LeBron James came in as the leader of the Cavs this past season, and was eventually asked to do everything in the NBA Finals. When the Cavs reached the Finals, James played over 45 minutes per game in six games as he was tasked with the scoring, rebounding, assisting, defending, playmaking, and anything else he could do to help the Cavs win. By Games 5 and 6, James as gassed, and the Cavs eventually fell to the Warriors.
In his four-year career, Kyrie Irving has never played a full, 82-game season. The closest he came was 75 this season, and then he still had to miss seven crucial games in the postseason against the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Golden State Warriors due to injuries.
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During the 2014-15 regular season, LeBron James played 36.1 minutes per game while Irving played 36.4 minutes per game. It’s clear that those numbers will have to go down in order to keep the pair fresh going into the 2016 postseason with championship expectations.
This past season’s MVP won the award playing only 32.7 minutes per game, which is abnormally low for a Most Valuable Player. In LeBron’s four MVP seasons, he played 37.7 minutes in 2008-09, 39 minutes in 2009-10, 37.5 minutes in 2011-2012, and 37.9 minutes in 2012-2013. Although he was able to win a pair of championships in those final two years, James is now three years older and any rest he can get in the regular season could do wonders in the postseason.
The Cavs, in turn, plan to reduce James and Irving’s minutes during the regular season, probably to around 32-33 minutes per game. With the Cavs adding some seasoned veterans as their backups, there’s no reason why LeBron and Kyrie shouldn’t get enough rest during the regular season.
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The Cavs essentially swapped Mike Miller, who always looked like he was struggling through injury, with Richard Jefferson, who just last year was knocking down the long ball and ‘throwing the hammer down’ on opposing players. Also, with Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith back, the pair could also play the interchangeable small forward position for a few minutes as James takes a breather on the bench.
The Cavs also added Mo Williams while re-signing Matthew Dellavedova to another deal. We all know what Delly can do for you as a scrappy and hard-nosed defender who can knock down threes and hit some timely shots, as shown in the 2015 postseason. Mo Williams is another huge addition to the Cavs after showing that he’s still a scoring machine to be dealt with after putting up 52 points in a road game last season against one of the NBA’s best defenses in Indiana. A little known fact here: The Cavs now have four-50 point scorers on their team as Williams has scored 52, Kevin Love has scored 51, Kyrie Irving has scored 57, and LeBron James has scored 61.
With these backups the Cavs have acquired, there’s no reason why LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can’t play about 32 minutes per game rather than the 36+ they played last year. Expect to see it this upcoming season.