Tonight’s’ game against the Washington Wizards marks the second half of the season, but most importantly, it’s the first game J. B. Bickerstaff will lead the troops after John Beilein resigned. Many Cavs fans may be unfamiliar with the new head coach, so let’s go over some of the important aspects regarding our new head-coach.
15 Years in the League
Bickerstaff has been around for quite some time. He’s had stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats’ as an assistant, as well as the Houston Rockets, but he later became the interim head-coach when Kevin McHale was let go. In Memphis, he worked as an associate head-coach, similar to his role here in Cleveland before Beilein stepped down. While his overall record as a head coach isn’t anything to celebrate (85-131), he’s one of the youngest head coaches in the league at only 40-years-old. Those stints can be defended because of the rosters he had to work with as well as him being new to that particular position.
During his tenure, he’s amassed the respect of players and coaching staffs all around the league. Given that was reportedly a problem with Beilein, that’s a plus right away in terms of leadership abilities.
Offense, Offense, Offense…
The Cleveland Cavaliers are an abysmal 14-40 with only 28 more games to go this season. It’s hard to look at a team like this and pick just one glaring problem, but offensively, they’ve been inconsistent, lackluster at times, and on several occasions, flat out embarrassing. Why that’s been the case when they have a decent roster is beyond anyone who thought they knew anything about basketball, but Bickerstaff is known for his “Pace and Space” style of basketball and that should fix a lot of the problems offensively. Whether or not we’ll see that adjustment this season, who knows, but I believe that the Cavaliers could potentially look completely different here on out.
As the coach in Houston, the Rockets were 2nd in 3-point attempts per game at a staggering 30.9. Granted, they had James Harden, but that James Harden is a bit different than the one we’ve gotten used to. They were 4th in point per game at 106.5 and 7th in pace, which, to me, is the most important stat. When the Cavs move the ball and get down the floor early, usually lead by Collin Sexton, they look pretty damn good. The problem is, they never seemed to understand that when they play fast and move the ball…they win. The team has capable 3-point shooters in Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and Kevin Porter Jr. Hell, even Tristan Thompson and Andre Drummond are able to hit a three every now and then, so getting the ball in the basket once that style is implemented and accepted won’t be a problem.
On the flip side, fans may be asking a bit much to expect the Cavaliers to be defensive stoppers under their new HC. During his time with the Rockets, they ranked near the bottom of the barrel defensively. Even so, the roster as it’s currently made up has guys that have some defensive capabilities, so it may not be all bad once they begin to buy into his system. Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Porter Jr., Cedi Osman, Alfonzo McKinnie, Andre Drummond and Tristan Thompson (if they re-sign) are all decent defenders at the very least. They also provide length, which is something I’d be hoping the Cavs start to move towards. There’s a long way to go, but I’d still expect them to be okay on defense at times.
Having a leader and a guy with a winning attitude can change the way you look at the game. These last 28 should serve as a possible glimpse into what the team could look like from here on out. I wouldn’t expect the same bratty behavior because the vets got what they wanted (Beilein out as HC) and now everyone can relax and focus on the game. I’m of the position that a spotty record over the latter half of the season is fine if the team is showing signs of progression, which I think they will. But if they continue with the antics we saw the first half of the season, the problem may not be coaching, but individuals within the locker room.