor. In defense of the players, the overturn and injuries of key players has had a massive impact on the play of the Cavs this season, fielding a different roster and getting new players integrated every few weeks.
The lack of established young players could prove to hurt the Cavs significantly in the next few years. Aside from Sexton and Osman, the young guns are mostly unproven players that other teams gave up on. Yes, these guys, still in their early 20s, have a chance to prosper in Cleveland, but the cold, hard truth is that for the unproven, The Land could also be the last stop on the way to an early retirement
Larry Drew took over as interim head coach after the firing of Tyronn Lue, and to keep it simple, has not been fantastic. Drew has shown in the past he can be a capable leader for veteran teams but lacks what the Cavaliers need, which is player development. Drew can be an asset to many NBA teams, but the choice the Cavs made not to extend him was the correct one.
Shooting & Scoring. Without an established offensive weapon on the floor for most of the season in Kevin Love, the Cavs struggled to put the ball in the basket, their 28th ranked overall offense speaking for itself.
JR Smith. Once a beloved champion and fan favorite in Cleveland, JR Smith ended his tenure here on a bad note. After hearing of Cleveland’s desire to trade the veteran, JR Smith called out the Cavalier ownership, quoted saying “I don’t think the goal is to win. I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks.” Since the incident, JR Smith is no longer with the team as they continue to pursue trade deals and wait out the rest of his inflated contract.
Despite all the bad and all the ugly, the good for the Cleveland Cavaliers is what fans should focus on, as they are the bricks the team is laid upon.