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.
Cleveland came up big last night at home against Boston. They combined good offense and defense to cruise to 30 point win 116-86. Here is what I learned.
- Cleveland can play defense at least for one night. They will need to play with the same defensive intensity or close to it. We will see if they can maintain that defensive presence Monday night.
- Cleveland probably won’t shoot 50% from three again, but they need to stay in the 35% to 40% range. This gives King James more space to operate when the three is going in.
- Getting scoring from anybody not named James or Love is a good thing. Cleveland had six in double figures last night. This must be duplicated or something close to it.
This one is pretty simple anyone not named Lebron James needs come up big for Cleveland to win this game. Below are some the keys to the game.
- Don’t make it easy for Boston to defend you
- Cleveland D must be a factor
- Cleveland must match Boston’s physical play
- Must shoot a decent percentage from three
- Need to get stops late on defense
Listen Boston is young and hungry team trying to prove the naysayers wrong. So far in these playoffs they have done that. If they can take King James out it would validate this team for now and the future.
For Cleveland they need find some help for Lebron James in terms of making shots on offense and playing individual defense with some pride. James can only do so much when he is on the floor. I’m looking for Cleveland to win this one tonight. Boston has won one road game in the playoffs so far. Protecting home court and winning on the road that’s what it’s about tonight.
Cleveland is playing Boston for the 2nd straight year for the right to play for the NBA championship. This is a surprising match-up because of what both teams had to deal with this year. Boston had the injuries to their two best players and Cleveland had revamp their roster at mid-season. Despite those circumstances both teams have made it back to the NBA version of the Final Four again. Let’s look at the players who will determine who comes out of the Eastern Conference.
Terry Rozier vs George Hill
Rozier has played well this post season replacing Irving after he had 2 knee surgeries. Cleveland will need Hill defend Rozier at a high level to keep this match-up close. Cleveland will need Hill more on defense more than offense. With that said Hill will need maximize his offensive looks if Boston decides to double King James.
Jaylen Brown vs J.R. Smith
This is another match-up where Smith will have to defend at a high level. Brown is capable two-way player who can give you 20+ points on any given night. The same can’t be said for Smith who disappears on offense in some games. Cleveland will need Smith on both ends of the court.
Jason Tatum vs Kyle Korver
Cleveland has to decide who is going to guard Tatum. I’m sorry but Korver isn’t the guy. You can put Lebron on him for short stints but not full-time. Enter Jeff Green who could be the guy to defend Tatum. I’m not sure how this plays out but Cleveland will need to figure it out rather quickly.
Marcus Morris vs Lebron James
Morris has been put in the lineup to guard James. I look for Brown, Morris and Smart to attempt to defend King James. Boston knows what James is capable of and it will be interesting to see what they decide to do defensively against him.
Al Horford vs Kevin Love
Horford will start at the 5 against Love. Cleveland needs to get Love going early and often to establish on the offensive end.
Marcus Smart Jeff Green
Aaron Baynes Tristan Thompson
The benches may or may not be factor in this series since both teams probably will use 8 man rotations. This is another unknown factor that will evolve as the series goes on.
Prediction: Cavaliers win in 6.
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.