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Who Takes the Last Shot?

Mark Duncan

The Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in a long time have a real debate over who should take the final shot at the end of a close game. For much of the 2000s the answer was easy, LeBron. Post LeBron, the answer was Kyrie Irving, and now once again with these two great players united, and the addition of Kevin Love there’s a real dilemma over who should be taking that all important final shot. Earlier in the year in a game against Denver there was a last second shot opportunity and we saw Kevin Love take the shot, although it did seem like the play was tailored for LeBron who was not in position for the pass. This presented the first glimpse of what many outsiders from the team might view as a power struggle, but rather it seems clear that the team is predicated on giving the man with the hot hand the ball in a late game situation. On most teams in the NBA Irving and Love would be unquestionably the player taking the final shot, however on this team they are perceived to take a back seat to the best player in the world, LeBron.

{adinserter 2}It is still very early in the season, and there is a lot of basketball to be played, but some early observations I have made include the fact that Kevin Love has obviously become relegated to more of a long distance striker, rather than the post presence he displayed while playing in Minnesota. As Chris Bosh said, the transition he will have to make will be the hardest, and to this point that seems the case. Love has had to sacrifice an integral part of his offense in order to provide more spacing for LeBron and Kyrie, however with this new move for him it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop as a shooter. He is far superior a shooter to Bosh when he teamed up with LeBron, so if he continues to grow it will be hard imagine he wont have the capabilities to develop into an even better shooter, a scary thought for much of the NBA. In the past few games the player who seems to have had the most chemistry with LeBron is Irving. The two really seem to be hitting it off on the court, and they are complementing each other’s games’ quite nicely. Kyrie has proven that he can be deadly in stretches of games and provide the dagger that LeBron has sometimes not been able to provide in this early stage of the season, as we saw with Kyrie telling LeBron to be more aggressive in Boston.

This discussion of who takes the shot for the Cavaliers starts with LeBron, and ends up coming back to LeBron. Nothing against Kyrie and Love, but neither of those two players possess the talent of taking the ball to the rim that LeBron has. Those two players are top 10/top 15 caliber NBA players, but what separates LeBron from much of the league is his ability to want, and score at will against defenses in a variety of ways. When he sets his mind to going to the basket there aren’t very many players/teams capable of stopping him. While Love can undoubtedly knock down a shot and Kyrie and can dribble and create a magnificent shot, LeBron is able to get a full head of steam and drive the ball, and more importantly finish at the hoop unlike very many the NBA has ever seen. This predicament is one that the Cavs should feel fortunate about being in, as there are players not mentioned like Mike Miller, Dion Waiters and with the emergence of Joe Harris who can likely make a defense pay as well. It will certainly be interesting to see how this team decides over personnel and shot selection in late game situations as this season progresses.

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