The Cleveland Cavaliers have been an uprising franchise since 13x all-star Lebron James came back to the city with a promise of bringing a Larry O’Brien trophy for the city, a city that has been starving of a championship for 52 years. He was able to fulfill that promise last season, but can he do it again?
The Cavaliers had a strong start to their season, but lately they haven’t been living up to their expectations. The Cavs went 25-7 in 2016 and it looked as if they had the most dominant and explosive group. Their chemistry seemed as solid as ever as the big three’s connection started to turn heads.
One of their wins came on Christmas day as they hosted the Golden State Warriors in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season. The Cavs went on to defeat the Warriors on Kyrie Irving’s buzzer beater 109-108. It was at that point that people thought a two-peat was upcoming. Then the Cavs began losing rhythm and chemistry and their dream of bringing another championship to the city of Cleveland became far-fetched.
The Cavs have gone 17-12 in 2017. With this record they still are in 1st place on the eastern conference, but it does make you wonder if this indeed a championship contending team?
The Cavs skid was evident as their offensive and defensive game started to depreciate.
Much of that can be blamed on J.R. Smith’s thumb injury. Smith hasn’t played a game since December 21, 2016. His replacement, Deandre Liggins did a decent job filling in for Smith in the first few games, but all though he is heavily present in the defensive game he lacks the heart, grit and offensive talent of J.R. Smith.
The Cavs then picked up one of the greatest shooters in the NBA to fill in for Smith but he wasn’t the answer they were looking for. Korver wasn’t the answer they were looking for. In his first 12 games he scored only 86 points. But he shortly improved, it only took him six game to surpass those 86 points. He did develop into a solid scorer and complete player off the bench but he still lacked what Smith provided, solid defending.
Fortunately, Smith returned in a losing effort vs. Pistons Thursday night.
Smith wasn’t the only victim of the injury bug for the Cavs. The Cavs suffered a major blow after losing Kevin Love after knee surgery. Before the injury, Kevin Love was playing at his best level this season. He was a dominant force in the paint with his exceptional post up game and was a rebounding machine. That is exactly what the Cavs need and lack right now.
The Cavs have been running a smaller lineup due to the injury. Richard Jefferson has been starting at the 4 position and the Cavs have been forced to heavily rely on Tristan Thompson defensively and on the glass.
They have fallen to too many non contending teams along with some under .500 making some people wonder if they are the same championship team from last season. They have lost this year against the Mavericks, Kings and Pelicans; all teams under .500 for the season.
The Cavs have lost to big teams as well, their most embarrassing loss came the second time they played the Warriors when they lost by 35 points. This could be the matchup we see in this year’s NBA finals and it makes you wonder if the Cavs can handle the Warriors in a seven game series.
It’s true that GSW is filled with an overpowered team but the Cavs have many dangerous weapons, they just need to utilize them and keep them consistent.
Ultimately, the Cavs championship chances sit on the performance and the consistency of the big three: Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Their performance will lead to a more confident and enthusiastic roster. It can help get a more confident and relaxed Tristan Thompson, a more confident and efficient Kyle Korver and a more efficient JR Smith on both sides of the ball.
When you look at the progress and success of other teams like the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and even the Washington Wizards, it’s hard to confidently say that they will have the same postseason success as they had last season.