When LeBron James announced to the world that he would be returning to Cleveland to chase an NBA championship for the starved city, many people believed the Cavs were a lock to win a championship within the first couple of years. But, thanks the emergence of Steph Curry and one of the all time great teams in the Golden State Warriors, these title hopes and hopes for every other NBA organization might be on hold. There is no doubt that the Cavs have the talent and fire power to win an NBA title. But there is a question as to whether or not they can play unified as a team and if they can compete against the Warriors small ball lineup. The Cavs are seen by many as a lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals and regardless of who they play in June, there are some problems the Cavs will have to address in the coming months if they want to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
5.) LeBron’s three-point struggles
LeBron James has not looked like himself this year. He is still a great player and gives the Cavs a chance to compete for an NBA championship. His numbers are fine but he is not playing like he did in Miami when he dominated the NBA. A big knock on his game this year has been his inefficiency from beyond the three-point arc. LeBron is shooting just 28% from three and it is making him much easier to defend. LeBron’s numbers are down from every spot of the arc except for the top of the key. A particularly striking number is that he is shooting 15.4% worse from the right corner than he did last season. LeBron has never been a remarkably good three-point shooter but he has been formidable in past seasons. He is down 7.4% from just last season. LeBron’s inefficiency from three makes him incredibly easier to defend. Now defenses can give him ample space and allow him to shoot from long range compared to past season where the defender would be in his jersey allowing LeBron to blow past and penetrate so that he can either dish it out to an open man or finish at the rim.
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4.) Kyrie’s Defensive Effort
The biggest knock against Kyrie Irving for his entire career has been his defense. Although it has gotten better over the past few seasons, he looks a step slow this year. This is probably due to his previously injured knee cap which does not give him the lateral movement he needs to defend the players in this scoring guard dominant league. The Cavs may be able to hide Kyrie on a lesser scorer now, but, in a 7 game series against the Warriors the Cavs will not be able to hide him on Klay Thompson or anyone else in their starting lineup. What the Cavs really need is to have Kyrie grow and improve as the end of this season progresses. If they are going to have any chance at winning a title they will need Kyrie Irving to be back to his old form and 100% healthy.
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3.) Consistency of Kevin Love
Over the duration of his first two seasons with the Cavs Kevin Love has had some serious ups and downs. He has not fit in as well as anyone would have liked him to and has not produced anywhere near the numbers he did in Minnesota. With that being said, we have seen flashes of the old Kevin Love this season. Now the goal is to have him playing with confidence, effort, and consistency every single night. It is striking how one night we can see Love put up a nice double double scoring 29 points and 11 rebounds against the Thunder then put up just 8 points and 2 rebounds against Charlotte. If the Cavs are going to have any chance of winning a championship series, they will need Kevin Love to have his best and most consistent games of his career in Cleveland.
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2.) Tendency to play ISO ball
Something that has become very noticeable is the Cavs being stagnant and playing isolation basketball on offense, especially against good teams. They will stop moving, stop cutting, and stand around on offense. The best we will see during an isolation possession from the Cavs is a ball screen. The Cavs are at their best when they are running in transition, moving the ball, and finding open shooters. Although it has been said that the only way to beat the Warriors is to slow the game down and pound the ball. Whether or not this is true, in order for the Cavs to utilize and maximize all of the talent on the roster, they need to get everyone involved and stop play isolation.
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1.) Ability to play Small with the Warriors
No team has been able to beat the Warriors at their own game consistently. When Golden State puts in their small lineup and runs, they are nearly impossible to beat. But, the Cavs have the personnel to beat the Warriors and just need to find the right lineup to do it with. It is clear the Cavs are still focused on the regular season but Tyronn Lue should begin experimenting with which small ball lineups work best. Kyrie, Shumpert, JR, LeBron, and Love seems to be the most logical small ball lineup on paper but it is important the Cavs find out which lineup will give them the best chance to beat the Warriors at their own game and begin using it.