Eight games or 10 percent into the season, LeBron James and the Cavaliers are struggling after a four-game losing streak. What is more disturbing is that they got beaten by low-level teams namely the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, and the Indiana Pacers by a whopping average margin of almost 16 points. The Cavs are now sporting an anemic 3-5 win-loss record.
The main reason for the Cavaliers’ poor showing is their horrible defense. The team ranks dead last in the NBA in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 111 points per 100 possessions. For opponents’ points per game, they are allowing teams to score nearly 112 points on average. This simply won’t do if they aim to get back to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
Their main problem is one with personnel. The Cavaliers are the oldest team in the NBA and their success have made guys on their last legs flock to the team in a bid to get one more shot of glory before they retire. Dwyane Wade (35), Jose Calderon (36), Jeff Green (31), and Derrick Rose (29) are the new additions to this mishmash of a team. While all of them can still be productive, these players are awful on the defensive end even when they were younger and healthier. Their other “wings” Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith are no better.
This has put the defensive burden on LeBron James who can’t possibly guard 5 players at the same time. Aside from covering his slower teammates, the King is putting up another monster season averaging 25.6 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds in 37 minutes a game.
To add to their growing problems, their defensive stalwarts guard Iman Shumpert and center Tristan Thompson are out with injuries so you can expect the Cavs defense to get even worse. Only newly acquired forward Jae Crowder can be relied upon to provide good coverage.
Recently, the Cavs held a team meeting to address their early faults but they still got whipped by the Pacers after. No amount of meetings will address the fact that they are one step slower than the rest of the league. Even if All-Star Isaiah Thomas returns, he won’t be able to help on the defensive end given his lack of size.
Another reason that is not really being talked about is the glaring loss of Kyrie Irving. Cleveland was able to beat teams before due to the offensive punch of Irving. The Cavs have a 25-point hole to fill. Irving put so much pressure on the guards of the other side that they would slack on offense to maintain their energy. The lack of offense is affecting the defense.
Still, it is too early in the season to press the panic button. If you look at the past, LeBron James-led teams would always pull off a strong showing in the playoffs. However, King James definitely needs help and he won’t get it from his current teammates.