Seventeen games into the 2017-18 NBA regular season and the Cleveland Cavaliers starting lineup is still in flux. They have seen LeBron James, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Dwyane Wade, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon play as a part of the starting unit and have seem to finally have some consistency with James, Crowder, Love, and Smith when their win streak hit five after the team blew out the Detroit Pistons on Monday night 116-88.
The biggest thing holding the team right back now is the Cavaliers point guard rotation. Isaiah Thomas, who was one of the key pieces of this summers’ Kyrie Irving deal, is still sidelined until probably late-December to early-January with his hip injury and the Cavs are not rushing him to get back to the floor, prioritizing his health over everything. With Thomas sidelined the Wine and Golders were expecting to turn to Derrick Rose to serve as the team’s starting point guard but he too has dealt with injuries during his time in Cleveland. This injury all stems back to this play:
The uncalled flagrant foul on then-Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe has seriously pruned Rose’s playing time with the Cavs as he was sidelined with the initial injury for five games until he was able to return in a blowout loss to his former team, the New York Knicks. Rose was then able to play for a few more games until the same ankle injury flared up and he is now sidelined for the foreseeable future.
With Rose down, the Cavs then turned to shooting guard Iman Shumpert to fill the void as the Cavaliers starting point guard. While Shumpert did spend some time with the Knicks as a point guard in spurts, the one is still not his natural position and his overall shaky offensive game and tendency to over-dribble has killed the Cavs’ offensive flow. But even with Shumpert being shaky head coach Ty Lue was steadfast in keeping Shumpert in the starting unit until Rose was able to properly heal his ankle. Unfortunately for Cleveland, this plan was cut short as the team lost Shumpert to a knee injury for a little over two weeks after injuring himself against the LA Clippers.
With Rose and now Shumpert down the Cavs had to turn to their fourth-string option at point guard in 36-year-old veteran Jose Calderon. After seeing limited play time all season, Calderon turned in his best game as a member of the Cavs against the Pistons finishing with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
While Calderon was a big-time part of why the Cavs have currently won five in a row, they simply cannot expect him to turn in those numbers on a consistent basis while Thomas, Rose, and even Shumpert all recover. Even with Thomas soon returning the biggest hole right now for the Cavs is at their backup point guard spot. Derrick Rose, as much as the whole NBA world wants him to succeed, cannot stay healthy for the life of him and Shumpert is not an actual point guard or reliable offensive option. Instead of not addressing this now, a problem that the Cavs suffered last season, there are three possible options for the Cavs to plug the hole at point guard.
1) Bringing back a fan-favorite
Matthew Dellavedova solidified himself as one of the most beloved players in franchise history. Dellavedova, or Delly, has been an inspiring story from the fact that he was an undrafted free agent to an NBA Champion and was able to make bank following the Cavs first title by signing a four-year $38 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Well, things have been up and down for Dellavedova during his time with Milwaukee who was originally signed to be the Bucks starting point guard. He then lost this spot to current Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and became a spark-plug for the team, much like he was with Cleveland. Then this season the Bucks made the move to acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns for Greg Monroe and their 2018 first round draft pick causing even more of a dilemma for Dellavdova in Cream City. Now finding himself third on the Bucks’ point guard rotation Dellavedova should ask for a trade to his former team in the Cavs.
The easiest way to make this happen is in a trade sending Iman Shumpert to Milwaukee straight up for Dellavedova. This trade makes sense for both parties as Shumpert can provide more length and defensive ability for the team, something Bucks head coach Jason Kidd has a panache for. For Cleveland, this trade would be awesome as it gives them a reliable option to hold the team over while Isaiah Thomas recovers and an even more reliable option off of the bench when he returns. Plus who does not want to hear Cavs color commentator calling out Delly Treys again?
2) The enemy of the Cavs’ enemy can be their friend
Continuing with the theme of trading for point guards on the outside looking in, a team that the Cavs could consider calling up are the San Antonio Spurs for guard Dejounte Murray. Originally viewed as San Antonio’s point guard of the future, Murray lost his starting spot to Patty Mills while incumbent starting guard Tony Parker recovers from injury. With Parker soon on his way back, Mills will return to the bench for the Spurs and Murray will be the odd-man out of their point guard rotation. The Cavs should step in and seize the opportunity to acquire Murray.
The easiest way to make this happen is to form some kind of trade package surrounding Ante Zizic, a prospect that could really grow and flourish under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s tutelage. With Murray, the Cavs would immediately upgrade their roster and allow them to have a deadly option coming off the bench once Isaiah Thomas is healthy. This also does not cause a huge dent in the Spurs’ rotation and still allows them to keep pace with Cleveland’s arch-rival, the Golden State Warriors.
The other cool thing would be the fact that Murray would be able to reunite with a close friend in Isaiah Thomas, who both played at the University of Washington’s basketball program. The former Huskies would be dynamic for the Cavs and would easily launch them closer to keeping pace with the Warriors for NBA contention.
3) Stay the course and continue to build chemistry
The third and final option for the Cavaliers is to simply just hope that the injury bug does not continue to wreak havoc on their point guard rotation and continue to build chemistry amongst the team.
The last few seasons, the Cavaliers biggest attribute was the fact that the team had rock solid chemistry, both on and off the court. This chemistry has been one of the key factors for why the team has been so successful and ultimately why they won the first title in Cavaliers franchise history.
The 2017-18 Cavs have struggled out of the gates and the biggest issue, besides not having Thomas or reliable point guards, is the fact that the team does not have the chemistry that the last few Cavs teams have had. But lately, the Cavs have looked great, winning five in a row and blowing out the Detroit Pistons to lock in the latest win. The team has started to gel on offense and they will continue to look less like the worse defense in NBA history, and things will only improve with the team continuing to get healthy and continuing to remind the team who the best team in the Eastern Conference really is. (Spoiler: it is not the Boston Celtics.)
While the Cavs point guard situation has been in flux this season, they do have plenty of options to try and fix it. They could bring back a fan favorite in Matthew Dellavedova or make a trade for Spurs guard Dejounte Murray to try and solve the problem. The Cavs could also do absolutely nothing and continue to rebuild the chemistry that was broken up after the Kyrie Irving trade. In the end, the Cavs have looked great lately but the hole at point guard has been more and more noticeable. Hopefully, this will not be a problem in the future as they look to win their second championship in three seasons.