While the Cavs defeat is still fresh in our memories, the team has little time to waste in looking forward to next season. There are still very high expectations for the team, with Vegas odds makers picking them as their early selection for the 2016 championship. The Cavs played their best basketball late in the season, and there isn’t much that needs to be changed to the roster in order for them to be successful again. Here are 5 changes that the Cavs could make to get back to the Finals next year.
5. Improve defense with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the court
General Manager David Griffin recently made the point that with Irving and Love in the lineup, the Cavs finished the season 33-3. Playoff injuries to both players created more questions about how good the Cavs team can actually be, even after a grueling 6-game Finals defeat. The truth is, though, that the Cavs became an elite defensive team after the two all-stars went out of the lineup. The team played good defense with Irving and Love in the lineup, but mostly in spurts and certainly not for an extended period of time in the playoffs. The success that the Cavs have in 2016 will largely depend on how well the team plays defensively when these tow return healthy.
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4. Develop a Small Ball lineup in the regular season
The talent is there. The Cavs could absolutely create one of, if not the best small ball lineup in the NBA. When the Warriors went small, we struggled because our small lineup was unfamiliar and relied too much on LeBron to create shots. We have versatile defenders at the win positions, plenty of guys to stretch the floor, and with a healthy Kyrie Irving, another fantastic shot creator and shot maker. The lineup has to be implemented in the regular season, though, so that we are familiar with it in the playoffs and able to force teams to adjust to us, rather than us adjusting to them.
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3. Coach Blatt has to win the locker room
Plenty has been made about the relationship between LeBron James and first-year head coach David Blatt. While nobody really knows how LeBron feels about Blatt, it is clear that Blatt is often submissive to what his superstar wants to do. While there is room in the NBA for coaches to offer players more input on play calling and adjustments, Blatt has certainly come farther toward compromise than LeBron has. Neither is guilt-free in the relationship. Blatt has made some serious mistakes in games, and LeBron needs to understand that his teammates will emulate his attitude toward the coach because he is the leader of the team. This will be the first offseason that the coach and superstar have together, and their relationship will likely need to improve for the Cavs to take the next step toward greatness.
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2. Sign Mo Williams
Reports started to surface almost immediately after the Finals that Mo Williams would be interested in a return to Cleveland to pursue a championship. This would be a major upgrade to the backup point guard position, with all due respect to Matthew Dellavedova. Delly played his heart out and gave the city all that he had, but he isn’t the shooter or ball handler that the second unit needs. Williams gives the Cavs an experienced floor leader to help Kyrie Irving develop his game, he is a very good 3-point shooter, and he can play the pick-and-roll game much better than Delly. It would be nice to see the team re-sign Delly, but Williams would give LeBron another familiar and trustworthy running mate.
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1. Solidify the core for the next 3-5 years
It’s time for GM David Griffin to earn his paycheck. There are so many questions about how the teams contract situations will work out. Several players who were pivotal to the Cavs’ playoff run have the potential to both sign long-term or to flee for potentially more money, although it would likely come on an inferior team. The priorities are to lock up LeBron and Kevin Love, with both likely to opt out of their player options for a chance to sign for more money. After that, Tristan Thompson will be the focus. His contract could cause issues with the cap because he certainly won the bet he placed on himself when he turned down 4 years and $52 million. Fortunately for the Cavs, the way the season ended showed how much we need both Thompson and Love in Wine and Gold.