Three areas in which the Cavs can still improve
Three concerns about the Cavaliers, who have won 21 of 26 entering Tuesday’s game at Dallas and don’t deserve a column like this:
1. Kevin Love must become more than just a 3-point shooter
As loyal Twitter follower Joshua (@joshtapostolic) wrote to me: "A few inside touches for Love each half would help the team and yes, probably make him happy too."
Joshua used LeBron James’ time with the Heat, and power forward Chris Bosh, as an example of what may be going on with Love.
"I didn’t agree with Miami’s use of Bosh," he wrote. "In my opinion, it was lazy. You can have a top two in terms of options and still have a third with a few go-to-plays."
Joshua added: "Love is able to get it done inside and this team could use it — and a TRUE third option."
I agree with all of that. Love is very good on the perimeter. So coach David Blatt and the Cavs don’t need to completely eliminate that aspect of his game. And a lot of teams would kill for a power forward who averages 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds next to LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
But as Joshua said, a few inside touches a half wouldn’t kill them. Part of it is on Love, part of it is on the coaching staff, part of it is on LeBron. It has to be a collective effort.
Final thought from Joshua: The Cavs traded Andrew Wiggins for Love, who can become a free agent at season’s end. "Wiggins is gone," Joshua wrote. "It’d be wise to not blow the audition with Love."
2. Timofey Mozgov must get some fourth-quarter minutes
The Cavs’ starting center hasn’t played in a fourth quarter since Feb. 26. The Cavs are winning and I’m sure Blatt has his reasons. I just have no idea what those reasons may be, even after Blatt has been asked.
Joshua again put it best.
"In my opinion, he’s needed, especially when you see the Cavs gave up 50-plus points to Atlanta in the paint," he wrote. "I like Tristan Thompson too, but Mozgov can hit that 10-15 foot jumper (it allows more space) and he protects the rim. (Like Thompson), Moz too gets offensive rebounds."
Mostly, the Cavs are going to need Mozgov in the playoffs, at crunch time, when the games become more of a grind-it-out, get-the-ball-down-low affair. It’s important that Mozgov (and yes, backup center Kendrick Perkins) get some of those meaningful minutes now.
Going small may work in the Israeli leagues, but in the NBA, you’d better know how to utilize your size in April and May.
"He’s the coach, he gets that call," Joshua wrote. "But it’s one thing if Mozgov & TT shared time in the fourth. But 5-6 games of 0 minutes in the fourth? I respect Blatt, but his rotations are odd."
3. Kyrie Irving needs to handle the ball more often
Irving is having a career season. It actually starts at the defensive end, where he’s made great leaps in determination alone. At the very least, he’s pestering opposing point guards and endlessly making them work to get into the paint.
My guess is LeBron has a lot to do with that, getting in Irving’s ear and reminding Irving that he’s "the head of the snake" on defense.
Offensively, Irving is as good as ever. He can get to the basket against anyone. He usually does a great job of finishing or drawing a foul. He makes his free throws. He plays smart, forcing things only when the Cavs need it.
LeBron can bring the ball up the floor, no doubt. But LeBron, Kyrie, whoever — the ball-handler’s job is to keep things moving. The Cavs are at their best when the ball swings quickly from side to side. We’ve seen all season how well it’s worked for the Hawks. No one in Atlanta holds the ball for more than two seconds.
Granted, that doesn’t need to be the offense in Cleveland. The Cavs have the luxury of superstars who can create for themselves. But there needs to be an in-between. Frankly, I’d like to see LeBron in the post more often. No one can defend him one-on-one underneath, and he is an exceptional passer out of double teams.
But that would mean giving the ball to Kyrie and letting him generating the offense. Not all the time, but more.
I used Joshua’s tweets because he sort of summed up what I’ve been hearing from most fans. There aren’t reasons for great concern, or perhaps any concern at all. But fans seem to find Blatt’s rotations confusing, and if the fans feel that way, imagine how the men in uniform might feel.
But I can tell you everyone is happy with all the winning. They just want it to end with a championship. The league is wide open, perhaps more than any time in the past 40 years. That gives the Cavs a great shot a championship. While no one expects things to go perfectly all the time, fans don’t want this opportunity to be wasted. You certainly cannot blame them for that.
The good news is, despite some of this nitpicking and these (very minor) concerns, the Cavs appear to have as good of a shot as anyone.