King James Gospel’s weekly roundtable has an eye on LeBron James, Norris Cole, Cedi Osman and solutions to the Cleveland Cavaliers recent struggles.
Well, it was fun.
The honeymoon is over. LeBron James said as much following the Cleveland Cavaliers third straight loss. Over the course of the Cavs struggles, Tyronn Lue identified 151 bad defensive plays by his team which makes sense, given that they were shellacked by teams that decided to destroy them inside.
The Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back with a nice win over the Toronto Raptors, the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Still, that was just one game. What’s in store for the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, and thereafter?
King James Gospel contributors Daniel Opacich and Jackson Flickinger team up with site expert to answer the burning questions about the Cavs following their three-game stumble.
Norris Cole and Cedi Osman, two young players who could potentially become rotation players for the Cleveland Cavaliers are also discussed.
What’s wrong with the Cavs?
DanO: It seems the Cavs have lost their defensive intensity. Our Bigs need to be much more physical and lock down the paint… 68 points in the paint (in their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks) is ridiculous.
Jackson Flickinger: There are a couple things wrong with the Cavs. None of which I believe are ones that can’t be corrected.
The Cavs two biggest problems on the court is that they aren’t getting enough support offensively and they are struggling defensively. The Big Three are all playing great. This is the best that we’ve seen the Big Three look in terms of scoring. Kevin Love looks like he is finally getting comfortable in his role offensively. However, they aren’t getting any help. Because J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are both having sub-par years, the Cavs aren’t getting the consistent production that they got from those two players last year.
Additionally they aren’t getting any support off of the bench. Channing Frye is their most consistent scorer in the second unit. Unfortunately, he missed some time this Frye has missed some time this year with the death of both his parents in a one month sons. Without him, the Cavs get virtually no scoring off of the bench. Furthermore, Richard Jefferson has been an inconsistent shooter, Iman Shumpert has come back to earth and Mike Dunleavy Jr. has been hurt, but even when he isn’t he has been underwhelming. Kay Felder has not provided that spark off of the bench. Chris Andersen doesn’t look like he has anything at all left in the tank.
With the Cavs inability to score off of the bench, I believe Jordan McRae should be given more minutes. He certainly has the ability to score, even though his defense is suspect. I believe the Cavs need to add another piece to the bench. Preferably at backup point guard.
Defense was a major concern during the second half of last season as well. However, the Cavs showed that they can flip the switch defensively in the playoffs. I am not that concerned about their lack of defense right now even though it is a major reason why they are losing.
Q. Albertie: The answer to me seems to be predictability on offense, a lack of size inside and Lue being afraid to go outside-the-box to work out the kinks in the rotation. The Cavs don’t have a lot of great one-on-one defenders but they haven’t put players in place to help the team defense either. Until last game as the Cavs started DeAndre Liggins in place of Smith after the latter went down with an injury. The Cavs also lack a real scoring threat on the bench, a matter that changes if Smith coming off of it.
DanO: I’m still in full belief that the Cavs need a backup playmaking point guard. It’s really a shame what happened between the Cavs and Mo Williams. It perplexes me why we haven’t bit the bullet and released him. We NEED the roster spot for someone (like Cole).
Jackson Flickinger: As I pointed out earlier, the Cavs do need help off of the bench. Cole could provide a little insurance.
Shumpert and Felder have shown that they aren’t capable of handling the backup point guard duties. Cole would be an upgrade from both of them at that position and I believe that Cole would be a nice pickup.
Q. Albertie: I’m not too sure Cole is the answer at point guard. He doesn’t have the size to guard multiple positions or have the three-point shooting the Cavs would want from their point guards. I believe there’s a reason that Cole went to China in the first place and why he hasn’t been signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers yet, he’s not coming.
Is LeBron too passive?
DanO: LeBron James is just playing possum. He does this every year and it makes us question him… until he dominates in the playoffs. But the fact is, the way LeBron plays, the way the rest of the guys play (except for Kyrie, he stays who he is no matter what).
Jackson Flickinger: LeBron is not being too passive. Maybe if he was playing like this in the playoffs you could make that argument, but it is the beginning of December. We are still five months away from the playoffs. We don’t want to have a soon to be 32 year-old playing 40 minutes a night while carrying the scoring load. The reason why James left Cleveland in the first place was so he didn’t have to bare the entire scoring load. Also, part of the reason why he was lured back was because he had two established players in Kyrie and Love that could carry that load.
The Cavs don’t need LeBron to be Russell Westbrook or James Harden right now. There are other capable scoring options on the team. I don’t in any way believe that he is being too passive.
Q. Albertie: James doesn’t need to have the team highs in every category like he used to earlier in his career. However, it’s crazy to see him passing up so many open shots. I wish there was s statistic that showed how many times a player has the opportunity to make a play at the rim but instead passes it out. James would have to be the league leader. Nonetheless, James came out with energy and aggression at the outset of the team’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Finishing with a team-high 34 points and consistently converting in the paint rather than passing up for the assist, James led his team to a victory over a team on a six-game winning streak. I get that James needs to save some energy for the playoffs, however, the Cavs will be saying what playoffs if their best player doesn’t play like the best player in the league as much as possible.
Looking at next year, do you see Cedi Osman being next in a long line of successful Euro prospects?
DanO: I’m not sure what this team needs is another shooting guard. If he was a point guard, I’d be all in. Not familiar with his game.
Jackson Flickinger: The idea of getting another great European player is great, but nothing about Osman has me too excited. He could become a great player, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. For every Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingas there are a dozen European players that don’t make it in the league.
Osman has great size, but his numbers in Europe really don’t jump off the page. He is averaging just over 10 points a game against much weaker competition. He is having a much better season from behind the arc, however over his career he has shown to be a middle of the road three point shooter.
I would love for Osman to come over here and be a productive player. However, I really don’t see that happening.
Q. Albertie: I’m not quite sure. He does seem to have tremendous 3-and-D potential as a swingman and I believe he’s more agile and athletic than defenders will expect. With that said, the Cavs met with Osman last week and it seems like it was a meeting with a purpose and not merely coincidence as Dunleavy Jr. struggles, McRae has looked inconsistent and will be a restricted free agent after this season and both, in addition to Richard Jefferson and James Jones, are likely to be off the Cavs roster at the start of the 2018-2019 season.
Do the Cavs turn the ship around?
DanO: It is way too early for any concern. The one thing I want to see… I want to see the Cavs play the Raptors Monday night like it is game 7 of the ECF’s. This is a dangerous team and it would help us get our intensity back (the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors 116-112 on Monday night).
Jackson Flickinger: Yes they do. They have LeBron on the team. I’m not worried and neither should you. We saw what LeBron was capable of doing the last two seasons in the playoffs. In 2015 Cleveland entered the playoffs playing well, but halfway through the second-round two members of the Big Three were injured. The Cavs still went on to the Finals and nearly pulled off the upset. That was with suspect coaching and no depth whatsoever. Last year the Cavs went into the playoffs healthy and beat the best regular season team ever in the Finals.
If the Cavs go into the playoffs healthy they will be a very tough out. There is no reason to panic. They don’t give out trophies in December.
Q. Albertie: The Cavs have the talent to win games but that doesn’t mean everything is working like a well-lies machine in The Land. The ball movement the team had against the New York Knicks in the season opener needs to return. So does the team’s intensity on defense. I believe everything will work out for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the end though.
What did you think of the Cleveland Cavaliers three-game skid preceding their win over the Toronto Raptors? Are there any questions you want to ask? Let us know in the comments section or Twitter @KJG_NBA.