Despite the way injuries have threatened the fate of the Cleveland Cavaliers this postseason, they are still on track of attaining what they set to accomplish from day one. Sans Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, Cleveland is grinding their way to a possible NBA Finals appearance on the iffy back of LeBron James. Sounds familiar, right? It certainly brings back memories of the 2007 Cavaliers version as they were also up against the East’s top regular season team in the Detroit Pistons, who had a concept of team ball akin to today’s Atlanta Hawks, and they only had LeBron James to rely on as the team’s legitimate All Star.
On that note, we just couldn’t help but compare these two versions of our beloved Cavaliers and to make it interesting, we took Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out of the equation since the Cavs will be finishing the East Finals without these two.
The 2007 version featured Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, LeBron James, Larry Hughes, and Eric Snow while the current five consists of Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, LeBron James, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova. To begin with, the current LeBron, although being less spry and explosive, brings along tons of experience and coupled with whatever physical abilities he has right now, easily trumps the more prolific and younger version of himself.
Here’s a comparison of the two teams’ statistics in the playoffs. The stats from the Cavs team of 2007 include the finals:
To no surprise, the rest of the 2007 starters also gets trumped by today’s version. Z always had trouble guarding agile bigs and Mozgov can outrun the Cavalier legend on any given day. Drew Gooden may have the wider offensive repertoire but Tristan Thompson is the more tenacious rebounder and defender while also having the higher basketball IQ and better hands. Larry Hughes is slightly overtaken by Iman Shumpert due to the latter’s propensity to not overdo things and being a better compliment to LeBron James. Eric Snow against Matthew Dellavedova is a virtual tossup but the Aussie gets the nod here due to his knack for hitting outside shots, a must in every LeBron James-led teams.
The 2007 rotation featured Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, Donyell Marshall, and Daniel Gibson while today’s bench can only boast of J.R. Smith, James Jones, and Shawn Marion who was only forced into the rotation. Obviously, the bench of 2007 won this area by taking over the numbers game. This isn’t a knock on the abilities of then-solid contributors, Anderson Varejao, Donyell Marshall, and Daniel Gibson but Cleveland has been badly hit by injuries this year and they are simply trying to make the most out a, virtually, seven-man rotation.
In 2007, Mike Brown was already in his second season as an NBA head coach while David Blatt is only a greenhorn in the NBA. However, Blatt already has two decades of coaching experience overseas and has built a reputation of being one of the best basketball minds outside the NBA. Mike Brown is one of the best defensive minds out there but the separation is because Blatt is not a one-dimensional coach. The Cavaliers was known to be an offensive juggernaut during the regular season but, out of necessity, became a defensive dynamo thanks to the adaptability of Coach Blatt.
He’s also able to make the tough but necessary decisions as evidenced by his benching of All Star forward Kevin Love for entire fourth quarters. The national media won’t give it to him but Blatt deserves more credit than he is getting right now.
While having a lackluster bench, today’s Cavalier team proves to be the better one mainly because of their leaders in LeBron James and David Blatt. This current bunch also has better chemistry and clearer idea on what their roles are on the floor. Tristan Thompson won’t be taking too many shots as opposed to Drew Gooden falling in love with those long jumpers. Iman Shumpert is also embracing his role as a catch and shoot option on offense compared to Larry Hughes giving up open shots for unsuccessful penetrations. Ultimately, the sense of urgency and heart that today’s Cavalier bunch has been displaying outweighs any personnel advantages.