For a team that came within two wins of an NBA championship, the Cavs still have several unanswered questions about their roster going into next season. Most of the questions are about contracts, and not necessarily if, but when Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and LeBron James will be re-signed. So far, though, very little has been made of the actual adjustments that the team needs to make strategically to improve next season. Sure, having a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love probably helps us out, but from an Xs and Os standpoint, what changes can we make on either end of the floor to ensure that we dominate the Eastern Conference and have our best chance to win a title against the Western Conference contenders.
The Cavs demonstrated in the playoffs that they can play defense at an elite level. They did so, however, with two of their best players on the bench nursing injuries. The team identity was seemingly redefined when Irving and Love went down, and the team enforced a slow-down, half-court style offense and a hard-nosed, physical play on the defensive end.
The adjustment the coaching staff will have to make is incorporating their more dynamic offensive players into that hard-nosed, lock down defensive style. With the difference in the team’s pre- and post-injury identities, it is clear that the team could use more two-way players. Their best offensive players at point guard, shooting guard, and power forward (Irving, Smith, Love) all have superior defensive players coming off the bench to replace them (Dellavedova, Shumpert, Thompson).
Alex Sabri ·
A lineup with Love and Thompson in the frontcourt might be the most dynamic on both ends of the floor because of Thompson’s versatility on defense and Love’s ability to score in the post and stretch the floor on offense. The hope on the offensive end is that the Cavs can play a more up tempo style than they did in the finals to exploit the creativity of LeBron and Irving. There were several games this year where Thompson was the only big guy to play in the fourth quarter. There will probably be a few situations next season as well where fourth quarter lineups vary and some of our better offensive weapons stay on the bench in order to matchup with an opponent’s offensive strengths.
The Cavs have definitely shown commitment to keeping this team together with the long-term signings of Love and Iman Shumpert. The questions regarding next season will soon change from contract extensions to actual adjustments on the court. While the team will finally have their first full offseason together, several improvements with chemistry and health should be made organically. The team will likely, over time, be looking for players committed to both ends of the floor to make sure our identity is defined before another championship run in the playoffs.