The Cleveland Cavaliers had a lot of question marks ahead when they tipped off their 2014-15 regular season. Sure, LeBron James made his epic return and the Cavs got Kevin Love, but would it be enough? We’ve found the biggest preseason criticisms and questions the Cavs were getting about their play at the start of the season and how they’ve proven the doubters wrong, starting with number five:
5. Can the Cavaliers defend at an elite Championship level?
To begin the season, the Cavaliers truly struggled due to their team chemistry, learning the tendencies of all their new teammates. On top of that, starting the season Anderson Varejao was the starting center. Andy is a Cavs fan favorite and will be for the rest of his life, but the guy isn’t a rim protector, he’s the energizer bunny in disguise. On any given night, Andy can rack up 10-20 rebounds, but he’s not blocking many shots.
As horrible as it may sound, Varejao tearing his Achilles was a blessing in disguise. It forced David Griffin’s hand, he had to go out and make changes, now. The Cavs were a bad defensive team before the trades were made to bring in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov while ousting ball-dominant Dion Waiters, and although Cleveland still isn’t the best defensive team in the league, it has been a world of difference.
Mozgov has been the biggest difference in protecting the rim, but outside perimeter helpers like Smith and Shumpert have made the defensive rotation better. If you can limit the three-point shots going up uncontested, you certainly give your team a better chance at winning. In a league where the last four remaining teams in the Hawks, Cavs, Warriors, and Rockets are all tops in three-pointers made per game, that defense will be key.
The Cavaliers may not have performed at that elite level defensively, but hey, to win 53 games you gotta be doing something right, right?
Click “Next” below for the fourth criticism the Cavs proved wrong!
4. Does the lack of playoff experience for Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving really matter?
Playoff experience helps, but Kyrie is proving that it doesn’t mean everything. He has a first round sweep of Boston to prove that. Kevin Love played arguably the best game he’s ever played as a Cavalier in the first round of the playoffs as well. So to answer the question that so many were asking a couple of weeks ago, no, the lack of playoff experience won’t define the Cavaliers.
With Love out the remainder of the season anyway, this now only boils down to Kyrie. In his first five postseason games, Irving averaged 24.6 points per game and posting two 30 point games, the first of which came in his first ever playoff game. He’s regressed a little due to his sprained foot and tendinitis, but was still able to put up 25 points in an important Game 5 against the Bulls.
Kyrie also has one of the best clutch teachers in the game right by his side. If ever he was to have any jitters, knowing you have LeBron James as the next man up would be one calming feeling. We’re only a half way into what could be a championship push for Cleveland, so Kyrie still has a lot to prove. At this point, he has earned himself a passing mark.
Click “Next” below for the third criticism the Cavs proved wrong!
3. Can the ‘injury-prone’ Kyrie Irving stay healthy?
Ironically, the Cavs bad health at the start of the season forced them into making roster moves bright and early in the season. Those moves would prove to be pivotal in the rebirth of the Cavs season.
Irving had been labelled ‘injury prone’ by many, with all of his odd and wacky injuries of the past. Toe injuries and facial fractures headline those that have sidelined him so far. Past Cavs HC, Byron Scott, always said he believed these injuries of the past were incidental and freak injuries, and he put it down to bad luck.
That bad luck seems to have finally left the building, with Kyrie only missing 7 games for the entire season. Even with the additions of James and Love, Irving played more minutes than ever before this season. He averaged 36.4 MPG, so only missing seven games through 82 isn’t a bad number.
Kyrie still has some heavy and very meaningful basketball ahead of him before we can label this a successful injury-less season, but to this point, it’s a solid passing grade despite the sprained foot and tendinitis Irving has been dealing with. He’s had a few days off to rest it, so he should be good to go for Game 1.
Click “Next” below for the second criticism the Cavs proved wrong!
2. Did the Cavs surround LeBron James with enough firepower this time around?
When you see the guys that LeBron took for a ride through to the NBA Finals in 2007, you may change your mind on who is the best basketball player of all time. In his seven seasons as a cavaliers the first time around, James was never paired with the right talent to seriously compete for an NBA title.
Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Ricky Davis, and a 37 year-old Shaquille O’Neal were probably the best names to play alongside LeBron between 2003-2010. With the return of LeBron in 2014, would new GM David Griffin be able to sign talented enough players to right the wrongs of the past?
Mike Miller and Shawn Marion probably didn’t play as well as many would have hoped, but the additions of Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov, J.R Smith, and Iman Shumpert have proven worthy of a championship caliber team.
Click “Next” below for the number one criticism the Cavs proved wrong!
1. Can David Blatt take charge of an elite NBA team?
Early this season, the Cavs were truly a struggling team. After starting with a little bit of a bang, the Cavs went on a huge losing slump. James spent time resting due to constant injury bugs and the Cavs fell to a record of 19-20.
Every losing team finds themselves with a scapegoat, David Blatt was exactly that to all the Cavs doubters.
Rumors swirled concerning rifts between Blatt and his team, LeBron calling his own plays, and even rumors that his players wanted him fired. David Griffin spoke publicly, confirming that Blatt would be going nowhere, he would coach this team for the foreseeable future.
Cleveland stuck to their word, and from the 19-20 start ended with a 53-29 record. The Cavs were widely regarded as the hottest team in basketball for most of the second half of the season. Some even predicting Blatt would do well in Coach of the Year voting.
Blatt proved all of his doubters wrong, and I genuinely hope he is our coach for quite some time.