The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a major slump, having lost six straight games and now stand below .500 again at 19-20 on the season. Here are the top 5 players who have some work to do if the Cavaliers are to succeed in reaching the playoffs and eventually the NBA Finals for a chance at a Championship. Continue the countdown on the next pages!
5. Tristan Thompson
Thompson has been re-relegated to the bench with the acquisition of Timofey Mozgov, but has still been playing a solid 28.3 minutes per game with Mozgov in the lineup. In those minutes, his production is down from those as a starter, as he is averaging just over nine points and six rebounds per game. These numbers are similar to what he’s been averaging throughout the season, but what we haven’t seen is the aggression he displayed while trying to fill Anderson Varejao’s energetic void. While rim protection is no longer a pressing issue, Thompson’s ability to channel his athleticism into playmaking is a honed skill he needs to continue developing. David Blatt still trusts Thompson during the most critical minutes of the game, but he needs to accept his new role on the team and excel on that platform. It’s what the Wild Thing would’ve wanted.
4. Kevin Love
Kevin Love has done everything he could to keep the Cavaliers afloat without LeBron James these past two weeks. His shooting and rebounding numbers soared but have yet to skyrocket on the season. Love is shooting just 45% over the past couple of games and 69% from the free throw line. Although his percentages from the field are similar to those of his previous year in Minnesota, having a more volatile offense should create better scoring opportunities and yield higher shooting percentages. A nine-point, nine-rebound game won’t cut it against the Phoenix Suns let alone in the playoffs. It might sound harsh, but now tagged as a defensive liability, Love has a lot consistency issues that the Cavs must sort out.
3. Mike Miller
Mike Miller has been playing a ton of minutes for the Cavs at shooting guard recently. Specifically in the last three games, he’s played 24 minutes per game while averaging less than three points. Those 24 minutes should be more than what Miller needs to produce decent shooting numbers. After all, shooting is exactly what the Cavaliers brought Miller in for. He should very easily be getting up around seven or eight shots per game, allowing him to develop some kind of rhythm when on the court. His teammate James Jones, has very similar offensive numbers in just half the average minutes.
2. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is a very special point guard. He is definitely more of a scorer than a distributor at this point in his career. In the second half of the season, Irving needs to improve his ability to see when his team needs him to score and when his team needs to get the ball more. And who better to teach Irving that than LeBron James, who can take over games single-handedly or get teammates involved in an instant. When Irving finds that balance, there should be an increase in his shooting and assist percentages. His biggest issues resides on defense, where Irving needs to retain focus. Off a screen or in transition, Kyrie is Kyrie. Back peddling in those situations, however, Irving struggles to stay with guards that he manages to offensively muscle. While Mozgov’s length and Thompson’s athleticism are blessings, Irving burns too many people to not figure out how spit out his own medicine on the other end.
1. Matthew Dellavedova
Dellavedova is likely the Cavalier who most urgently needs to step it up the most for the Cavs to succeed. Delly plays the backup point guard position for Kyrie Irving, but has consistently failed to create for his teammates (Let alone score). It’s been reported that the Cavaliers are in the hunt for a backup point guard, and mostly because of Delly’s borderline ineptitude. If Delly wants to remain with the Cavaliers, he’ll have to show everyone that he is capable of running the offense when Irving or James aren’t in the game, as well as consistently knock down the open jumpers when those two are attracting all the attention on the court. It sounds pretty basic, but that’s all Dellavedova is on this team to do. It may also be worth noting that when he plays well, so too does the rest of the team.