With the NBA draft next week and free agency starting in July. The Cleveland Cavaliers are staring down another reboot of the franchise. This will likely be without Lebron James and the Cavaliers become a lottery team again. There is plenty of blame to share between James and Cavalier management for the direction this team is headed. Cavalier management sacrificed the future for the win now mentality. After going to four straight NBA Finals this team is headed for free fall to the bottom of the NBA. Since 2004 Cleveland has went into five drafts with no picks and made very questionable picks in other drafts. Out of the 25 players drafted by Cleveland since 2004 Tristan Thompson is the only draft choice still with the team outside of James. Buying and trading for championships isn’t the optimal strategy for long-term success. Here is the difference between Cleveland and Golden State most of the Warriors core players were drafted. Cleveland management needs to evaluate talent better and commit developing homegrown talent to give the franchise some stability. Winning now has a downside that Cleveland is about experience again I believe could have been avoided. Lebron James didn’t help Cleveland for the future by not being committed that would have went long way in giving the franchise long term stability. I get it James has earned the right to control his future. Many of the Cavaliers players transactions were run by him to see if it was okay with him. So now the Cavalier franchise is trending in the wrong direction because of Cleveland management and Lebron James. This the first in a series of pieces where I will document how this situation could have been avoided and we shouldn’t even be talking about Lebron James leaving.
Cleveland had every chance to win this game in regulation. Due to various reasons which we won’t get into here. Below is my analysis from Game 1 on what Cleveland needs to keep doing and what they need to make adjustments on.
Cavalier Players Not Named Lebron James
25/67 37% 7/31 3P 23% 63 points
The supporting cast only scored 12 more points than King James. Cleveland needs a 3rd option who can get 15-18 points. The three-point shooting has to improve from 23%.
Cleveland 53 Golden St 38 Cleveland +15
Cleveland crushed the Warriors on the boards. Cleveland needs to capitalize on their rebounding to slow Golden St down on the offensive end.
Cleveland 19 Golden St 4 Cleveland +15
Another smash spot for the Cavaliers. They need score more 2nd chance points. Again Cleveland needs to make the Warriors pay if they going to give that many offensive rebounds.
Golden St 31 Cleveland 18 Golden St +13
This is the difference between missing and making shots. The Warriors shot 51% while Cleveland shot 44%. Cleveland needs to make more shots and defend better.
Golden St Backcourt 3P Shooting
Curry 5/11 45% Thompson 5/10 50%
You can’t allow Curry and Thompson to have 21 attempts from three. Make them score off the dribble. You can’t help off either one of them on defense.
Thirteen missed shots off Lebron James passes.
Lebron should have 12-15 assists in this game. But no one could make an open shot. If Cleveland doesn’t start hitting shots the Warriors are going to let the King get his and bet the others won’t step up.
With a little over nine hours until tipoff of the NBA Finals the talk is more about King James impending free agency part 3. Lebron James has earned the right to play wherever he wants. He controls his career in a way like no one ever has. I have seen this kid go from 14-year-old basketball prodigy to sure fire Hall of Famer. We know this isn’t about money it’s about championships and at 33 years old he is on the clock. More rings would cement him as the GOAT and he wants to be the best player ever. As a fan, I hope he stays in Cleveland, but the odds don’t seem good just like Cleveland winning the NBA Championship this year. If does leave I hope it not like the last time and cooler heads prevail. It’s going to hurt no matter how it’s communicated. Four years ago, the prodigal son came home only to leave again. There always going be hurt feelings no matter what. At the end of the day Lebron has to do what he feels best for him and sadly Cleveland may not be tied to that again.
Lebron James added another chapter to his legendary career tonight with a running bank shot to beat Toronto and take a 3-0 lead in the series. Below are my final grades for this game.
Lebron James – A
Making the game winner at the buzzer alone gets the King his grade. James finished with 38 points, 6 rebounds and 7 dimes. If you were at game or watched it on TV you witnessed history making greatness from Lebron.
Kevin Love – B
Love had his second straight double double with 21 points and 16 rebounds. This awaking has come at the right time for Cleveland and Lebron.
Kyle Korver – B
Korver scored 18 points on 8 field goal attempts including 4 treys.
George Hill – B
Hill scored 12 points on 7 shots, along with 2 treys.
Jeff Green – C
Green scored 11 points off the bench. He also missed a free throw that allowed the Raptors tie the game with 8 seconds left.
J.R. Smith – C
No offensive contribution from Swish in this game. He did play defense which is what they need on the perimeter.
Jordan Clarkson – D
Not much to say here. He jacked up a couple shots and was very shaky handling the ball.
Rodney Hill – D
Same as Clarkson
Tristan Thompson – Inc
Love effects TT playing time. If Love is playing well Thompson’s minutes will be limited.
As I sit here waiting for the NBA Finals in about 2 hours Cavalier fan is waiting to see what our team will do. Can this franchise win it’s first NBA title and bring the first professional championship to Cleveland in 51 years. On the other side Golden State hasn’t won a championship in 40 years. The Warriors have no players with NBA Finals experience, which may or may not play a factor in this series. Tonight begins the road to that elusive championship for both teams.
The Warriors have the best backcourt in the league in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They are two of the best shooters in the league from the three point line. Curry has made himself a top five player with his MVP season. Thompson has grown each season into one of the better two way players in the NBA. Cleveland’s backcourt story is a little different with Kyrie Irving being limited because of injuries. Irving and Iman Shumpert will need to do something special to keep this matchup close.
Lebron James is on a mission that could enhance his legacy to an even higher level if he brings the trophy back to Cleveland. Draymond Green who has become the Warriors best frontcourt player will have his hands full trying to check the King. Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes will need to keep Tristan Thompson off the boards, which nobody has been able to do this post season.
There is no question the Warriors have the deeper bench in which they can go five deep into the bench. At the most Cleveland will go three deep into their bench. No Warriors bench player is as explosive as J.R. Smith who can go off for 30+ points on any given night will be an x factor.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 6.
Today is a big day in Cleveland Cavaliers franchise history. They need a win today thanks to a Derrick Rose game winner at the buzzer Friday night. This is a must win game for Cleveland without a doubt not wanting to go down 3-1 to the Bulls. The Cavaliers are banged up right now with Shumpert, Irving and obviously Kevin Love less than 100% or out. But they are not offering any excuses because of injuries which is a good thing. I have not been overly impressed with the Bulls two wins in this series. In game one they shot exceptionally well, while in game three Rose banked in the game winner enough said. Defensively and on the boards the Bulls have turned up the aggression to which Cleveland needs to answer back. Another key is the play of Kyrie Irving who was averaging 25 points per game in the series. Irving only had 11 points on 3/13 shooting on Friday night. I don’t know if it was the injury or the Bulls defense that slowed him down. Whatever the case is Irving needs to drop 20+ points today and be a factor in this game. Lebron James is averaging a near triple double in this series, but he is only shooting 39% from the field. He needs to shoot higher percentage and finish better at the rim. He is also is leading everybody with 15 turnovers in the series of which 7 came in game three. James and Irving are the two best players in this series by far. Today is the day they put their mark on this series and this franchise. It’s not about the other players who still need to contribute. It’s about James and Irving today bringing this back to Cleveland tied up 2-2 period.
Kyrie Irving Grade = A
In his first playoff series Irving played well offensively. No weakness on offense can score off the bounce, mid-range or downtown. Needs to guard better in the 2nd round of playoffs.
J.R. Smith Grade = C
Smith made his first big mistake since joining Cleveland with Jae Crowder incident. Swish has played solid defense better than expected. Smith becomes 3rd option with Love out, but will miss the first two games of the next series.
Timofey Mozgov Grade = B
Mozgov played decent in this series. He was like the fifth option on offense with most of his points coming off pick and rolls. He did protect the rim pretty good.
Kevin Love Grade = B
Before the injury Love looked like was finding his groove. Love had to two good games before going down. We will have to wait until next year if he opts in.
Lebron James Grade = A
King James does what he does being the best at his craft. It’s championship or bust at this point. Lebron is going to do his part it’s other players who need to step to bring the gold to Cleveland.
Iman Shumpert Grade = B
Shumpert played great defense along with some bonus offense. We need more of that as the playoffs continue.
Tristan Thompson Grade = B
Thompson is offensive rebounding machine one of the best in the league. Another player Cleveland will need to get more out of as the playoffs move on.
James Jones Grade = C
The specialist wasn’t hitting the three ball in this series. He has to hit that shot to make up for being a defensive liability.
Matthew Dellavedova Grade = C
Delly will play enough to give Kyrie a breather.
Kendrick Perkins Grade = Inc
Can u say enforcer?
Shawn Marion Grade = Inc
Just a cameo appearance.