With a rough start in the beginning of their highly anticipated season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a 3 game win-streak and currently stand at a decent 8-7 record, tied for the 6th seed with Lebron’s past home, the Miami Heat. Over the summer, many people doubted the Cavaliers and thought that Cleveland’s Big Three between Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Lebron James wouldn’t be sufficient for a championship. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have made significant adjustments on the bench, with the arrival of Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and a delightful surprise in rookie Joe Harris. Although they came a long way from last season’s lineup, one praised element they still lack is defensive strength. Unfortunately, they have been paying the price this season with 7 losses against less dominant teams of the NBA, with the San Antonio Spurs as an exception where the Cavs fell short offensively in the closing seconds. Coach David Blatt understands that in order to make Cleveland a consistent winning team, offense won’t be enough; defense is the key. In the offseason, the Cavs were at the summit of the power rankings; but now that we’ve seen their defensive holes exploited and their shooting occasionally missing expectations, where and when will the Cavs bad habits truly catch up to them? So how far can offense actually take Cleveland, and what can the Cavs do to retrieve their offseason expectations?
Well in terms of lineup, general manager David Griffin said that he will do anything in his power to make major changes in the lineup in order to thrive on the defensive end. But even if he makes changes on the side of the bench, will it be enough to sustain the starting five? The real problem many people have been focalizing on is Kyrie Irving’s and Kevin Love’s lack of effort on the defensive end. Both players were used to carrying their teams on their backs, now that the Cavaliers have developed a more or less experienced team, it is their job to find a more contributing role in order to fit into Lebron James’ style of play. Now not only do they have to adjust their offensive tempo, but now they are asked to drastically improve their defensive style of play. Kyrie Irving has been changing his offensive style of play and has been dropping more and more assists as the season progresses. After the victorious 109-97 win against the Pacers on Saturday night, Kyrie Irving said some pretty convincing words:
“My first three years, it was just making excuses of offensive burdens and all this other stuff and at the end of the day, I just have to do it for the greater good of our team. In order for our team to win, I have to be that kind of guy on the defensive end. You can only talk about it for so long and at one point it just has to be done.”
– Kyrie Irving after Saturday’s win against the Indiana Pacers
On the other hand Kevin Love has been trying to find his tempo in the start of this season. With a 43.9FG%, it seems that he is in a comfortable situation to keep on shooting the ball. He’s been exceptional at the line as well, which at the end of the day helped him collect the 259 points he has scored up until now. Then again, Kevin Love has some attractive offensive stats, but defensively we haven’t been seeing much progress. Even though his defensive efforts can’t be thoroughly translated to the general stats, by watching a game one can notice that he lacks the emotional willingness to lock down some players. During this season, while Kevin Love was playing defense, he allows averagely 32 points scored in the paint. Now to put this on a scale, Kevin Love’s OPP PITP falls short to Joakim Noah’s great 25.3. Then again Joakim Noah plays in the center position, making it even more difficult to dominate the paint defensively. Playing as a Power Forward, Kevin Love has a lesser role in the paint meaning that the margin between Kevin Love’s and Joakim Noah’s OPP PITP is considered to be even bigger. We came across many interviews when Kevin Love is spoken to about his lack of effort on defense. He understands his weaknesses and has been trying to correct them, but how long will it take until we see some results?
“Just understanding it better. I’ve never been really known for that in my career. Being a lockdown defender is something that I know I’ll never be. But as far as being a team defender, being in the right spots…being physical, doing those things – I can get a lot better at that. And just continuing to break down film and see where I can get better out there. So yeah, I think it’s something I can continue to buy into and get better at.”
Nevertheless, we are all excited to see him blend into the Cavaliers new way of play and watch him as he improves this season.
To conclude, the Cavaliers’ season so far has been a rollercoaster, from win-streaks to droughts, one can notice that they have been picking up the pieces they broke. Coach Blatt’s devotion to the team, and Lebron James’ leadership are both two of the many reasons why all Cavs fans should have high hopes for the rest of the season.