The Cleveland Cavaliers have gone 17-7 since they replaced David Blatt with Tyronn Lue in late January. The decision was a total shock when it happened, mostly because the Cavaliers were the best team in the Eastern Conference and looked well on their way to making a second-straight appearance in the NBA Finals.
But in the view of Cleveland’s front office, to be even better than their best selves, a change was necessary. And ever since Blatt was fired, the Cavaliers, at times, have looked really, really good — like, Golden State Warriors good:
Since Ty Lue took over Jan. 23, Cleveland is second in offensive efficiency (111.5 points per possesions) behind only Golden State (112.6)
In 41 games under Blatt, Cleveland averaged 105.6 points per 100 possessions, good for fifth in the league. That’s remarkable considering they didn’t have Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov for a good chunk of those games.
The sample size under Lue is smaller, but the improvement on offense is undeniable. Is that a positive side effect from everybody getting healthy, or are guys playing better because they’re "happier" with Lue instead of Blatt?
It’s a somewhat complicated question. Yes, the offense is noticeably more efficient, but that doesn’t mean their problems are solved. For all the talk of increasing tempo, the Cavs are still one of the slowest teams in the league. They aren’t launching more than one three per game more than they already were, and their defense has fallen from fifth to 13th.
Irving looks better, but that’s simply a case of him knocking off the rust. More importantly, Kevin Love is averaging the same exact number of points per game (15.7) under Lue as he was with Blatt, but his rebounds have dropped and he’s less efficient.
These are major concerns for Cleveland if they want to even reach the NBA Finals, let alone win it all. A league-average defense won’t get it done against the Warriors.